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Daily Mail wants to get off the equality hovercraft

January 23, 2011

Headline of the week award goes to the Mail, for this effort:

This story has already been ably dissected by Atomic Spin here; My hovercraft is full of “PC gone mad” scares.  The Mail would appear to be voicing a desire for inequality, not just for gay people, but also for Chinese people, Welsh speakers and transsexuals – in fact, anyone that doesn’t fit into their view of what is right and proper.  It’s equality, but gone mad!

Closer study reveals, however, that the article is mostly concerned with people who the Mail considers to be of dubious sexuality, with the words, gay, bisexual, lesbian, homosexual, transsexual and transgender making repeated appearances throughout the text.  There is even quiet condemnation of a scheme designed to encourage people to report homophobic incidents to the police.  This strange attack on equality led me to have a look at other stories around sexuality the Mail has been publishing this week (limited to between 17th – 23rd January due to the sheer number of them).  There is a preponderance of stories about homosexuality, so that is what I will be looking at in this post.

The story of civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy winning their discrimination case after being denied a room at Peter and Hazelmary Bull’s Cornwall hotel prompted a news article and a mention in another news article, one Femail article, a Daily Mail comment piece, and several comments from columnists this week.  These pieces are overwhelmingly in support of the Bull’s discrimination.  Stephen Glover began his article with a sense of balance, but later implied that Hall and Preddy had deliberately set up the Bulls.  The court has already stated there is no evidence for such a claim, but that doesn’t stop it being used to plant doubt in the minds of readers.  Glover also wrote;

Moreover, it seems anomalous that while the Bulls or any other owners of a B&B can legally deny a double bed to an unmarried heterosexual couple, they are on the wrong side of the law when they act in the same way towards a homosexual couple, though it is true that Steven and Martyn are in a civil partnership.

There is the heart of the issue, and I’m not sure why Glover sees this as anomolous.  A civil partnership is, in law, equal to marriage.  This means, legally, the Bull’s can uphold their beliefs, and deny any unmarried, or un-civil-partnershipped (has anyone coined a phrase for this yet?) couple they wish to the use of a double room, but they must treat anyone in a legally recognised relationship equally.

Peter Hitchens voiced his disagreement with the court action being paid for, “by us.” He then flirted perilously with conspiracy theorism when he called the Equality and Human Rights Commission, “Britain’s embryonic Thought Police”, claiming, “This is not the end of the revolution we are passing through. By the time it is finished, I will not be allowed to write or say this. Don’t believe me? Wait and see.” Don’t worry, Peter, at least you’ll still be able to think it.  Nobody could stop you doing that.

Another story that weighed heavily on the mind of the Mail this week was news that Betty Kitten Ross, daughter of Jonathan and Jane, is gay.  This prompted two stories on Thursday, and another on Saturday.  This is the headline from Saturday:

“How bizarre and peculiar they all are.  No wonder their daughter is gay,” is what that headline says to me.  From the family pets to the price tag on their house, nothing escapes scrutiny.  There’s even an almost stalkerish knowledge of what time Jonathan gets up in the morning, and a comment that “Jane, 40, has been known to stay in bed most of the day — sometimes not even changing out of her pyjamas.” Well, how bizarre!  I’m sure nobody normal would ever do anything like that, oh no!

Perhaps the Mail feels this intense scrutiny is in the public interest.  Maybe they see it as a warning that living in a “very bohemian” way could lead *your* child to that very bohemian condition, gayness.  One thing the article does manage to do is provide context to the one written on Thursday, which had the headline, “‘Today has been very eventful’ tweets Betty Kitten after father Jonathan Ross reveals her sexuality.”

So, was it an eventful day due to her father’s revelations?

But Betty — whose full name is Betty Kitten Ross — is used to taking the behaviour of her parents in her stride. ‘Oh my, today has been very eventful,’ she wrote on Twitter. Obviously not eventful because the nation now knew about her sexuality — that was ­‘fabulous’ — but because she had locked herself out of her student flat.

Oh, I see.  It was locking herself out that made the day eventful, and not the nation knowing about her sexuality after all.

My favourite line in the whole article has to be this little snippet about the family dog:  “Snowball even has his own twitter page that is updated daily with pictures and tweets such as ‘woof’.” Oh, how zany!  I bet no-one has ever thought of giving their family pet a Twitter account before.  Honestly, having a gay child is just the tip of an iceberg of wackiness… [\sarcasm]  The whole piece just begs the question, why?  Why do people need to know all this stuff?  Does anybody care?

