Norway terrorist attacks and lazy journalism

As news of the massacre in Norway broke yesterday afternoon, two broadcasters – ITV and the BBC – immediately began assuming that both attacks were carried out by Muslim extremists.

This doesn’t just show an element of lazy journalism – with an ITV man using a ‘Jihadi Internet Forum’ as his source – but also highlights an underlying assumption attaching terrorism with radical Islam.

Such an assumption before the facts – which are now known – would be expected, I suppose, amongst newsrooms and idle chit-chat. But for both these broadcasters to take the step to run a mini piece with one of their journalists where he runs through possible links between the attacks and Islamic terrorists is a step too far. Some of the most well-known terrorist atrocities to hit Europe in the past ten years have been attributed to Islamic terrorists (9/11,7/7, Madrid). But to automatically assume that any terrorist attack in Europe is the fault of some Islamic terrorist cell only plays into the already unequal perception European society has of Muslims per se.

If any progress is to be made with assimilating islamic culture into Western societies or creating ‘healthy and diverse’ communities – whichever way you choose to phrase it – then a key issue must be tackling unequal perceptions of Muslims as radical fundamentalists.

The immediate linking of the Norway attacks in Oslo and Utoya with Jihadi/Islamic/Muslim Fundamentalists was wrong, even though now no such link is discussed since it is confirmed that this time the guilty party is a lone, white, radical Christian fundamentalist.

But just this small example of lazy journalism highlights the problem of an unequal and distroted perception of Muslims which fosters animosity and resentment; that linking terrorism with Islam.

 

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Ken Clarke to “choose words more carfelly” following rape row

Ken Clarke’s future as Justice Secretary hangs in the balance following comments he made yesterday on BBC Radio 5 Live about rape.

The Justice Secretary was appearing on the Wednesday morning slot with Victoria Derbyshire where he was due to outline Government proposals to increase the sentence reduction for an early guilty plea from 33% to 50%.

The sentence reduction would mean that the most serious criminals – including rapists – could see their sentences reduced by 50% if they enter an early guilty plea. It is argued that early guilty pleas can spare victims of serious crime the ordeal of re-living their experience through a long court process. Although quite how this absolves the perpetrator of his or her maximum punishment is hard to draw? Whether a perpetrator of a serious violent crime such as rape enters an early guilty plea should be inconsequential – they should receive a sentence which fits the crime in all circumstances.

The real motivation behind Ken Clarke’s suggestions relate to what many backbench Tories call his ‘softer’ approach to our criminal justice system. Including the re-evaluation of sentencing, Clarke promised in a speech made in July 2010  that there would be a “rehabilitation revolution” in light of Ministry of Justice findings that reoffending rates are higher after shorter jail terms. Interestingly, the same findings recommended that longer prison sentences of 2 to 4 years are more effective than terms of under 12 months.

The move towards rehabilitation instead of the punitive ‘prison works’ Tory approach to crime we are used to is commendable and has garnered much support for Clarke from Lib Dems. But with cuts being made to every Government Department, the impetus behind any new legislation is saving money. Increasing the sentence reduction for early guilty please will save police and court time whilst reducing numbers in prison, and therefore reduce costs. But it is clear that Clarke should have avoided applying this new approach to the most serious violent offenders including rapists.

As for the comments made yesterday, it is clear they were completely shameful and are far less than one would expect from a Cabinet Minister in charge of overseeing our Criminal Justice System. Here is just a snippet of some of the worst moments from yesterdays interview between Clarke and Derbyshire (interestingly Derbyshire doesn’t pick-up on Clarke’s first questionable comment regarding “serious rape” and neither does Clarke seem to recognise he may have just made a mistake as he then goes on to talk of “rape in the ordinary sense”);

Clarke: Serious rape, I don’t think many judges give five years for a forcible rape, the tariff is longer than that. And a serious rape where, you know, violence and an unwilling woman, the tariff’s much longer than that.

