Archive for the ‘News’ Category
Finally the BBC are doing something right. For once they have gone from the ridiculous (Tim Davie, erstwhile acting Director General) to the sublime (Tony Hall, newly appointed Director General), rather than the other way round.
Tony Hall, the former Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, is an excellent choice for DG. He began his career at the BBC, rising to Director of News in 1993; this gives him the experience and integrity to sort out issues of scandalous journalistic mismanagement. Whereas Tim Davie was responsible for the controversial decision to close 6 Music – which was later reversed after a public outcry – Tony Hall successfully launched both Radio 5 Live and BBC Parliament. He also edited the 9 O’Clock News.
Hall is also a member of the House of Lords as a crossbencher, which is ideal in that he is politically unaffiliated. His experience leading the Royal Opera House will give him the clout necessary for the job. There is only one fly in the ointment, however. In 2011, he became the highest paid Chief Executive leading a charity in the Britain. Given the scandal over the generosity of George Entwhistle’s severance pay package, and the revelation today that the BBC is also footing his legal bill, this will stick in the throat of the public.
Nevertheless, Tony Hall is overall an excellent choice for Director General, and good news for those who love the BBC. He applied for the position once before, in 1999. Now it seems his time has come. Tony: don’t let us down!
Another day, another bit of radio madness. This morning, I appeared on LBC to discuss with Nick Ferrari the question of whether or not prisoners should have the vote. Just before I was on, an ex-prisoner and Yes-campaigner was interviewed. It was nothing short of surreal. In response to Ferrari’s quite polite questions, the man flew off the handle and launched a stream of abuse, including the accusation that “things go in one ear and out the other with you because you don’t have a brain in the middle”. The funny thing was, his tirade demonstrated the bankruptcy of his own argument.
For this was a man who had been imprisoned for murdering his landlady by hacking her to death with an axe. At the time, he pleaded not guilty, and mounted a defence of diminished responsibility, which was rejected. This all happened in the late seventies; his unprovoked aggression on the radio is an indication that nothing much in his temperament has changed.
The test case which forms the backdrop to the battle between the Government and Europe is that of George McGeoch, who is arguing before the Supreme Court of England and Wales that being prevented from voting in the 2014 European Parliamentary elections is an infringement of his rights. This is a man who was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the murder of a 61-year-old bakery worker in 1999. He was invited round to his victim’s house for a drink, where he kicked him, stamped on him, smothered him and slit his throat. In 2001, McGeoch took prison officers hostage by arming himself with a razor blade; in 2008 he escaped from prison, and was later recaptured. And now he is demanding that society recognises his right to vote. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Lucy Herd remembers the birth of her son, Jack, in December 2008, as being “magical”. She had endured five miscarriages, and the arrival of her baby filled her with “joy and excitement”. Tragically, however, the happiness she experienced would be short lived. On 27th August 2010, on a “beautiful summer’s day”, she was busy in the kitchen and did not notice Jack wandering off. Minutes later, she found him face down in the garden pond.
Being a full-time mother, Lucy did not have to worry about going back to work immediately after her son’s death. The toddler’s father, however, was entitled to just three days of paid leave, and one of these had to be for the funeral. Any additional time off had to be counted as either sick leave or holiday.
There is currently no legislation dealing with bereavement leave. The closest equivalent is a statement on the Directgov website that “as an employee you’re allowed ‘reasonable’ time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependent. There’s no set amount, but in most cases one or two days should be enough”. In cases of bereavement, this is widely interpreted by employers as between three and five days of leave.
Studies suggest that following the death of a child, between 80 and 90 per cent of relationships break down. Lucy believes that this may be partially due to the fact that parents are not given adequate time to grieve together.
“It can take up to 10 days to organise a funeral,” she says, “and by that time it hasn’t begun to sink in. You can have up to 12 months off to celebrate the birth of a child, but three days off to mourn a child. I think that is wrong.”
So passionately does she feel about this that she has started an e-petition to have the issue debated in Parliament. For this to happen, 100,000 signatures are required. You can view and sign the petition by clicking here. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
The pictures coming from Israel are all too familiar. In recent days, we have found ourselves transported to the Gaza conflict of 2008-9; now, with the reprise of the bus bombing, we find ourselves thrust back to the unhappy years of the Intifada.