The Mail has also been interested in the story of psychotherapist, Leslie Pilkington, currently facing a hearing for professional misconduct with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy after an alleged sting by  journalist, Patrick Strudwick.  He wasn’t just any journalist, though – he was a gay journalist, and Mrs Pilkington had agreed to undertake ‘conversion therapy’ to straighten him out.  Much is made of the fact that this was entrapment, although it seems Mrs Pilkington has conducted such therapy before, which, presumably, wasn’t due to entrapment.

Mrs Pilkington has treated ten patients over the past decade using a programme called Sexual Orientation Change Efforts. She says that her gay son is among those she has been able to help.

Mrs Pilkington was ‘able to help’ her own son, implying that being gay is a treatable illness of the mind.  I’m sure the Mail would be delighted if this were actually the case.

Claims are made about the case being suspended after allegations that a witness had been intimidated, but this is hearsay, and not substantiated.  Down near the end of the article, Mr Strudwick is quoted as saying,  “I could not have known any details about any of the witnesses and I could not have intimidated anybody. The hearing was not adjourned because of any complaint about intimidation but because of all the media interest in the case. The other side are putting out information which is wrong.”

The Mail goes on to say this story has, “generated fresh controversy over Christian beliefs and the rights of Christians to hold to them at work.” Has it?  Is this about Mrs Pilkington’s Christian views, or is it about the questionable therapy she offered to perform?

The end of the article is illustrated with a large picture of the two gentlemen from the B&B compensation story mentioned earlier.  A little snippet about that case has been tacked on the end of this completely unrelated story, seemingly for no other reason than to show how gays are cynically targeting Christians for pecuniary motives (disclaimer: gays aren’t targeting Christians.  Likewise, Christians aren’t targeting gays).

Today, the Mail published a story titled, Body-in-bag spy’s teacher says lurid police claims about his private life were a ‘decoy’, neatly laying the blame for all the sensational tabloid stories released at the time on the police instead of themselves.  Of course, this provides the perfect opportunity to reiterate all those claims, just in case you missed them the first time round.  The claims repeated about Mr Williams, that he was ‘gay and a cross-dresser,’ and that he had ‘bondage equipment and phone numbers for gay escorts,’ are not given sceptical quote marks, whereas the refutation of them as, ‘a decoy,’ and ‘hurtful,’ are.  There is also an emphasis on the information that any dresses which may have been found in Mr Williams’ flat were not needed for the clothing design course he was enrolled on.  The Mail also makes the mistake of confusing homosexuality with transgender.  The whole thing reminds me of someone sniggering behind their hand, and saying, “yeah, right!” at the denials made by Mr Williams’ tutor.

I’m not even going to go into the last story I found during my search for ‘gay’ on the Mail site, Children as young as FOUR to be taught about homosexuality under plans to ‘celebrate gay community’, mainly because it seems to be a rehashed version of this one from the Telegraph: Gay lessons’ in maths, geography and science.  At least the Mail headline doesn’t call them, ‘gay lessons,’ although it does have the ‘children as young as FOUR,’ bit screaming at you instead.

Seeing all these stories has shown me that the Mail is generally pretty subversive about its homophobic tendencies.  There’s nothing too overt, but it is, in the main, a negative view of homosexuality.  The wording links being gay with all manner of strangeness, confuses gay and transgender, and makes it quite clear that this paper believes Christianity itself is under attack from gay people.  It’s all in keeping with the headline, “Equality madness” which opened this post, and I can only conclude that the Mail dislikes equality, because it means people must be treated, you know, equally.

***UPDATE***  The Mail has changed the headline of “Children as young as FOUR to be taught about homosexuality under plans to ‘celebrate gay community'”, and it now reads, “Gay messages built into school maths lessons for children as young as FOUR”.  As usual, the URL currently reflects the original headline (School-children-taught-homosexuality-celebrate-gay-community) but I wish I’d got a screenshot so people could compare the two.  Natalie Dzerins, over at Forty Shades of Grey has shown the story up for the sensationalist misinformation it is, with this post: Mail, you owe me a new bullshit-detector. Mine just exploded. ***


One Month Before Heartbreak: From a mother’s perspective

January 16, 2011

Today, I am leaving the tabloids by the wayside in order to make a contribution to the One Month Before Heartbreak blog swarm, an event organised by The Broken of Britain and others to raise awareness of the government’s public consultation on reform of Disability Living Allowance (click if you would like to share your concerns with the government) which ends on 14th February 2011.

My family are fortunate enough right now not to be affected by whatever changes are finally decided on, but this was not always the case.  The post below was first published on Ciao’s Café section in September 2003, and I hope it will help to increase understanding of some of the challenges facing disabled people, and their carers.  I was intending to write a new post for this occasion, but I simply couldn’t find the words to express what I wanted to say.  I hope you’ll all forgive me for this bit of recycling.  This is the story of my daughter, Courtney.

