Thursday, October 22, 2009

I've Never Seen Anything Like It In My Life

I've managed to avoid posting on it so far, but I cannot believe the amount of coverage the BBC are giving the BNP this week. I don't think I've heard a single news bulletin since the weekend where they didn't get a mention. Some kind of mass hysteria seems to be sweeping the liberal psyche - a moral panic on a grand scale. Could McCarthy's America or seventeenth-century Salem top this?

Today it ranged from Laura Janner Klausener (any relation to Greville ?) on Thought For The Day :

For me, a helpful way to understand conflict is to think in terms of perpetrators, victims and bystanders. In the context of provocation by extremists, we know who'd be the perpetrators and who'd be the victims but most crucial are the bystanders. The bystanders will be the spectators at home, watching "Question Time", some may be cheering, or others tutting and shaking their heads. Some may want to switch off completely.

There's certainly only one anointed victim for tonight's entertainment. Didn't the Fall have a record called 'Live At The Witch-Trials' ?

And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:

And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited ...

I digress. From that, to - at lunchtime - Victoria Derbyshire on R5 asking some hapless BBC executive words to the effect of 'will you be able to sleep in your bed at night knowing you've facilitated all the racist attacks which are going to happen" ?

The salivating ex-decents of Hebden Bridge are doomed to disappointment, I fear.

Tonight in the pub, by no means a bastion of bigotry, nevertheless much chat from sundry locals about Nick Griffin appearing tomorrow on Question Time. Much was seriously depressing. He "has a point" say people I have thought were decent. Many, it seems, will be watching with anticipatory glee.The ratings are likely to go through the roof- for entirely the wrong reasons.

My money is on the whole thing being called off after a series of bomb scares. Martin McGuiness wasn't at the Labour Conference for his health, you know.

UPDATE - Telegraph live-blogging includes this spot-on quote from Conservative Home's Tim Montgomerie.

7:23pm Conservativehome director Tim Montgomerie tells Sky that the only thing that will undermine the BNP is a mainstream party which opposes unbridled immigration.

More Telegraph - Richard Preston (any relation?) :

"Only hours to go now until the fascist takeover ..."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bestwood Update

Remember Bestwood, Notts - the former mining community which was run by a criminal gang and which had 200 arson attempts in a year in just three streets ?

It may just be a coincidence, but a young man from Raymede Drive, one of those three streets, is on trial charged with murder and arson :

A teenager has been charged with murder after the raging fire that destroyed a home in Bulwell. The fire claimed the life of grandmother and volunteer care worker Sue Southern (54), whose body was found in the charred wreckage of the home.

Now William Rowbotham (18), of Raymede Drive, Bestwood Estate, has been accused of starting the blaze. Rowbotham was arrested soon after the fire, which broke out on South Snape Close in the Snape Wood area of Bulwell in the early hours of last Thursday morning.

Trial continues. This is a public information post.

Wroughton Hammer Attack - School Sued

Mail :

A white schoolboy was battered with a claw hammer in an attack at a school where politically correct teachers were afraid to deal with racial tensions, the High Court has heard.

Henry Webster, aged 15, suffered a fractured skull and brain damage after being set upon by a gang of youths during a fight on the school tennis court in 2007.

In the six years beforehand it is alleged that staff looked the other way during a string of incidents involving ‘radicalised’ Asians.

Teachers were too anxious about being seen as bigoted to intervene as a ‘culture of racist bullying and harassment’ built up around a 30-strong gang called the ‘Asian Invasion’.

At the same time, white pupils were branded ‘racist’ by the headmaster and given harsher punishments than Asians, the High Court was told.

Fourteen youths, some of whom were pupils, have already been jailed over the attack on Mr Webster but it was not prosecuted as a racially motivated attack.

However, his family have now brought a civil action against Ridgeway Foundation School near Swindon, Wiltshire, claiming there was a negligent failure to maintain proper discipline and deal with racial tension.

They are also seeking compensation of up to £1million.

Posts (mostly straight pastes of the local papers, as local news sites tend not to keep the stories) on the Wroughton Hammer Attack here. It's just worth repeating some of the comments on the local website :

From A Ridgeway Pupil at 1.44 :
"I am one of the pupils and i know full well why they made they attack, the "asian invasion" want to be the new maffia, the kids in our year and school are always bragging about their cousins fights and how they aren't to be messed with; thus thinking this, they think they are above everybody else and can do what they like. At school they are given VIP treatment, they say jump and the teachers say "how high," and the reason why they did this to Henry was because they barged into one another, accidental, in the corridor at morning break. Whilst three of the year nines (apart of the asian invasion) were provoking a fight, Henry laughed at them and tried walking away, with the three of them still at it, he pushed them off of him and carried on walking. Then the three boys contacted their families and suddenyl the push turned into a "punch" to the face because he was pakistani.
So tell me, this isn't racially motivated and that was a decent reason to do what he did."