It is all but certain that the bus attack earlier today was intended to derail the ceasefire talks currently being brokered by Egypt. In this, it will almost certainly be successful; such attacks provoke a vicious retaliation at the best of times, let alone in the midst of a conflict. The real question, however, is whether it will have even more catastrophic implications for the region.
There has not been a terrorist bombing of this size in Israel for many years. Several factors have contributed towards the de-escalation in their frequency, including the West Bank barrier, which has been a highly effective way of preventing would-be bombers from entering Israel. But the fundamental principle of terrorism – to create maximum chaos, fear and disruption from a few random attacks – still stands, and has long been used by Palestinian militants to frustrate the political process.
During the second intifada, which began in 2000, Israel’s streets were attacked with alarming frequency, throwing the region into turmoil. This was the case as recently as 2010, when a terrorist killed four Israeli civilians, including a pregnant women, in an effort to obstruct President Obama’s efforts to restart the peace talks which had been abandoned since 2008. Today’s attack will raise bitter memories of that time, and threaten to ignite the powder keg that has been smouldering since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Cloud.
The burning question is how effective this attack will be in inflaming an already febrile situation. Will the bus-bombing spark the Israeli ground invasion that the international community dreads, and herald a full-blown war?
That is the challenge that faces all those working for a ceasefire. The threat of a ground operation is abhorred by many on both sides and onlookers around the world – with the notable exception of the extremists, who by their own admission love death as much as we love life. As seen on the Telegraph website
Yesterday, on Voice of Russia, the Russian state radio channel, I took part in a debate on – what else? – the situation in Gaza. Other panellists included the pro-Palestinian journalist Rachel Shabi, and Yossi Mekelberg of Chatham House, the influential independent think-tank. At some point, they tell me that you will be able to listen to it here andhere, if you’re interested.
What struck me was the propagation of an alternative reality of recent events in the Middle East. To me, it seems indisputable that the fillip for the Israeli bombardment was the dramatic increase in rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel’s population centres. This intense terror operation – codenamed Operation Shale Stones by Hamas, and Operation Blue Sky by Palestinian Islamic Jihad – was directly responsible for the conflict. When hostilities broke out, democratic nations around the world, by and large, recognised that Israel was acting legitimately, in self defence. Not only did the USA come out in support of the Jewish state, but so did Britain, France and the European Union. These latter two are traditionally not friends that Israel wins over easily.
As the conflict becomes more protracted, and the death toll rises, support for Israel will ebb away amongst concerns over proportionality. But the fact remains that most people accept that in principle, Operation Pillar of Cloud is justified.
Other contributors, however, seemed to believe that Israel had sparked the hostilities during a minor incursion into Gaza on November 8, and followed this with an intense bombardment instigated purely to win the election for Likud. No mention of terrorist rockets at all. The fact that the international community has voiced more support for Israel than usual shows – wait for it – bias. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
So William Hague has come out in support of Israel. Although he said that he was “gravely concerned”, and urged Israel “to do their utmost to reduce tension”, he made his views absolutely clear, stating that “Hamas bears principal responsibility for the current crisis”.
The fact that the Foreign Secretary is able to support Israel so unequivocally at this stage indicates how effective and professional the Israeli military has so far been this time around.
In Israel, relief at the death of Ahmed Jabari, who was responsible for shaping Hamas into an instrument of violence, is being tempered by the realisation that they may be in it for the long haul. Three Israelis have been killed by retaliatory rocket attacks, and the reservists have been called up. However, despite the fact that nobody likes war, there is good reason for Israelis to have buoyant morale, and Hague’s endorsement confirms this.
So far, the first phase of Operation Pillar of Cloud has gone like clockwork. Although retaliatory missile fire from the Gaza Strip has been heavy, it has been rather ineffective, with the Iron Dome missile defence system largely protecting the major population centres. Casualties on the Israeli side have been relatively low, and the Hamas leadership has been decapitated. And despite the deaths on the side of the Gazans, including the tragic mistaken killing of an 11-month-old son of a BBC employee, the death toll is not mounting as quickly as it has in the past, making Israel’s cause easier to support. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Now that Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing in Gaza, has been killed by Israel, it is only a matter of time before attacks begin of a different sort. Last weekend saw an intense wave of rocket attacks from Gaza, which wounded several Israelis and caused extensive damage to property despite the Iron Dome defence system and a network of bomb shelters. This raised the spectre of vulnerability in Israel, as the public begins to feel that the level of deterrence achieved by Operation Cast Lead in 2009 has been steadily eroded.