***Courtney was born on 27 August 1992.  I was the ripe old age of nineteen at the time!  She weighed 6lbs 11oz, and was perfect.  I did the usual check of fingers and toes – all there.  The paediatrician at the hospital checked her over and gave her the all clear, and off we went home.  Things all seemed fine at first – watching her grow was a pleasure, seeing how much she learned a joy.

Then I began to notice things weren’t quite right.  Her speech was laboured, she was clumsy, she constantly leaned on the furniture to get around and she could not run or kick a ball.  She could read the alphabet, name lots of colours and shapes, and was very good at counting, so these other things seemed odd to me.  Whenever I raised any concerns with people, they would say ‘Don’t worry, she’ll catch up’  Being my first child, I wasn’t really sure what she should be able to do, so foolishly I ignored the little voice in my head that told me something was wrong.

Courtney had a health review at the age of two.  This was carried out at home, and the health visitor concerned was not willing to listen to me.  All she seemed to care about was finding out whether Courtney could name some pictures in a book – the fact that she could read the alphabet seemed to be of no importance.  Of course, due to the struggle she had finding and pronouncing words Courtney was deemed ‘backwards – she’ll never catch up with other children’ (an opinion I rate very unhelpful), and the delightful health visitor left with a vague mention of speech therapy and was never seen again.

In 1996 at the age of three and a half, following a review with a much better health visitor and a visit to a consultant paediatric neurologist,  Courtney was diagnosed with non-specific leukodystrophy, a progressive genetic disease where the white matter in the brain is destroyed by a faulty metabolism.  This followed several blind alleys and incorrect diagnoses, and turned out to be the rarest of the rare.  There are quite a few named leukodystrophies, but hers wasn’t one of them, hence the ‘non-specific’.  Parents are often dismissed as needless worriers, but usually their instincts are right.  At the time of diagnosis, she was given six months to live, but she actually managed another three years.

At this point, I would like to offer some advice regarding Disability Living Allowance.  If you ever find yourself in the position of having to fill in one of the long and unforgiving claim forms for this benefit, make sure you spell out all special needs clearly on it.  I say this because my original claim on Courtneys’ behalf was turned down as she was ‘not disabled enough’, even though she needed significantly more care than an average child of her age.  When I first filled in the form, she had a tentative diagnosis of cerebral palsy.  I received the letter regarding the unsuccessful claim on the same day I was told what was actually wrong with her – talk about insult to injury!  Once a person has a diagnosis which means their life expectancy is six months or less, they will be entitled to the higher rate of DLA care component without a three month qualifying period, so this decision was overturned on appeal in Courtneys case (for useful websites, see below).

So, now we had a diagnosis what could we expect?  The list of symptoms was long and frightening – increasing dementia, loss of vision, loss of hearing, loss of speech and ability to swallow, fits, incontinence – need I go on?  The grief began immediately.  I was to lose the child I thought I had, gain a much more demanding child, and then lose her too.  I thought I would be unable to bear it, but strangely you do.  It wouldn’t have been right to cry all the time in front of Courtney, so somehow we smiled, making inappropriate jokes to see us through the dark times.  If you have ever wondered why the medical profession seem to have such a morbid sense of humour this is probably the reason.  I was often told that I was brave, but that’s not true – I was just being a mother.

Following the diagnosis, Courtneys consultant referred us to the Make a Wish foundation.  This is a charity which exists to grant the wishes of children with terminal or life-threatening illnesses.  We ended up going on a long weekend at Disneyland Paris due to Courtneys’ love of The Lion King.  As luck would have it, the weekend we were due to go the Channel Tunnel was closed due to a fire – instead of a two hour journey on the train we ended up travelling for twelve hours each way by car, train, bus and ferry.  Ever felt like the fates are against you?  It was even worse for me as I was two weeks away from giving birth!  It was worth it though – I ended up with two great photo albums.

Following this, things didn’t go too badly for a while.  With physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy plus a place at a very good special school Courtney stayed on a fairly even keel.  Her fits (grand and petit mal seizures) were controlled with Epilim (sodium valporate), Lamictal (lamotrigine) and diazepam.  I found a support organisation called the Research Trust for Metabolic Diseases in Children (RTMDC now renamed CLIMB – web address below) who gave me a lot of useful information and were always available to talk to.  As she was at school there was no need for any respite care.

