Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tommy Sheridan Verdict Shock

When Tommy Sheridan won his libel case against News International four years back, I was gobsmacked. The evidence against him seemed so overwhelming that I couldn't possibly see him winning - yet, representing himself, he persuaded the jury that the Evil Murdoch Empire deserved a good shoeing - which may be so, but nonetheless it was a perverse verdict.

And, defending himself again yesterday against perjury charges, I thought he'd persuade the jury again with his five-hour tour de force :

"I've never been accused of a crime of dishonesty in my life.

"The News of the World, the Murdoch press and the Sun have tried to destroy me and my marriage. But you know what - I'm not frightened of them. I've fought them all my life and I will continue to fight them.

"I'm not frightened of Lothian and Borders Police.

"I'm not frightened of saying they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they've treated my family."

Sheridan then bowed his head, paused, and looked up at the jury.

He went on: "I'm frightened of you. I'm frightened of you because you can do something that the News of the World will never be able to do.

"You could separate me from my wife, you could make me break my promise to my daughter that I'd spend Christmas with her.

"Given what you've heard - and never mind the emotion, because you're not here to judge emotion - I ask you to believe you've heard more than enough reasonable doubt to convince you that I'm innocent of the charges that remain."

At this point, about 100 supporters packed into the public gallery applauded.

Impressive. But a guilty verdict nonetheless.

One thing I can't understand. Other than the alleged tape of Sheridan discussing the libel trial, made by a (presumably) former friend, the evidence against him seemed to be pretty much a rerun of the evidence first time round. Now that evidence seemed compelling, yet the jury dismissed it and found that he'd been libelled. I would have thought that a prosecution for perjury was almost an attempt to reverse a jury's decision, perverse though that decision may have been. Indeed, the BBC report explicitly states that the second jury ruled on matters of fact - and these were matters which had already been presented to the first jury. Isn't there an element of double jeopardy here ?

Any lawyers out there ? Does this mean that anyone exonerated by a jury despite what looks like strong evidence against them is liable to be done for perjury - on that same evidence ?

UPDATE - Martin Kelly puts it well :

"it is a public tragedy that Sheridan has managed to get himself into this position at a time when the people he has claimed to speak for and represent need a tribune of his political gifts more than they have ever done before...

I hope he takes the chance to use his considerable talent and intelligence to help those who come into contact with him. There may be any number of rudderless young men who could benefit from having a mentor like Tommy Sheridan."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eton Rifles

Missed this 2004 Times interview with Paul Weller - another Labour luvvie / working class hero. He was living in West London at the time. I doubt he'd have had to worry about crack and guns in London schools before the Fall :

I ask if his children are in private or state schools. (He has four, two by his ex-wife and former Style Council singer Dee C. Lee, one following a short-lived relationship, and a four-year-old daughter with his girlfriend, Sammi, 34, "very sweet gel, puts up with quite a lot from me".) "They’re all in private school. No, one’s in state school," he corrects himself. "If you’ve got the money, I don’t see how you’ve got a choice, really. I don’t want my kids mixing with crack and guns. I’m not saying it’s all like that, but there’s an element of that."

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Google Ngram Viewer allows you to count the relative occurrence of a word or phrase in the Google Books library for a given year of publication.

From 1820 to 2000, 'coloured people', 'colored people', 'black people', 'aboriginal' for all books published in English. You can see the great rise in 'black' and beginning of the decline in 'colo(u)red' (previously the polite usage for what we now call black) in the late 1960s, coterminous with the post-Civil Rights rhetoric of Black Consciousness and Black Power.

But if you do the same only for books published in the UK, you'll see that 'black' only took off in the 1980s, a good twenty years after the States. That poor officer whose use of the word 'coloured' was held up by the Lawrence Enquiry as evidence of police racism wasn't terribly far behind the publishing curve.