From Ridgeway Pupil at 2.03:
I find it disguisting that all he has been given is GBH. I attended school on friday and through whatever means (internet and work of mouth) these older Asian Invasioners said "if we see your face on the news or name in the papers, we will do the same to you and it will be worse." Students are too scared to attend school, whitnesses (200+) are tramatised and parents are outraged. This has been going on for long enough, it started off they physically and verbally bullied the younger white boys, they then brought knives into school, they taunted other indian boys who aren't apart of the gang, calling them "white wannabes" and betrayers, and only a couple a months ago one of their dads assulted a teacher and put a kid in hospital. All linked, all formulating from racism and never ever named and shamed. Nothing was done when a cousin who was in their 20s broke a year 11s jaw so i ask you, if they get away with this AGAIN what will be next? Death is what. The head has quoted on a day to day basis of the running of Ridgeway, there is no racism, which is complete and utter bull. It infuriates me that the teachers try brainwashing everybody who isnt apart of this group that it isnt racism when we try voicing about this group, bu the minute they accuse any others of racism, numerous people are expelled and excessive, unneeded action is ALWAYS taken. It infuriates me completly and the school are too scared to take fair a just action against them incase they are labelled "racist."

From worried at 7.22 pm 14 Jan :
I have two children at this school, and I have been hearing about this so called "Asian Invasion" group from them for some time now. I feel ashamed that I played down the stories that my children have brought home because I honestly thought that they must be exaggerated, (surely if they had been true then the Head would have acted accordingly to stamp out such racist behaviour). I feel have let down my kids by not complaining to the school before this had to happen, but more importantly, I am angry that all of the kids at Ridgeway have been let down in this way because those in charge did not have the skills, the vision, or the courage to deal with this racial hatred before it went this far.

The Rest Is Silence

Indie :

When Charlene Downes disappeared from her Blackpool home in the winter of 2003, her mother, Karen, put her faith in the police to find the 14-year-old.

Six years later, there is still no trace of the girl, who is now presumed murdered. Yet despite a lengthy investigation and a Crown Court trial, no one has been convicted of killing the teenager. And, because of a litany of mistakes by detectives investigating the case, it is now unlikely anyone ever will be.

Yesterday, the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) ruled that covert surveillance evidence gathered against the two main suspects in the case was flawed. This means that the evidence can never be submitted in court.

The IPCC said that Lancashire Constabulary's investigation was "handled poorly and unprofessionally" and that the evidence contained a "catalogue of errors which undermined the court case". Seven detectives will be disciplined.

Karen Downes has given up all hope of justice for her daughter. "Whoever killed Charlene must be laughing their heads off," she said. "I feel really let down that the police put us through this trauma when they must have known there were problems with the evidence. To me this just means they will never catch who killed my daughter. They've got no evidence at all now, have they?"

The IPCC report relates to the May 2007 trial of Iyad Albattikhi, who was charged with murdering Charlene, and Mohammed Raveshi, who was charged with helping Mr Albattikhi dispose of the body.

During the trial, the jury was played taped conversations in which Mr Albattikhi, who ran a takeaway restaurant in the seaside town, joked that he killed the girl, that she was "chopped up" and her body had "gone in the kebabs". In another excerpt, he said: "I killed her, I killed a girl ... I was just angry." His co-accused was heard on the tapes saying: "There is nothing left of her. She was here, she died, there really is nothing."

The jury failed to reach a verdict. A retrial was set for April 2008. However, while preparing for the second trial, senior police officers raised issues with the surveillance evidence, much of which had been obtained by a police informant, David Cassidy, who had worn a wire-tap device when speaking to Mr Albattikhi and Mr Raveshi.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was notified, as was the IPCC. The second trial was abandoned when the CPS offered no evidence against the men. Mr Albattikhi and Mr Raveshi, who say they have never met Charlene, were released.

Yesterday, after an 18-month investigation, the IPCC revealed that the flaws in the evidence included the fact that much of the recorded tape and video evidence was not properly transcribed, that the officers working on the investigation were "inexperienced and untrained" and that the informant, Mr Cassidy, was not properly briefed and so therefore asked the suspects leading questions.

One officer will face a disciplinary hearing, one has received a written warning and five will be given words of advice. Two other detectives retired before the investigation was completed and so cannot now be dealt with by the IPCC. A 10th, who has also retired but is still employed in a civilian capacity, will have his position considered.

Naseem Malik, the IPCC commissioner for the North-west, said: "Six years since the disappearance of Charlene, her parents are no nearer to knowing what happened to their daughter. I cannot imagine how distressing this must be for them. The failings in Lancashire Constabulary's investigation can only have compounded that distress. Lessons must be learned ... to ensure such failures cannot happen again."

The disappearance of Charlene, who would be aged 20 now, exposed a dark side to Blackpool's holiday resort image. During the trial, the court heard that Charlene was one of a number of girls who frequented local takeaways and performed sex acts on male employees in exchange for food and cigarettes.