It wasn’t until 1998 that Courtney had a significant deterioration in her condition.  It began with laughing (jolastic) fits.  These were caused by the disease entering the brain stem, the place where all the functions necessary for survival such as breathing, digestion and heart rate are located.  The only drug available that could control these fits was phenobarbitone, an older drug which is quite a heavy handed barbituate.  The most heartbreaking aspect of this was that we couldn’t even make Courtney laugh any more for fear of triggering a fit.  When she was having one you could see how upsetting it was for her, and the fits would often last twenty four hours or more.

Then she began to have trouble swallowing.  A naso-gastric tube was fitted in order to feed her, but despite being drugged up to the eyeballs and not having complete control of her body, Courtney managed to pull it out on several occasions.  She never lost her cheekiness!  The medical experts gave up on this idea, and decided to fit a gastrostomy tube instead.  This goes directly into the stomach through the abdominal wall and there is a connection on the outside that enables you to attach any feeding equipment (feeding can be done manually or with a pump).  The gastrostomy was a success, although I had to learn a new set of jobs including administering the special liquid diet and keeping what they call the stoma site (where the tube goes into the stomach) clean.  It was a few months down the line before I was offered a pump, and feeding was very time-consuming until then.

An eye test then revealed that Courtneys sight was nearly gone.  The disease had progressed to her optic nerve.  Following this discovery there was a fairly rapid deterioration in her condition.  Needless to say, she was no longer going to school.  I had a lovely threatening phone call from the education department one day demanding to know why I wasn’t fulfilling my legal duty of sending her to school.  I wasn’t very impressed, told the woman Courtney was dying, and advised her to read her records more carefully in future.  She had the decency to apologise, at least.

By this time, I was finding it very hard to cope.  For my twenty four hour a day seven days a week job, I was awarded the princely sum of £37 a week Invalid Carers Allowance (the amount may have gone up by now).  I was also allowed two hours a week respite care, when a trained carer would come into the home so myself and my healthy child could get some time away from the house.  This was not enough.  I was cracking up.  My relationship with my sons dad had come under so much strain that we split up.  I told my health visitor that if someone didn’t help me soon I would walk out and leave the children behind (something that I continue to feel guilty about to this day).  That same day, she referred me to Naomi House, a childrens hospice near Winchester which is entirely funded with public donations.

Off we went, not knowing what to expect.  We were supposed to be staying for a weekend, but as it turned out we were there for three months.  The resident doctor was unhappy with Courtneys medication, namely the phenobarbitone, so I agreed to let him attempt to cut the dose, which was originally why we ended up staying a bit longer.

What a wonderful place it turned out to be – not all doom and gloom as you might expect, but a place of laughter, life and fun.  The fully qualified childrens nurses removed the burden of nursing so that I could be a mum again.  It had been so long since I had enjoyed a simple cuddle with my little girl that I felt nervous doing it at first.  The hospice has a suite of rooms for parents upstairs where the children aren’t allowed.  There is a fully equipped kitchen, a living room, and four bedrooms similar to hotel rooms with en-suite bathrooms.  This became my home.  Every time Courtney was due to come home, there would be another set-back so we would stay for longer.  Reducing Courtneys medication didn’t work, so it was put back up again.  Eventually, she stopped digesting her food.  She had to continue with a diet of water as this was all she could tolerate.  A syringe driver (which automatically delivers drugs through a needle) was set up as her medication was not being digested.  You know things are looking bad when diamorphine starts being used.

Courtney died on July 13 1999, shortly before her seventh birthday.  Fortunately we were still at Naomi House.  I was with her when she died, and it was very peaceful (what a cliché).  It was almost as though she looked at me and smiled before she left.  There is a special suite of rooms at Naomi House – one is a refrigerated room that is set up like a bedroom for the child, the other is like a sitting room (not refrigerated!) for the people they leave behind.  I and my family spent a lot of time there, and also in the private garden reserved for such times.  It is good, because you have plenty of time to say goodbye (though I did feel awful about leaving Courtney in such a cold room!).

A week later, we held a very personal funeral service for Courtney in what is known as the Dovecote at Naomi House.  It is a circular room, and is similar to a small chapel.  At the service I realised how many lives Courtney had touched.  There were a lot of people there.  Her consultant neurologist had come, despite being informed about it at very short notice.  I left a memory book outside, and everybody wrote something funny, or sad, or special that they remembered about Courtney.  It turned out to be quite a unique occasion, and there were some lovely readings.  I had specified no mourning clothes, so it looked more like a wedding than a funeral, and instead of flowers people made donations to Naomi House – I think this raised over £300 in the end, a great tribute to a very special little girl.