‘Clarke: assuming you and I are talking about rape in the ordinary conversational sense.

Derbyshire: Rape is rape, with respect.’

Clarke: No it’s not

Clarke:Date rape can be as serious as the worst rapes.

Clarke:Except the kind of rape we’ve just heard about

Clarke:if they got that sentence depending on what the rape was.

Clarke’s comments are shameful. Throughout the interview it is clear that his sees the crime of rape as multifaceted. He alludes to there being different forms of rape in different circumstances which warrant different levels of punishment. This is completely absurd. Rape is rape, and the punishment for the crime must be universal.

It is quite clear from yesterdays comment that Ken Clarke has seriously jeopardised his position as  Justice Secretary. David Cameron has avoided sacking the Minister with the PM’s spokesman saying it was “clearly regrettable” if offence was caused by Clarke’s comments.

Labour almost immediately capitalised on the rape row and called for Clarke’s resignation during PMQs.

Clarke has since vowed to “choose my words more carefully” and has argued he was merely outlining the “long-standing factual situation” that sentences can differ depending upon the varying circumstances of particular rape cases.

If he was outlining what the current situation is then he has failed to address a clear injustice. That the Criminal Justice System subconsciously applies a sliding-scale of punishment for rape. This oversight on Clarke’s part, and his failure to address it in forthcoming legislative proposals, should be enough for the Justice Secretary to be sacked. Taking into account his comments yesterday it is shocking he still remains in his post today.

Ken Clarke will be appearing on tonight’s Question Time, BBC1 10:35, broadcast from Wormwood Scrubs Prison.

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Tory MPs scorn Clegg’s House of Lords reforms – UK Politics, UK – The Independent

Tory MPs scorn Clegg’s House of Lords reforms – UK Politics, UK – The Independent….Cleggs Lords reform misses the point…

Nick Cleggs Lords reform package delivered yesterday in the Commons has been met with resounding crossbench opposition.

More importantly the reforms fail to rectify what I take as the central problem with the Lords. That is its un-elected component. Cleggs reforms would still maintain an appointed element;

His draft Bill proposed a 300-member Lords, with 80 per cent of peers elected and 20 per cent appointed as at present. The 60 appointed members would be independent crossbenchers and the number of Church of England bishops would be reduced from 26 to 12.

No part of our political sytem should be un-elected. It is a Democratic cornerstone that citizens should elect individuals to govern in their interest. If those representatives are appointed then this cornerstone can not be guaranteed.

Momentum against the Lib Dems inside and outside the Commons seems to be growing to the extent that they look discredited, and every flagship policy of theirs looks discredited also. It will be hard for Clegg to make Lords reform a reality.

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Chris Huhne’s estranged wife to testify he asked her to take his speeding points | Mail Online

Chris Huhne’s estranged wife to testify he asked her to take his speeding points | Mail Online. Huhne story limited to right-wing media……

Huhne story predictably leads in the Mail and The Telegraph , with neither offering any new slant.

The Mail claims Pryce is ready to swear on oath. But the quote is paraphrased from an unnamed source;

A close friend said Vicky Pryce would swear in court that she was busy all day in central london when the offence was committed 40 miles away in Essex.

Pretty sloppy, and no real scoop. The story looses traction today.

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Equality can co-exist with pay inequality

A recent report by The High Pay Commission covered extensively by The Guardian Newspaper, claims that should current income disparities between top earners and the rest continue to grow we will reach a level of income inequality comparable to Victorian Britain.

Since the global financial crisis of 2008 stories of high executive pay particularly amongst top bank bosses have littered national media coverage. This coverage has been justified when it has come to light that some top bank chiefs have received £millions in bonuses despite requiring taxpayers money to bail them out of a financial catastrophe their institutions behaviour created.