The tragedy has also taken its toll on the Downes family. A week after the trial collapsed, Karen Downes was arrested for stabbing her husband, Robert, during an argument. He did not press charges, saying he understood his wife lashed out because of grief and distress.

Last month, Charlene's older sister Emma, 24, went on trial for racially assaulting Iyad Albattikhi's brother, Tariq, at a nightclub. The charge was dropped when she admitted a lesser charge of common assault, accepting she slapped the man once. She was stopped from doing so a second time when he grabbed her hand and told her: "It's got nothing to do with me."

Karen Downes is still angry. She has criticised the police for not doing enough to find her daughter, saying that Charlene's working-class upbringing meant that her disappearance was not taken seriously.

"I often wonder," her mother says, "if she had been from a posh family and was having piano lessons, would they have tried harder to find her?"

Even yesterday's announcement that the police officers whose conduct during the investigation effectively scuppered any hope of a prosecution will be disciplined has not sated her anger.

She told The Independent: "I have only just come to terms with the fact that Charlene is dead. It's very hard to accept, but I know deep down that she must be dead because she would have been back by now if she wasn't.

"I've been told I'll get an apology from the police but I don't want them to say sorry. An apology is not going to find my daughter. The fact that some police officers will be punished is no consolation. I want to know what the police plan to do now. But I know the answer: nothing. There is nothing they can do. Unless they find her body and it has DNA or some sort of forensic evidence, there is no way they will be able to convict anyone now."

God rest her soul. Other posts on the Charlene Downes murder here.

A Small Postette

at Biased-BBC.

Monday, October 19, 2009

From Whence Hails Huhne ?

Everyone knows about Lib Dem Lembit Opik’s Estonian heritage, featuring astronomer and meteor guru Ernst Opik - not to mention great-uncle Oskar sieg-heiling through WW2 as a senior member of the puppet Estonian government set up when the Germans arrived.

But Chris Huhne is a bit of a mystery man out of nowhere. Nothing about his parents on wikipedia or any other bio that I’ve seen. Most politicians are only too pleased to tell you about how they got all their values from great-aunt Gertie. Where's the hinterland ? (Lib dem leader and fellow Westminster old boy Nick Clegg has an interesting background too).

Huhne is a pretty unusual surname in the UK – according to the National Trust names site (which shows the geographical distribution of UK surnames) there were fewer than 100 Huhnes on the 1998 electoral register. The FreeBMD genealogy site (which isn't a complete record) shows only two male Huhnes born in the UK between 1837 and 1983 - Paul Harry Huhne in St Pancras in 1903 and Peter I Huhne (with an umlaut) to Harry P and Mrs Huhne (nee Hancock) in Hendon in June 1926. There aren't even very many in Germany - Huhne does have a bit of a Teutonic ring to it.

Whence do his forebears spring ? Or did he just leap into existence fully-formed ?

(Update - maybe the Huhnes are related to the Hoons - perhaps this one)

Update 2 - :

Christopher Murray Paul Huhne was born on the 2nd July 1954, although strangely enough, Huhne appears to be somewhat circumspect about his family origins. As far as can be ascertained he was born Paul-Huhne, which was certainly the surname he was known under at Westminster School, and the one under which he appeared when his demyship at Magdalene was announced in The Times in 1971. Understandably for someone who was later active in the Labour Party, he then seems to have dropped the double barrelled 'Paul-Huhne' in favour of plain 'Huhne'.

His father Peter Ivor Paul-Huhne was a businessman who, although originally a Conservative, became interested in Liberal politics as a consequence of the invasion of Suez in 1956, and married a Margaret Ann Murray of Toronto, and was himself the only son of Mr H Paul-Huhne who ran the British Electrical Resistance Company for many years and also married a Canadian from Toronto. His mother was an actress known under the name of Ann Murray, the high point of whose career appeared to be an appearance as the 'motorist' in the UK made Psychomania (1973). Chris Huhne himself once claimed that she played Clark Kent's mother in one of the Superman movies, but this claim appears to be nothing more than a figment of Huhne's imagination.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Robert Kirby 1948-2009

I mentioned a while back Harry Robinson's work with Nick Drake and Sandy Denny, but most of Nick Drake's string arrangements were done by Robert Kirby, a fellow Cambridge student when they met.

Times obituary :

At this stage, Kirby’s ambitions in music extended no further than becoming a music teacher at a public school: “doing the choir, a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan,” as he put it many years later to Drake’s biographer, Patrick Humphries. Five Leaves Left was well enough received by the critics but sold abysmally. Yet despite the poor sales, the cheque for his work was sufficiently substantial to persuade Kirby to leave Cambridge and embark upon a full-time career as an arranger. One of his favourite stories concerned a parting shot to one of his disapproving tutors at Cambridge, who told him that his work sounded like a television commercial. “Gosh, as good as that,” was Kirby’s well-aimed response...

Finding it increasingly hard to make a decent living as an arranger, he took up a career in marketing.

I liked the recorders and strings he did for Vashti Bunyan, on whom I blogged here.