Nothing to see here.

The remarkable thing about this is just what Nigel Seed QC was willing to consider normal.

“On the day of her trial there was a large number of reporters at the court,” he said. “I was informed by the police that this was because the defendant, who had been on bail, had let it be known that if the case progressed as far as her having to give evidence she intended to allege that she had provided rent boys to Edward Heath.”

Just another day at the office. And then all his witnesses dropped out.

Seed said three witnesses, all sex workers who allegedly worked for Forde at her brothel in Salisbury, Wiltshire, failed or refused to give evidence at court, leaving him with no choice but to offer no evidence.

The combination of the two facts does not seem to have worried him in the slightest. After all, it wasn’t as if they were people, was it?

Seed said there was no suggestion the men were underage or “anything more than male prostitutes”

This is of course how they get away with it. But the guy’s enormous incuriosity is what gets me. There’s sang froid, and then there’s just sitting there like a sack of spuds.

eternal #savileweek

Everyone now knows who The Tory was. No. Everyone now knows that the idea of The Tory is obsolete, as opposed to an open-ended search for more perpetrators. I think it’s worth flagging up this post that ran in the Daily Beast on the same night the Mirror broke the Ted Heath story.

The first point of note: there are at least three lines of enquiry here. There is an Exaro/BBC story based around the statement from a retired Wiltshire Police officer. There is an Exaro/Daily Mirror story based on statements from a witness. And there is a separate Beastly story, which is neither based on the Wiltshire story, nor on Exaro’s witness, but rather on documentary material. Exaro’s witness “Nick” is, for the absence of doubt, the same person as the Mirror‘s source.

Second point of note. Don Hale, for it is he, is bylined as a co-author on the Beast piece; he has previously said Barbara Castle MP showed him the document. Castle’s papers are mostly in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, except for her diaries which are at Bradford University, but there was apparently some difficulty about getting access to them. According to this Mirror piece from July last year, the famously lost Geoffrey Dickens dossier contained much of the same material as the Castle one.

Third point of note. As the Mirror, Exaro, and the BBC seem to have known the name for some time but to have held onto it for legal or investigative reasons, there was presumably some reason to break it when they did. Does that mean someone got access to the Castle file? Certainly, the Beast piece taken together with the earlier Mirror one lets you have a good guess at the contents. Also, the story is in no way single-sourced.

And then there’s this:

and if you do…will anything happen?

The British Election Study is back and it’s very interesting indeed. Here’s the key chart.


The pink zone is essentially people who were convinced by Labour but not motivated to go and vote. Either mobilisation fell dramatically in 2010-2015, or else we managed to turn a lot of heads, but not get them to turn out. The BES commentary says:

The evidence in the BES suggests that the reason for the increased impact of differential turnout is not due to a change in the relative enthusiasm between Labour and Conservative supporters since 2010. 84% of Labour supporters in 2015 said that it was “very likely” that they would vote, compared to 86% of Conservative supporters, while in 2010 the figures were 87% and 90% respectively. Rather the data suggest that the increase in the turnout gap between Labour and the Conservatives can be explained by shifts in party support amongst those who are actually less likely to turnout to vote, even if they say they will. This evidence strongly suggests that differential turnout was a major factor in the polling miss.

The people we successfully addressed agreed, but they didn’t believe anything would happen. Emerging low-trust society, how are ya.

Also, perhaps that database of Shapps’s worked better than we (or they) thought. Mobilisation was a big, big part of our problem, so it is not surprising the mobilisation-first strategy failed. That said, good luck with the option of trying to get as few people as possible to vote!


UKIP as cashpoint

The previous post was about chancers, among other people. Here’s another post about chancers.

What’s interesting in this one is the multiple levels of chancership. You have the two blogger/staffer/whatever types, classic chancers, who would love to hire on with UKIP, but mostly because they could sell that experience to someone with more money. You have the Americans, who have more money but are still only Breitbart, who would love to get involved with UKIP so they could have a business in Britain.

And you have Nigel Farage himself, who after all the toing and froing the post describes ended up by adding a sinecure with Breitbart to the one he has with Russia Today. Cute, in the Irish sense. On the way, Farage did manage to meet Rupert Murdoch, which is serious, but also Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, which is…somewhat less helpful, unless you’re Breitbart of course and you have a radio show to fill.

As they say in Nigeria, when thief thief thief, the world laughs. Especially as the dense, intertwined chancership seems to have rendered UKIP much less effective than it might have been…except from the point of view of its proprietor.