So there you have it, C for Courtney.  Looking back over it, I realise what an incredibly long op it is (and this is the edited version – there’s a lot I haven’t told you).  If you have managed to read this far, thank you.  Please don’t be too sad – Courtney would not have liked it.  She was always very happy and would want you to be too.  She came, she taught, she laughed, she left.

ps:  I have given this a 5-star rating, but that relates to Courtney, not her disease which gets a big fat zero!


For information on benefits for the disabled and their carers –

CLIMB (Children Living with Inherited Metabolic Disorders) –

Make a Wish –

Naomi House, the childrens hospice –

For information on epilepsy and seizures –

Jeans for Genes, raising money for research into cures for genetic disorders – ***

Daily Mail snow slip up

December 29, 2010

As Zelo Street has already eloquently discussed in Stateside Snow And Slanted Reporting part 1 and part 2, The Mail has done a rather impressive turnaround regarding the snow in the US.  This quick post is merely to illustrate the poins made in those two blog posts.

Reported on 28th December, So how come America copes? UK grinds to a halt in inches of snow, but US is back to work after THREE FOOT deluge

Reported on 29th December, New York’s demolition derby: City clean-up crews wreck cars in frantic bid to clear streets amid apocalyptic post-storm scenes

Generic Daily Mail Reporter is credited with both articles.  Given the massive u-turn, I wonder if it’s a pseudonym for a moonlighting cabinet minister.


December 23, 2010

The special relationship between the Daily Mail and the English Defence League has been noted on this blog before, and continues today with what the Mail claims are Wikileaks revelations.  Martin Robbins has written an excellent post about them regurgitating their own story from 2008, and Five Chinese Crackers has also covered the story here: Remember kids – the Daily Mail is not friends with the EDL.

Predictably, this story has been greeted with ghoulish glee on EDL facebook pages, although they are posting the churnalised version from the Sify news website.  These particular threads have moved on somewhat since the screenshots were taken, but you can see them here, and here.

The comments from the Mail article are also very interesting.  In amongst the usual “send them home” stuff, there are several like these:

This is one reason I will be voting BNP in the bye election next month.Con/Lib/Lab will do nothing until it is to late, just like most votersA perfect reason to vote BNP.
Are we surprised? No not at all……it’s what the EDL and BNP have been saying for some time now.
More and more it is coming to look as if only the BNP might save Britain.
One commenter has noticed the mixed messages sent out by the Mail:
Yes DM and when groups like the BNP and EDL stand up against this you lot are quick to scream fascist, racist, scum etc. You call them right wing extremists, well they aren’t they’re just right.Stop the double standards DM and let us all know which side of the fence you really sit on.
The “We condemn the EDL,” line isn’t terribly convincing, because the style and content of Mail reports concerning Muslims is overwhelmingly negative.  With that in mind, I think everyone knows which side of the fence The Mail is on.

The Daily Mail and the EDL – a special relationship

December 13, 2010

The Daily Mail has published a special investigation today, called English Defence League and the hooligans spreading hate on the High Street.  None of this will be news to some people, and has been floating about on the web for some time, with blogs such as Hope not Hate, One Million United, and, newcomer to the blogosphere, Exposing the English Defence League (set up by the Exposing intolerance and racism online XXXII Facebook group), all having numerous stories on the EDL and it’s leadership.  The BBC has also investigated Jeff Marsh of the Welsh Defence League, one of the men mentioned in the Mail piece, in a report called Welsh Defence League links with neo-Nazis are unmasked.

The hypocrisy of the Mail’s seeming disgust at the EDL is clear, and is not what this post is about.  What I feel does need illustrating is the reliance of EDL members on reports from this particular paper for anti-Muslim stories to post on their wall.  There are other tabloids used on a regular basis, for example, the Star and the Sun, but given the EDL investigation published today, I think The Mail deserves a special mention.

First, take a look at what a quick search for the word ‘Muslim’ turns up on the Mail Online website.  Rather than inflict a direct to Mail link on the readers of this blog, I have taken a screenshot (click to enlarge):

These are the stories Mail Online’s search facility has deemed most relevant (and this is only page one).  On balance, they seem overwhelmingly negative.  Now, take a look at how EDL members use such stories on their Facebook page (this is a small selection):

Here’s a particularly prolific poster of Mail links, using the profile Phenix Ashes:

Finally, this is the reaction from the EDL Chat Facebook page when the Mail’s investigation was shared (Thanks to Fay for this one):

The Mail appears to be attempting to distance itself from the EDL with it’s critical article published today, but it’s simply not convincing when put into context with all of the above.  From what I can see, this paper has done nothing but feed anti-Muslim feeling for years.  It’s a bit late for them to walk away, feigning moral outrage, when people have taken the bait.  Such negative, sensational reporting does have a real life impact, and until papers like The Mail begin reporting on things in a more responsible way, I’m not sure they’re best placed to complain about it.

