Thursday, 27 March 2014

Ignore The Machine

Reading Chronicle promises a full investigation. Why waste everybody's time? 
We know exactly who committed the murder. It was the editor, in the office, with a computer keyboard.


You may, of course, notice that apart from the front page and other people's contributions, the paper and the editor himself says nothing.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Reading Chronic

It's interesting to see some people trying to justify the rank reporting in the Reading Chronicle by suggestion that "there is some truth' in what they are reporting.

There are also some elements of truth in the statement that the Chronicle has previously published lies as fact and refused to correct it or publish an apology despite my contacting the news editor and providing irrefutable evidence that they had published falsehoods. I was met by them with a complete wall of arrogance. That is, one may say, a statement of fact. It has happened on more than one occasion to my personal knowledge.

However, if I was then to infer from that "statement of fact" that the Chronicle had an endemic problem with factual journalism and a modus operandii of publishing unsubstantiated anecdotes as fact in order to create sensationalist stories, I would be guilty of a dangerous extrapolation which libelled their journalists, some of whom over the last 7 years I have liked immensely and have never had a problem with.

It would be unfair of me to say, based on my personal experience, that Chronicle journalists had a problem with factual reporting and libelled them by association based on something that I can prove has 'some elements of truth'.

But the Chronicle has this time gone far beyond the poor journalism for which they are famed... their report on The Cure at Reading Festival was hilariously inaccurate. They have strayed into putting their profession into disrepute.

This is part of the PCC code of conduct:

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
They have clearly been guilty of breaching the code by publishing a picture of a posed hooligan creating a grossly distorted picture of the truth based on information that they themselves have presented.

Typical example:
Police were called to investigate reports that Red Devils supporters had been "singing racists songs" and making Nazi salutes during the game. No perpetrators were ever identified.

I don't like travelling United fans as they are an arrogant bunch of *****, but I have never in 26 years of attending matches seen any evidence of this and I sit close to the away end at the Emirates. Perhaps no perpetrators were found because it didn't happen!

The Chronicle publishes claims of 'Racist Chanting' yet can only point to two individuals on separate occasions in their "evidence". That is NOT chanting and it is a deliberate distortion to report it as such. They claim that Reading fans were racially abusing a Millwall player but then admit that police discovered fans were calling him "fat". The Chronicle by its own admission in fact destroys its own story. The paper that ate itself.

They have apologised for the Hillsborough comments because they could be found guilty of contempt as the inquest has been reopened. They have not published an apology to Reading fans or fans of other clubs they have libelled,

I'm not pretending nothing ever happens. I've had my nose broken and been knocked unconscious after a match. I've been caught up in a certain amount of unpleasantness in Copenhagen with Galatasary fans. I've been on a bus bottled by Villa fans. Does this stop me going to football? No, because it is far rarer to have trouble after a match than it is if you go out drinking in town, or indeed delivering councillor surgery leaflets to residential properties when I have been assaulted twice.

No-one is pretending that nothing happens, with 250,000 a season attending matches there are bound to be isolated incidents. However, police records show conclusively that incidents are indeed isolated. The officer IN CHARGE of match day policing has said on BBC South Today  that this story is a gross distortion.

The bottom line is that The Chronicle's article is grossly misrepresentative and they have dug a deeper hole for themselves by issuing a weasel apology once caught and by refusing to apologise to all fans they have libelled in an appalling case of shoddy reporting. It is why I have reported them to the Press Complaints Commission.

I feel sorry for the majority of the Chronicle's journalists for having to work under such conditions.
A front page splash and multiple page article like that has to have been green lit by the editor. It is not a rogue reporter.

The buck stops with the editor. That is where the rot lies.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Private Eye

I've just put this letter in the post. Wonder if I'll get a reply?

119 Highgrove Street
Tel: **** *** ****
30th October 2013
Division of Ophthalmology
Royal Berkshire Foundation NHS Trust
London Road

Ref: MAB/SD/1089888

Dear Waiting List

How the devil are you? It’s been such a long time and no hear. Nearly two years in fact.

I would love to see you again. However, I have this dodgy right eye which you told me required right cataract extraction and intraocular lens insertion so probably won’t be able to. But then you already knew that didn’t you?

I hope you have something exciting planned to celebrate this anniversary. I was hoping to watch ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ in 3D this Christmas but I’m not holding my breath. At least I’m saving money on buying 3D glasses.

Yours Sincerely

Warren Swaine

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Copper-Bottomed Shits List

We all know that some decisions are difficult difficult lemon difficult, but others are quite easy when you see instant political advantage and a modicum of morals are not necessary.... just follow the whips.

This is a list of the 78 Labour MPs who in 2003 voted against an amendment that declared the reasons for the war against Iraq as 'unproven' but voted against humanitarian action against Syria in any shape or form because they felt they didn't have enough evidence to proceed.