Chancers, respectability politics, and IDS: A4e, Kids Co, and Trussell

What to make of this story? Camila Batmanghelidjh has been basically forced out of Kids’ Company after the Cabinet Office wanted to know what it’s been doing with the money. Much detail is available in a Buzzfeed piece of the sort you’re meant to think Buzzfeed doesn’t do.

She, of course, blames austerity, cuts, etc. This is pretty rich coming from someone who repeatedly endorsed David Cameron in the run-in to the 2010 elections and even afterwards, appearing at the 2006 Conservative conference and taking part in the Big Society founding meeting at Downing Street in May, 2010.


This may have been the brief interlude between the coalition being formed and the first Osborne Budget, but they had already agreed on the extra £6bn in-year cuts, so it’s not as if we weren’t warned.


One way to look at this is the photo above. The Tories had a go at being nice, that’s how she fell in with them, and then they turned on her. Because they’re Tories. By December 2010, this narrative was already falling into place. Even the Lib Dems had their own creepily sexist and racist version of the same pattern.

But there was always another side to the Big Society project. The May 2010 kickoff meeting also included Ray “Robocop” Mallon, mayor of Middlesbrough and professional populist, for example. That doesn’t sound like the nice straightforward story about the Tories letting down a nice charity for children, does it? Also, this blog post was justly much read for what it said about working for Kids Co – pretty much the management from hell – but it also mentioned them “feeding in” to the DWP’s policy agenda. It also brought out was the degree to which their astonishingly high staff-pupil ratios were achieved by ruthlessly strip-mining volunteers.

The post and indeed the whole site has now been scrubbed, to the point of getting rid of it from the Internet Archive. But let’s take a look at what they might have been feeding in to policy. Here’s a document from July 2007.

Ms Batmanghelidjh told the MPs: “I actually think the mothers [specifically black – ed] are hugely responsible because they have created a culture where they can get rid of the adolescent boy. They can get rid of the male partner, they can survive on their own.

Often people think it’s the males who are the culprits, the irresponsible people who actually come along and make these girls pregnant and walk off. And they underestimate the level of rejection and cruelty from the females towards the males.

I actually think the males are really vulnerable and it starts in adolescence. The minute the adolescent boy begins to look slightly like a male and behave like a male, often the mother wants that young male banished from the house. A hate relationship often develops. I really think we underestimate the vulnerabilities of young black men.”

I don’t know about you but I see a hell of a lot of NOT OK in there. The “males”? That’s not a bit…veterinary? Also, I read the first paragraph as carrying an anti-welfare subtext, especially as the target audience was a bunch of MPs.

What we’re talking about here is US-style respectability politics, really. For some fine snark, which would do for a quick start tutorial, try Adam Serwer. This is very important in understanding Iain Duncan Smith and specifically his interest in the works of Lawrence Mead. It’s a double-edged sword; one swing blames the poor for their problems, while the backswing has at the unglamorous poor-bloody-infantry in schools and social services with their unions and budgets.

As I’ve said before, I see A4e, Kids’ Company, and the Trussell Trust as key institutions in understanding how we got into this mess.

A4e actually did start off as a grassroots charity in post-steel Sheffield, but it drifted – in terms of its leaders’ aspirations, in terms of the increasing irrelevance of the approach both it and the DWP had learned, and in terms of its ability to manage a rapidly growing team of people who were working on commission, essentially a sales force.

Kids’ Company represents something different. In its constant drive to recruit celebrity donors, it came to offer legitimacy to the politicians. Iain Duncan Smith, more than David Cameron, locked onto this as political cover for his respectability politics agenda. Because it didn’t really have an articulated agenda of its own, it also leaked unexamined prejudices into the policy market (see above). And its commitment to an interventionist, treatment-ist world view fit right in with the IDS agenda.

Trussell will need another post, or a PhD, but I’m deeply suspicious of it because I can’t think of anywhere that has foodbanks that has ever managed to get rid of them and return to a normal society. I suspect they know this and worry about it, which is why they’re really quite critical of the DWP, rather than just hollering for more budget, and why Iain Duncan Smith keeps falling out with them.

And of course there’s the great overarching IDS theme, the role of the chancer. It is beautifully ironic that the great chancer of the times himself accuses Trussell of chancerism, when they are the least chancerish of the satellite NGOs spinning around DWP. Chancers are important; have you ever wondered why everyone started carrying bottles of water around in the 1990s? Wonder no more. Yes. He’s her dad.

Weak, weak, weak.