In the interests of fairness, I’ll allow The Mail to have the last word:

‘What has started cannot be stopped now. It has begun …’

In other words, mindless terrace violence by any other name.

Except this time there is a different ‘enemy’ — one chosen by these Right-wing yobs specifically to­ provoke far more damaging and troublesome consequences.

When newspaper stories provoke violent threats, where is the PCC?

November 18, 2010

Further to Minority Thought’s earlier post, More “us and them” twaddle from one of Desmond’s rags, the Daily Mail version of the story about a group of children posting death threats to another child, Five Muslim boys and white girl, all 12, excluded over Facebook death threats to classmate who supported British troops, was posted on the EDL wall earlier today (for a more balanced view, please see the BBC’s Coventry school tackles Facebook bullying).  The Mail itself says:

Sidney Stringer Academy’s principal, Wendy Thomas, said Facebook was an increasing concern for schools. She said the children have been told to remove the comments from the site.

She said: ‘Darius is the victim of bullying. All the students involved have told me they did not mean what they said but they will learn a hard lesson from this.

‘Facebook is a big concern for schools and we urge all parents to monitor what their children say on the site. As soon as the school was notified about the comments on Monday we interviewed the pupils.

‘No weapons were found on any of the pupils. We notified the police and they are investigating.’

Bullying should never be tolerated, and anyone worried about it can contact Childline in complete confidence.  However, EDL posters seem entirely oblivious to the irony of the various threats of violence they have made in response to this story (with thanks to Exposing intolerance and racism online XXXII for the screenshot).  Please do keep in mind that these threats are aimed at children.  The original thread is here.

***Caution*** Please do not read if easily offended

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By faykapaige at 2010-11-18

When will the PCC flex it’s alleged muscle and deal with this kind of biased, misleading, hatemongering reporting?  I will complain, but since I’m not directly involved it’s doubtful action will be taken.  Besides, once a story like this is printed, complete with huge headline, retractions, apologies or other ways of setting the story straight cannot undo the harm that has already been done.  The PCC claims to be effective, but I just can’t help disbelieving them.

More Sun incitement – more EDL reactions

November 18, 2010

Further to my post of November 14th, Incitement from The Sun – reaction from the EDL, The Sun has published a new story called Cop guard for poppy burner which has provoked a similar response from members of the EDL fan page (screenshots courtesy of Fay from Exposing intolerance and racism online XXXII).  The Sun seems more concerned that “taxpayers paid to cover the cost of placing two officers and a patrol car” outside the house of the man they claim to have “named and shamed” than they are with taking responsibility for the part they played in this.  They have made no mention at all of the death threats posted on the EDL fanpage as a direct response to a link to their The Sun finds poppy thugs story, and this total failure to acknowledge the truth behind the police protection story seems dishonest, deceitful, and completely lacking in self-awareness to me.

***Caution*** As before, please do not read if easily offended.

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*Image copyright does not belong to me. They have been used with prior permission.

Incitement from The Sun – Reaction from the EDL

November 14, 2010

The Sun published The Sun finds poppy thugs today.  The frightening result is published below, in a series of screenshots from the EDL fan page.  The posts are still up on the EDL wall at this moment, but I won’t link directly to them as they contain a name and address which may or may not be that of one of the men who burned poppies on Armistice Day. If anything happens to the people who live in the building advertised on the EDL wall, my personal opinion will be that The Sun is at least partially responsible for it.

*Edit* The EDL admins have finally deleted the thread, several hours after it was first posted.

***Caution*** Please do not read if you are easily offended.  This is truly the most hateful bile I have ever seen from the EDL.  With thanks to Expose for the tip.
EDL incitement

The Mail: Grade II listed bigots – update from Camden Council

November 11, 2010

Camden Council have kindly replied to me with further information on this story originally published by Mail Online on 8th November, and blogged about by me here:  The Mail: Grade II listed bigots

I advised Camden that I would publish any information they sent in order to give them a right of reply to The Mail’s story, and the email I received is reproduced below.

I am writing in reference to the online query form submitted to Camden Council in relation to an article that appeared in the Daily Mail.

While I cannot comment on the rental arrangements outlined in the story, I have provided below a summary of the briefing supplied to journalists on this matter for your information.

* Mrs Ben-Adir was moved on a temporary basis by Camden Council in 2008 because of the severe disruption she would have suffered living next door to a major infrastructure project. The site entrance for contractors and lorries would have been approximately 2 feet from her front door.