Bob Ainsworth, Douglas Alexander, Adrian Bailey, Margaret Beckett, Hilary Benn, David Blunkett, Kevin Brennan, Nick Brown, Russell Brown, Chris Bryant, Andrew Burnham, Alan Campbell, Vernon Coaker, Ann Coffey, Yvette Cooper, Jon Cruddas, Tony Cunningham, Alistair Darling, Wayne David, Geraint Davies, John Denham, Jim Dowd, Angela Eagle, Maria Eagle, Louise Ellman, Frank Field, Caroline Flint, Mike Gapes, Barry Gardiner, Paul Goggins, Harriet Harman, Tom Harris, John Healey, Mark Hendrick, Stephen Hepburn, George Howarth, Huw Irranca-Davies, Alan Johnson, Helen Jones, Kevan Jones, Tessa Jowell, Gerald Kaufman, David Lammy, Christopher Leslie, Ivan Lewis, Ian Lucas, John Mann, Gordon Marsden, Stephen McCabe, Michael Meacher, Andrew Miller, George Mudie, Jim Murphy, Paul Murphy, Sandra Osborne, Nick Raynsford, Geoffrey Robinson, Frank Roy, Chris Ruane, Barry Sheerman, James Sheridan, Andrew Smith, Jack Straw, Graham Stringer, Gisela Stuart, Gerry Sutcliffe, Mark Tami, Gareth Thomas, Stephen Timms, Derek Twigg, Stephen Twigg, Keith Vaz, Tom Watson, Dave Watts, Alan Whitehead, David Winnick, Rosie Winterton, David Wright.

Now I have a lot of time for MPs of all parties of both sides of the debate who voted with their consciences and principles.

However, the above list falls accurately and neatly into the copper-bottomed shits category.


I've now got the full list of Labour MPs from Hansard and amended the above list and figures. The following Members, whilst they voted in 2003, are not recorded as turning up to vote this time.

Hazel Blears, Ben Bradshaw, Gordon Brown, Ann Clwyd, Ian Davidson, Peter Hain, David Hanson, Siobhain McDonagh, Meg Munn, Dawn Primarolo, John Spellar.

Has anyone actually seen Gordon Brown recently?

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition

Fear not Gibraltarians... the UK still has more comfy chairs:

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Care Scare Bunch

Remember this?

"Councillors were faced with the information that the old Civic Centre was riddled with asbestos, resulting in no-go areas where maintenance and repairs cannot be carried out without the use of costly measures to protect against the deadly white dust. It has leaky roofs and dodgy air conditioning which has to be constantly policed to guard against legionella bacteria."

That was officers' justification in 2006 for an urgent move out of the Civic which, if you believed their original reports, had to be completed by the end of 2010 or it would be armageddon in the town centre.

You may recognise some of these elements if you happened to be sitting in that pile of rubble listening to the Arthur Clark Care Home debate. It was like groundhog day in terms of self-justification by the lead councillor. Woo asbestos! Woo expensive refurbishment! Woo new regulations!

But was it really Rachel Eden speaking? I doubt it. She was simply parroting her officer briefing. It's a well worn officer tactic which can be condensed into: "Won't somebody please think of the children" (or in this case the elderly). If you go against their advice, you are a very bad person and bad things will happen and it will be your fault.

This tactic was used liberally during the debates on the Civic relocation with both Tories and Labour using officer scare stories to justify their attacks on the Lib Dem group who had the temerity to question the officer advice (as it turned out quite correctly). Questioning officer advice was equated with questioning their integrity. It is not the same thing at all and a deliberately disingenuous argument.

The underlying problem is that if you don't keep a close eye on the officers they will try to pull the wool over your eyes. I've seen plenty of examples where not all the options were presented in an effort to ensure certain outcomes and in some cases where facts were deliberately withheld. I'm not saying this was necessarily true in this case, but there seemed to be a familiar pattern being played out.

Officers are not necessarily doing it for bad reasons but to ensure their preferred outcome. They view elected members as an irritant to the good running of the council. This can be articulated in the words of one officer who said to me quite bluntly: "How dare [councillors] try to tell [officers] how to do their jobs? What do they know about [running a council department]?"

The normal way is to give the lead councillor what is referred to unofficially as a '$h!t' sandwich. Officers will prepare three or more options in response to a proposal or request for a report. One of them clearly will be their preferred option (and is usually easy to spot). To ensure it is selected they surround it with options to give you a gentle nudge in the right direction. That's the sandwich!

Uncharacteristically, I do have some sympathy for Cllr Eden. It is true that you sometimes have tough decisions to make and you can't always take the popular path. Even so, there was enough reasonable doubt in the thoroughness of the options to warrant sending the officers back to explore other avenues. The fact that a decision needed to be made as a matter of urgency rather than as a general policy decision about council run care homes leads me to believe that the closure was already worked into next year's council budget.

The cynic in me knew that all the protests against the Arthur Clark closure were in vain but I'm pleased to see so many turn out to see the political process in play but don't be fooled by the change from a Cabinet to Committee decision making structure. It's a step in the right direction but it is not being done for the good of local democracy. It is a mechanism to tie the opposition into unpopular decision making and it's a tactic Tony Page has deployed with monotonous regularity over the years.

The truth is that Council decisions are not made in full council or committee. They are made at Labour General Committee and group meetings. When the Cabinet made decisions the responsibility for those decisions was clear cut. In the neue politik opposition parties will have to learn quickly that a failure to speak at committee will be used as an indicator of acquiescence -  even when in practice opposing a predetermined decision by the party in power is futile.

The bottom line is that the decision to close Arthur Clark was made weeks ago in a Labour meeting. Don't kid yourself that it was made in any other way.