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Day: June 13, 2011

More on #DaftArrest – Police try to stop photographer reporting the incident

So we all know about the arrest of Jacqui Thompson the internet blogger who was filming a council in Carmarthenshire. She was arrested for breaching the peace officially but we all know that she was arrested for basically being a thorn in the mind of the council who didn’t want anyone from the public recording the shit they were shovelling (well that’s my PoV anyway).

Anyway we are waiting for the local plod to get back to The New Statesman’s David Allen Green over a story he is set to run on this episode. They are apparently having a meeting to discuss what they are going to tell him. So basically the truth is out of the window and they are wondering what cock n bull story they can concoct that will appease David and his readership. Again purely an opinion but if they were going for the truth then it wouldn’t need a meeting to discuss it.

Anyway whilst we wait David has tweeted and pointed us towards a blog by Alexander Smith describing how his newspaper broke the story and something in that piece was extremely disturbing:

We can’t have been on the steps longer than five minutes when four police officers led Mrs Thompson, in cuffs, round the side of the building, perhaps wanting to avoid the attention of the front steps? They didn’t see me coming, but I only managed to take one photo before the blonde officer grabbed my arm and tried to take the camera. I wriggled free and explained I was from the Journal. After showing my press pass I asked them what the arrest was for. One of the male officers replied: “That’s none of your business.”

Now my knowledge of the new Anti Terror Laws are not exactly what you called in depth but my understanding is that the new set of rules, under section 76 of the 2008 Act and section 58A of the 2000 Act, will target anyone who ‘elicits or attempts to elicit information about (members of armed forces or the police) which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’.

So is a picture of an officer arresting a blogger for breach of the peace really going to stand up in court under that section of Anti Terror Laws? No it is not. No jury would ever convict. However they would be more likely to convict the police officer for attempted theft. She had no justification to attempt to seize that camera and she knew it. If she didn’t then she doesn’t know the law – and as police always tell us – ignorance is no defence when breaking the law.

The police in general though seem to either have a different law book to me or they quite simply do not understand that section of said law. Unless there is reasonable belief that a photograph could be used by terrorists then there is no justification or either seizing the camera or video camera let alone arresting people for doing so – which has happened on numerous occasions.

This is just another after illiberal law brought in under the past Labour government – which as I’ve said on numerous occasions did plenty of good things but they were as illiberal as any government seen in this country post-war. This law needs to be looked at by parliament and if the Lib Dems want to find something to change that won’t cause mass hysteria in the Tory backbenches then this is it. Anti Terror laws are ill conceived and leave a lot to be desired. When you are arresting people for non-terrorist acts under the guise of saving people from terrorism then the terrorists have won. This is not a police state but sometimes it feels as though that is exactly what we are.

So either the police need to learn the law and not hide behind Anti Terror laws that won’t stand up in court to bully and intimidate people trying to document what they are doing or the law needs to be changed.

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Who are the real opposition – Labour or the Lib Dems?

I was sitting here about an hour or so ago watching Ed Miliband do what Ed Miliband does when he’s speaking (making me and every political person wonder how on Earth Labour screwed themselves so badly by not making David their leader) and I asked myself considering just how ineffective he is – are the real opposition already in government?

We aren’t a country that knows too much about coalitions. The average person on the street doesn’t like them and every ‘comedian’ tripes out jokes about how ‘no-one voted for this’ and the audience roar in laughter. However could public perception in fact be completely inaccurate and that by having the Lib Dems within the government be doing a better job on curbing the excesses of the Tories?

We (Lib Dems) can probably all agree that some of the decisions we have made in government have been poor. Some have lacked judgement morally and some have lacked nous politically. We have made mistakes but show me a person or group that hasn’t and I’ll show you a liar by showing you a mirror.

For once a political party cannot just do whatever they like whilst in power. Yes even if the Lib Dems hadn’t gone into coalition then the Tories were going to be hamstrung by the numbers but the decision was to go into a full on coalition due mainly for economic reasons. So this is where we are – we can’t turn back time. So now we have to look at who is forcing the Conservative Party down roads they would prefer not to go down more – Labour in opposition or the Lib Dems in government?

Now whilst Labour will believe it is them – the answers seems pretty clear that it is the Lib Dems. A party with 11% of the seats are punching above their weight and have the Tories by the short and curlies. The Tories would need help from other minority parties on a case by case basis if the Lib Dems ever rebelled fully. This would be tricky to put together.