* The works at Kentish Town Sports Centre were scheduled to last for 18 months.

* We moved her to the Lodge in Swains Lane – a property that was being used as a storage facility for park keepers.

* Her house in Kentish Town was used by contractors as a site office while the refurbishment of Kentish Town Sports Centre was completed.

* The Sports Centre reopened on 26 July and the contractors left her house at the end of October.

* We will now carry out works to bring the property back up to pre-work levels and she will be moved back in.

A spokesman for Camden Council said:

“Camden Council has reopened Kentish Town Sports Centre following an extensive refurbishment programme, the only Victorian baths to have been renovated in recent times. These works, which were underway for over 18 months would have caused an immense amount of distress and disruption to Mrs Ben-Adir and her family had she remained in the adjoining property. As a cheaper alternative to funding central London hotel accommodation for 18 months, the council arranged for Mrs Ben-Adir to be moved on a temporary basis to an empty property, the Lodge in Swains Lane.

“Mrs Ben-Adir’s property in Kentish Town was used by contractors during the refurbishment works and then as a site office following the re-opening of the centre. They vacated last week and we will now undertake works to bring the property up to standard and the tenant will be expected to return as soon as possible.”

If you require anything further please do not hesitate to contact me.

Press Manager
Corporate Communications Team
Customers Strategy and Performance
London Borough of Camden

So, we have confirmation that both The Mail and Telegraph stories published in 2008, when Mrs Ben-Adir was originally moved to temporary accomodation, were both inaccurate, claiming the move was because of repairs to her house.  Camden Council’s response is clear that a leisure centre was undergoing extensive refurbishment which took 18 months, and that Mrs Ben-Adir would have been subject to severe disruption and distress due to contractors and lorries passing within 2 feet of her front door, which The Mail sneeringly referred to as the family being ‘disturbed’.

In addition, the contractors had been using Mrs Ben-Adir’s house as a site office, and only moved out what would have been around a week before The Mail published their story.  I would imagine the house requires quite a lot of work to bring it back to a habitable condition, and for The Mail to consider a week long enough to undertake this work is entirely unreasonable.  Verdict:  confirmed non-story from The Mail.

(Posted with thanks to Camden’s Press Officer for the prompt and comprehensive reply.)

The Mail: Grade II listed bigots

November 9, 2010

Another day, another headline (which has since been changed, and upgraded from a Daily Mail Reporter byline to that of David Wilkes).

The Mail headline writer has managed to avoid the ‘single mum’ tag the paper used last time they reported on this arrangement, back in 2008.

When I look at these two headlines, the thing I find most shocking is the £500,000 rise in the alleged value of this historic lodge.  Half a million pounds in two years?  The housing market is surely out of control.  Anyhow, that’s not the point of this post, so let’s move past the shocking outrage of runaway house prices and look more deeply into what has upset The Mail so much this time.

But it is, in fact, a council house – the most expensive in Britain – and a single mother has been living there rent-free for two years.

Ah, there’s the single mother reference that was missing from the headline.  I’m at a loss as to how this can be the most expensive council house in Britain, since Camden Council own it, and it was gifted to them so didn’t cost them anything to buy, as confirmed in this Daily Telegraph article from 2008 on the same subject.

The park and buildings were gifted to the public in 1889 as a “garden for the gardenless” by the Lord Mayor of London.

Surely it’s among the cheapest council houses in Britain – it cost Camden £0 to buy, and it’s now costing £0 in housing benefit payments (although there’s nothing in The Mail to say whether the tenant concerned is in receipt of any benefits or not, so no-one can make assumptions about her based on the ‘benefit scrounger’ narrative this paper is so fond of).

Speaking of benefits, the story last night contained a lot of detail on the amount Camden is paying out in housing benefit every year, and dropped in talk of reforms and the new caps proposed recently by the government.  Sensibly, David Wilkes has dropped this irrelevant nonsense from his version.

The latest story claims that Ruth Ben-Adir was moved to the lodge so she wouldn’t be disturbed by local building works.

Ruth Ben-Adir, 46, moved into the three-bedroom property with her son Kingsley, 24, after town hall officials decided that the refurbishment of a sports centre next to their home in Kentish Town, north London, would disturb them.

Strangely, if you read the story from two years ago, it says;

The mother-of-one moved into the Grade II-listed building while repairs are being carried out on her council home in Kentish Town.

There is a glaring inconsistency between these two reports.  Did the council move the family because of refurbishment of a leisure centre that might disturb them, or was it because repairs were being carried out to their home?  Generic Daily Mail Reporter, and latterly David Wilkes, obviously forgot to fact check this detail.