Bibi Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, responded to the violence last weekend by promising to “act to stop the rocket fire”. According to a government official, this was intended to “prepare the world” for an Israeli military response. The killing of Jabari may be either the opening salvo in a broader campaign, or a pinpoint strike to resurrect the military deterrence. According to intelligence sources in Israel, it seems more likely to be the former; air strikes are continuing following the assassination, and Hamas has declared a state of war. The south of Israel has been placed on high alert in anticipation of reprisal attacks from Hamas, even in areas such as Gan Yavneh and Gedera, which have not so far been targeted. Moreover, as Jabari had close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood who are in power in Egypt, there are concerns that the conflagration may spread to Israel’s southern border. From Egypt’s point of view, the assassination may be perceived as a slap in the face; only yesterday, the Egyptians had brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
A fresh confrontation with Hamas has been forthcoming for some months now. The real question is, how far will Israel take it this time? As seen on the Telegraph website
Moments of insight always strike me when I’m in the shower. This morning, in a sudden flash, I worked it all out. The pieces of the puzzle suddenly came together; I realised that the BBC leadership, although appearing like a headless chicken, actually knows exactly what it is doing.
Let’s start with the Savile scandal. My contention is this. Peter Rippon made the decision to pull the Savile exposé because he was so hyped up that he couldn’t think straight. Later, in writing an account of events online that was later exposed as untrue, he could not help lying through his teeth, as they had become so decayed over the years that there were huge gaps in them.
Similarly, George Entwistle was bouncing off the walls with excess energy over those fateful days when the accusations against Lord McAlpine were made. He was just too hyperactive to sit down and read the Guardian front page which foretold the scandal, and too jittery to sit down and read his tweets the night before. The same goes for the other senior BBC executives who have fallen on their respective swords; they were all just too over-excited to do their jobs properly, and thereafter had collectively become so unhealthy that they were unable to rouse themselves from their torpor in time to save the day.
It all makes perfect sense. BBC staff have been consuming excessive levels of fizzy drinks for decades, and it is finally catching up with them. The Beeb is facing an institutional addiction to pop, and it has reached epic proportions. Luckily, the right man for the job was already in-house. In appointing Tim Davie, a former Pepsi executive, as acting Director General, the BBC leaders have finally shown that they are serious in sorting this fiasco out. As seen on the Telegraph website
A rude, swaggering barrow boy. Meet the Beeb’s new (acting) DG – worse than the old one (Telegraph blog)
Talk about out of the frying pan, into the fire. The BBC has just, at huge expense, seen the back of one incompetent Director General, who proved himself to be too feeble for the job. Indeed, as David Dimbleby points out in the Telegraph, the fact that Entwistle resigned so readily shows he never had the spunk (or was it something to do with the allure of his severance package?). Now, it seems, in the figure of Tim Davie, the BBC has appointed someone far worse.
In an interview with Sky intended to introduce Britain to the new acting DG, Mr Davie proved himself to be rude, obnoxious and confused. He started off with a cocky wideboy’s swagger. Before long, however, he got himself snarled up in answering a question, and tried to save his own blushes by taking route one. That is, walking off.
This is so ridiculous it is almost funny. A journalist should at the very least understand how to answer awkward questions from other journalists, and to treat them with common courtesy. But wait – Mr Davie isn’t a journalist. Read on the Telegraph website
A few weeks ago on The News Quiz, one of the contestants remarked that the name “Abu Qatada” can be sung perfectly to the chorus of the old cockney song “Have a Banana”. Try it – it will make you smile. I think of this now in the hope that the comedy will quell my outrage: a judge has just ruled that Qatada will not be deported, and is “putting together an application for bail”.
The notion that Qatada, the “spiritual leader of the mujahedeen”, whose family has cost the taxpayer more than £500,000 in benefits, will once again be free to put his feet up in Britain is beyond belief. On the upside, it puts much egg on the face of the Home Secretary, who has made the fight to rid our shores of this man a very personal one. She has spent weeks on end locked in negotiations with the Jordanians to establish that Qatada would not be tortured if he were deported. This latest rebuttal makes a mockery of the Government’s softly-softly strategy of negotiation with countries that show scant regard for human rights.
Qatada looks set to become just as permanent a feature of British life as the Pearly Kings and Queens, and there is nothing we can do about it. As seen on the Telegraph website