When these constant polls come out saying people trust Nick Clegg more than Ed Miliband it says a ot – considering how Nick Clegg is the most hated politician in this country since the Iron Lady herself. Labour are not seen as credible by the country and whilst in the polls they are doing well – I am very comfortable sticking my neck on the line and saying in a General Election that Ed Miliband would melt under the pressure and not lead Labour to a victory. Gordon Brown may have cost himself an election by calling Gillian Duffy a bigot but at least he had experience on his side. What does Ed Miliband have going for him? Experience? No. Charisma? No. Speech Delivery? No. Being the best person for the job formed from the same DNA combination? No.

Labour cannot be an effective opposition until they have a figure that the public and the party can rally around. Ed Miliband is not that man. Looking at the party the likelihood is that man is Ed Balls. Balls gets under Cameron’s skin and he would play out well with the core Labour vote. Balls v Cameron would be rather interesting but that is not what is on the table. Until then the best opposition to the Tories is the Lib Dems as a permanent needle is their side. The Lib Dems may not have played this role too well over the first fifth of this parliament but there is a long way to go and if they can ensure economic growth whilst not allowing Tory ideological changes to core services then they’ll have done both a good and more importantly – an effective job.

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Formula 1 is boring

If you type in ‘Formula 1 is boring’ into google you get 5.25million results. If you think Formula 1 is boring then you aren’t a fan of any sport – period. F1 in 2011 has adopted some new rules to help enhance the race for both drivers and the viewer and boy are they working. The ability to open up their rear-wing in certain places if they are challenging for an overtake, KERS and new tyres that are basically worse have all been brought it and whilst the rear-wing DRS seems to be a bit artificial at times – you can’t say that it is boring.

The races this year have all been better than the same races last year and even Monaco was terrific and had it not been for the red flag then the final five laps would have been immense. Last night though after a very lengthy red flag delay for extremely heavy rain we got what we were robbed of in Monaco. A faster car chasing down the leader for the final five laps and this time we got the overtake – albeit because Vettel slid off the track. Had he not then we’d have seen Button go for it in the last corner I am sure and maybe even stealing the victory on the drag to the line the way Massa stole fifth from Kobayashi.

I have always watched F1. I may have had moments where I didn’t watch as intently but it is fast becoming very high on the Neil sport scene for an event that I do not want to miss.

One final point I want to make is with regards to the coverage on the BBC. Over they winter they dumped veteran Jonathan Legard from the commentary role because he and Martin Brundle just weren’t gelling. There was a lot of talk about it and I posted a blog on the Brundle v Legard debate months ago. Well Brundle has stepped up to lead commentary with David Coulthard joining him in the box. Now whilst the commentary is certainly different I can hardly fault it. It is a very different style but it works and the casual F1 fan will enjoy it more than Legard’s ramblings. Who on Earth likes people’s rambles anyway…?

Back in the days when Jonathan Legard was leading the comms then twitter would blow up every race day with how awful he is and he’d always be trending. However Brundle doesn’t get that as it is clear people aren’t getting half as annoyed by him as they did Legard. Whilst it may not be everyone’s cup of tea it is pretty clear that the majority believe the change has worked for the better – and for that the BBC must be applauded. As for allowing Eddie Jordan to keep wearing these shirts…

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A Gay Fraud (not) in Damascus

There is little doubt that most people reading this blog will have heard of the A Gay Girl in Damascus blog. Certainly if they hadn’t and then stumbled upon this blog post from last week claiming the blogger had been taken by Syrian authorities then they would have felt for her and that this is just another example of everything that is wrong with Syria and other countries in the Middle East.

The only problem is this character didn’t exist. She was a figment of a 40 year-old American’s imagination.

The NY Times has an excellent summary of the events if anyone wants in depth coverage of this story but the question now is how do we all feel after been taken in by this deception and does highlighting the struggle albeit in an misleading way do either damage or promote the issues of homosexuals in Middle Eastern countries?

I can’t answer the latter question as I quite simply do not know and how I feel about it really doesn’t matter too much. It just seems sad that the story wasn’t true and people’s genuine affection towards someone they did not know was all a lie. There is no doubt people in these places who face the troubles that author Tom MacMaster portrayed Amina Abdallah Arraf as having but when it isn’t strictly accurate then it is hard to know what to think.

I sit here typing and am to be frank – torn. It has highlighted the issue worldwide but whether that sentiment will go away now it has been proven as a fraud I don’t know. Only time will tell. But the struggles of gay people in these cultures is something that shouldn’t be swept under the carpet – that is something that I do know for sure.

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