The Mail then goes on to detail the possible neighbours Mrs Ben-Adir rubs shoulders with (‘neighbours include George Michael and Sting), and claims that the house ‘could fetch up to £2,000 a week if rented out – meaning their stay would have cost £208,000 if they had had to pay’.  This is a much larger estimate of hypothetical rent than claimed in the unedited version by Generic Daily Mail Reporter: ‘It’s thought the house could fetch £100,000 rent per year if rented out on the private market.’ I’m not sure why the private rental value of the lodge has increased by £8,000 overnight.  David Wilkes must have insider info.  [Thanks to Jonnyhotrod for pointing out the error in my previous calculations]

Still, if The Mail thinks it would rent for £208,000, it must be a luxurious mansion.  From the 2008 story:

The property, designed by architect James Pennethorne, was home to the park’s gardeners, but more recently has been used for storage despite extensive renovation work.

The Telegraph story, referenced above, expands slightly on the details of the lodge being used as a storage area:

The three-bedroom house was designed by architect James Pennethorne, who helped create Parliament.

It became home to the park’s gardeners, but has been used for storage for the past ten years despite renovation work.

So, prior to Mrs Ben-Adir being temporarily rehoused while her house was refurbished/a leisure centre was refurbished/her house entered use as a site office (more on that later), the lodge was a big shed.  If the Mail wanted to be outraged by something, I’d have thought the use of a £2 million/£2.5 million house as a storage shed might have been slightly more appropriate, particularly as money has been spent renovating it.

Let’s find out what’s really annoyed The Mail.

The work finished three months ago, but the family is still living in The Lodge in Waterlow Park, in the Highgate village area in the north of the capital.

The family isn’t paying rent on the house – nor on their original home, where Mrs Ben-Adir is the registered tenant.

Shocking.  Three months down the line, and the council haven’t turfed Mrs Ben-Adir out yet (despite The Mails’ clear inference that she was never worthy of such a house in the first place), and she hasn’t been paying rent on either property.  Why could that be?  A council spokesman is quoted in this story as saying:

‘As a cheaper alternative to funding central London hotel accommodation for two years, the council arranged for Mrs Ben-Adir to be moved on a temporary basis.

Mrs Ben-Adir’s property in Kentish Town was used by contractors as a site office following the re-opening of the sports centre. They vacated last week and the tenant will be expected to return as soon as possible.’

This is subtly different to the quote in the earlier, untweaked version of the story, which didn’t mention a sports centre, and said:

The Kentish Town home had been used by contractors during the building work and then as a site office.

A spokesman for the council said: ‘They vacated last week. We will now undertake works to bring the property up to standard and the tenant will be expected to return as soon as possible.’

I’m interested to find out the truth behind the inconsistencies scattered throughout this story, and will be emailing Camden Council to find out, directly from them, their take on the situation.

How can The Mail disapprove of a council trying to save money by bringing what was a building used for storage into use as temporary accomodation, costing ‘the taxpayer’ absolutely nothing either in purchase price or housing benefit payments, while a tenants’ house was being renovated (or while a leisure centre was being renovated, whichever version you believe) and was subsequently used as a site office?  When councils undertake major works on homes, they have a duty to make sure the tenant is suitably housed, and it seems Camden Council found the most cost effective way to do this.  One can only imagine the spluttering, horrified fury The Mail could have been provoked into had this council put Mrs Ben-Adir up in a hotel.

Why is The Mail complaining that Mrs Ben-Adir is still staying in the lodge when it’s perfectly clear her home isn’t up to standard for her to move back into?  It’s written in their own story that her original home was in use as a site office until last week.  The whole story is built on the flimsiest of pretexts – that Mrs Ben-Adir, a hated-by-the-Daily-Mail single mother,  is funded by ‘the taxpayer’ to live in luxury (taxpayer funded to the princely tune of, er, £0).  There are inconsistencies between this article and the one from 2008 (more pronounced yesterday when one claimed she was a mother of two, but the other said she was a mother of one).  It’s a nothing story, only published to fulfil The Mail single mother/benefit scrounger/taxpayer funded bigotry quota for the day.

I’ll update this if Camden Council reply, and will leave you with a small insight into the sheer intrusiveness displayed by this style of jounalism.  This link takes you to the London Media page where The Mail bought it’s pictures.  With increased targetting of ordinary people now considered ‘public interest’ stories by the press, those shots of Mrs Ben Adir going about her daily business on the London Media link, taken in 2008, could just as easily be you, or me.  Creepy thought.

***UPDATE*** Please see The Mail: Grade II listed bigots update from Camden Council