Monday, 30 May 2011

New Facebook Group - Stop Scapegoating Sharon Shoesmith

My good friend Haydn Brookes and I have just set up a Facebook group - Stop Scapegoating Sharon Shoesmith.  It is hardly the most popular cause, but we feel it is an important one nonetheless.  The tawdry way in which the media (including the BBC) have connived at creating a moral panic around the case of Baby Peter's tragic death and have whipped up hatred of Sharon Shoesmith, prompting our political class to dance to their tune, is a shameful and shocking indictment of mdern politics.

The Facebook group is here.

Our views can be read here:

This group is for people who feel that Sharon Shoesmith has been scapegoated, first by the media and then, in large part because of the media, by the political class.

Rather than analyse what it is about British society that spawns the kind of people who would so abuse children in their care, the British media would rather turn its fire on the social work profession, and in this case, Sharon Shoesmith, who was head of Haringey Social Services at the time of the death of baby Peter.
Rather than analyse whether or not Governments of all political pursuasion have adequately funded social services in the UK, the media would rather attack social workers.

Politicians are beholden to the tabloid press when it whips up campaigns of hate against individuals and both of our major parties are providing a case study in 'decison by tabloid'.

It is to be expected that tabloids would act like this. However, the BBC is shamefully dancing to their tune, despite being an allegedly unbiased and impartial, dispassionate observer.

Look at the BBC News Online coverage, with its headline from Ms Shoesmith's Today Programme interview which takes one phrase she uttered, that she "does not do blame", under intense, persistent questioning by a surprisingly tabloid John Humphrys, took it out of context and gave the impression that she is a cold, uncaring, irresponsible person who is seeking to evade all responsibility. See the coverage here.

Humphrys' interview on Saturday's Today Programme is here.

is a low point for both his career, for the Today Programme and for the BBC's editorial policy, for they clearly all had an agenda and it was to extract from Ms Shoesmith some kind of comment about blame. Either she said she was to blame - RESULT - or she said she wasn't to blame (she did though, accept responsibility) - again...RESULT! She sought to set out the context of a large number of child deaths in similar circumstances both before and after Baby Peter. But Humphrys resolutely sought to prevent her doing this.

It seems the BBC does not want to risk the wrath of the tabloids, or to be een by that fraternity of being 'pro-social workers'.

People who share the above sentiments should communicate with Ms Shoesmith and let her know that the entire country is not against her and has not villified her.

What kind of a message does the way she has been treated by both politicians and the media give to young graduates considering entering what must be one of the most challenging, under-rewarded and thankless professions in the country? When you are over-zealous you are 'stealing children from their parents.' When you give parents the benefit of the doubt, and something terrible happens, you become public enemy number one. And your paymasters, the Government, are all too keen to take their cues from Fleet Street.

I am not a social worker. I do not believe (although I cannot know) that Haringey Social Services was blameless in the case of Baby Peter, but the treatment of Ms Shoesmith has a very nasty whiff about it.

Milibands choose same wedding reasons as Mr & Mrs Slinger

Tanya and I were delighted to see that newlyweds Ed and Justine Miliband chose the same readings for their wedding as we did.  An extract from Captain Corelli's Mandolin and I Carry Your Heart With Me, a poem by the American writer e e cummings.


I fully expect Ed to now sign up to my entire political agenda, including the immediate creation of a Citizens' Assembly instead of the House of Lords (to be selected by lot, as with jury service) and action to create a genuine meritocracy in which the wealth of your parents have no impact at all on your life chances.
 
And I expect to read that his favourite band is Depeche Mode.
 
And....[shut up now John - Editor!]


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

'Soft on crime' is a dangerous tag for a Tory-led Government

If I were a Tory strategist (not Lib Dem, because of course the Party traditionally rejoices in being 'liberal' on law and order) I would be very, very worried at the lee-way being granted to Ken Clarke.  He is single-handedly destroying the Conservatives' reputation for being a (not the, thanks to Tony Blair and Labour Home Secretaries) party of law and order. 

Ceding such ground is a very dangerous move for the Government.  Ordinary people, for good reason, regard sentencing and indeed the criminal justice system in its entirety, as too soft on criminals and too disinterested in both the rights and treatment of victims and the sensibilities of the vast majority of people who obey the law.

Being tough on crime is not right wing, it is simply the sensible policy for a party which is serious about wishing to win the trust of the people and ultimately, gain their support to become the next Government.  We must start addressing more of the people's concerns and move our line of sight far away from our rather unattractive navels.  We must start listening and we must remember that our core Labour values are highly relevant at this time, not least on crime.

If I were a Tory strategist, I would be quaking in my bones about these headlines.  This is an opportunity for Labour and one that we must seize. 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Leading financial columnist slams the Tory-Lib Dem lie on the financial crisis

Anyone in any need for an alternative view of the financial crisis that doesn't subscribe to the pernicious, misleading narrative so successfully created by messrs Osborne, Cameron and Clegg - that all our economic woes are Labour's fault, please read this illuminating column by one of the most respected financial journalists - the London Evening Standard's Anthony Hilton http://www..co.uk/markets/article-23949717-its-pure-folly-to-blame-the-unforeseen.do.

His last paragraph is telling. He reminds us that the 10% fall in GDP, the unemployment, the lost businesses, the bankruptcies, the depression, the hundreds of thousands of young people cast on the scrap heap - all are unnecessary, all were avoidable and all were NOT the fault of Labour's decisions in office. I concur with Hilton, elements of the financial sector were to blame and yes, they have got off lightly. We are paying the price for their greed. Next time they come begging for bailouts the people will not roll over so pliantly.

Friday, 13 May 2011

The Guardian publishes my letter on private schools, privilege and university education

Published in The Guardian here.


You write that "David Cameron insisted that the proposal would not create privileged access to universities for rich students" and quote him as saying "university access is about being able to learn, not about being able to pay" (David Willetts on back foot in cash-for-places row, 10 May). Surely this is disingenuous, as rich students (or, to be more accurate, the children of rich parents) have privileged access to universities already by virtue of attending fee-paying schools.

Why is the principle contained in Cameron's quote applied only to university education? The answer is that tackling the true inequities of Britain's school system, beyond tinkering at the edges, is off limits for all political parties, for it is in the fee-paying sector where the dominance of the wealthy throughout our society takes root.

Yet until this occurs, meritocracy will remain a pipe dream and the potential of millions of children will be squandered. 

John Slinger

Rugby

Thursday, 12 May 2011

My letter on private schools and privilege is published in The Guardian today

Published in The Guardian here.

Sir,

You write that "David Cameron insisted that the proposal would not create privileged access to universities for rich students" and quote him as saying "university access is about being able to learn, not about being able to pay" (David Willetts on back foot in cash-for-places row, 10 May). Surely this is disingenuous, as rich students (or, to be more accurate, the children of rich parents) have privileged access to universities already by virtue of attending fee-paying schools.


Why is the principle contained in Cameron's quote applied only to university education? The answer is that tackling the true inequities of Britain's school system, beyond tinkering at the edges, is off limits for all political parties, for it is in the fee-paying sector where the dominance of the wealthy throughout our society takes root.

Yet until this occurs, meritocracy will remain a pipe dream and the potential of millions of children will be squandered.

John Slinger