The objection laid out above in respect to Bank chiefs is that their remuneration – apart from being grossly excessive – is made all the more un-justifiable considering that their bank has under-performed, or had to require a huge Government-backed bail-out just to stay in business.

Stark income inequalities are bad because they create social anxieties which can lead to higher instances of drug abuse, and increase levels of mental health problems. When you work tirelessly every day in a demanding job which rewards you with an annual income comparable to the average salary (£23,952 for full-time employees) yet your top executives earn 145 times that, you are bound to feel slightly undervalued. Work by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their book The Spirit Level published in 2009 showed how societies with huge disparities in income between the top and bottom earners invariably suffer from higher levels of violent crime, drug abuse, and instance of mental health problems.

But what should be the focus for tackling income inequality? Should we level-up or level-down? In other words, should we increase the pay of the bottom and middle income earners or should we cut the pay of the top executives. I argue we should do both. A fairer distribution of pay should start with the quite substantial increase in pay of the lowest income earners in our society. To London’s credit it has pioneered a move towards this with the introduction of the idea in 2000, thanks largely to the tireless campaigning of London Citizens, of the London Living Wage. This recognised that the National Minimum Wage is not enough to live on within a modern city where the cost of living is comparably higher to other parts of the UK. But more than that, the Campaign has recognised the need to tack levels of income to the actual cost of living.

In addition to increases in pay for the lowest and middle income earners, a substantial cut in the pay of top executives should be made so their pay does not grossly out way that of the entire workforce they represent. Of course pay should be linked to good performance and levels of responsibility attached to particular roles but this should never excuse instances highlighted in the High Pay Commissions report where top execs on average earn 145 times that of individuals on earning the average wage. Exactly how many times top execs should earn in comparison to the average wage would be arbitrary for me to say here. But certainly I am advocating a pursuit of equality where disparities in pay can still exist, but the disparities must be ‘responsible’ and must be ‘tasteful’.

According to The High Pay Commission it won’t be until 2030 that income inequality will reach a level comparable to Victorian Britain. And that’s only if projected disparities continue to grow. The question is whether we should be levelling-up or levelling down? Should we be curbing the excessive pay of top executives or redistributing pay to lower and middle income earners as a way of closing the pay gap. I argue for the latter.

Ask your MP to sign EDM 1775 acknowledging the Equality Trusts findings that greater income differences directly correlate to increased levels of social problems.

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Chris Huhne welcomes police inquiry into speeding claim | Politics | The Guardian

Chris Huhne welcomes police inquiry into speeding claim | Politics | The Guardian. Huhne relishing reprieve as Police consider official investigation…..

Chris Huhne is tonight still very much a Cabinet Minister as Essex police decide to launch an inquiry into the speeding allegations and consider an official investigation.

It seems my comment yesterday that it will take more to oust Huhne from the Coalition Cabinet holds true! But the right-wing media is certain to maintain the pressure on Huhne through the story which has grown wings and legs in the national media.

The fact that the speeding allegation took place way back in 2003 is further evidence of the real insignificance of the allegation and shows the consequences of criticising Coalition partners.

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Ed’s Flashman Flop? | The Pulse | PoliticsHome

Ed’s Flashman Flop? | The Pulse | PoliticsHome…..Who even is Flashman!?!?

Im glad to read Mark Gettleson’s latest piece for PoliticsHome where he argues that Ed Milibands tactic of attacking Cameron with reference to Flashman is failing. Who even is this Flashman character?

As the YouGov poll referenced indicates, over half of 18-24 year olds don’t know who Flashman is and over half of the same age group are clueless whether the comparison with Cameron is fair or unfair.

Ed Milibands latest performances in PMQs have been far better lately and have clearly been riling Cameron whose “calm down dear” and “shut-up” jibes to Ed Balls have portrayed him as a Bullingdon Bully.

But drop the Flashman comparison. Especially when there is ample opportunity for attack on NHS Reforms (and conflict of interest re: LowAssociates) and Chris Huhne,

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