Just a final thought about the Harman/Welfare Bill saga. My original thinking was that it was all about Labour/SNP politics, and I kind of expected a U-turn once it became clear the SNP would be available and would vote no. So, look how that turned out.

Apparently it was all about looking “weak on welfare”. The problem, though, is that Labour avoided that by just looking weak. This is worse, because specific events create a general perception, which then frames future events. It also ended up looking divided. This is worse still. And to think we started off the week by re-forging the opposition whip with the SNP and knocking down a string of awful Tory initiatives.

If you thought Ed Miliband looked silly with a bacon sandwich, well, this is what really hopeless leadership looks like.

The price of BBC independence. In favour of cynical payoffs

I notice people are whining about BBC “payoffs” again. This is pathetic. If the BBC is meant to be independent, that means politicians of all descriptions shouldn’t be able to threaten the people who work there with the sack. This can be achieved in two ways – either we take the politicians’ power over the BBC away, or we take the power of the sack away, by stuffing it with money.

The first option was the one chosen by Lord Reith when the BBC was created. It would of course be lovely if the BBC could hire the people it wants by offering civil service rates and a final salary pension. The problem, however, is that it didn’t work.

Historically the political class has always tried to bully the BBC, usually with the self-interested complicity of the press barons. They can’t give it up. The charter review process itself sticks the Chekhovian gun on the mantelpiece that will eventually get fired, rather like a BBC executive. As a result, if the BBC management has to rely on sticking it out for 38 years to get their money, the BBC won’t be in any way independent or interesting because anyone who is either of those things will get sacked or won’t join it in the first place.

It’s possible to square this circle if you have really strong political cover. The classic example is of course the civil service itself. But the BBC will never be as big or ugly a lobby as the civil service, and even the civil service gets bullied by politicians more often than it would like to admit. Actually it’s worse than that. Very often, the party trying to intimidate the BBC is the state, and it should be obvious that Downing Street cannot protect the BBC against Downing Street.

This leaves the second option. BBC people implicitly recognise that the political class can turn on them at any time, but in exchange for taking the career risk, the BBC implicitly promises them a lot of money if it happens. This means occasional, embarrassing payoffs, but it also means that a modicum of BBC independence is possible.

If politicians really are angry about “BBC payoffs”, they should leave the BBC alone, resist the temptation to get worked up about TV shows they didn’t bother to watch, stop micromanaging bits of its web site. They won’t do that, of course. They’re politicians and it is too big a megaphone for them to leave it alone. It’s almost as if…they don’t really want the BBC to be independent, and that’s why they whine about payoffs.

It’s certainly not the principle of rewards for (perceived) failure – as recently as 2010, MPs who lost their seats could get a year’s salary as a resettlement grant. More recently this has been cut back to a maximum of 6 months’ money, but ministers get 3 months of their ministerial salary on top of that and there’s up to £55,000 available for the costs of closing down your office.

It would be nicer, I agree, if we could go with option 1. But we’re just not that kind of society, and I’m not even sure if that’s a bad thing. We never were, either – back in the good old days, the BBC sent all its employees’ personal files to the police for vetting except for Jimmy Savile’s. If nobody ever tried to influence the BBC, would that mean its independence was so rock-solid there was no point, or that it had completely internalised what the politicians wanted?

Another Labour-SNP post.

Circling back on this post and also this one, I think the EVEL fiasco has been a really important political event, because it has decided a really important issue.

Coming out of the elections, there was a possibility at least that the SNP and the Government would come to an arrangement. The Government would give them what they wanted regarding devomax, and in return, the SNP would take a strict interpretation of the idea that they stayed out of non-Scottish issues. This could have been formalised by EVEL or just left as a political agreement. This would have suited the Conservatives rather well, as it would have given them a free hand on anything that could be coloured as an England-and-Wales issue.

The alternative was that the SNP would stay in protest mode and assert Scottish interest in almost anything controversial. As we’ve seen this week, this wouldn’t suit the Conservatives at all. The first option would basically replace the Lib Dems with a sort of negative coalition partner – rather than adding to the government bench, it would subtract from the opposition bench. The second would do the opposite.

For the SNP this amounts to a choice between holding onto their precious capital of authenticity, and cashing it in for influence. I discussed this issue in a previous post. Arguably their authenticity is so precious they would be well advised always to pick opposition, but as with a lot of political decisions, leaving it uncertain up to the last minute has value. Also, they have to balance cooperating at Westminster with competing at Holyrood.

So the ideal situation for the SNP is one where Labour decides to go quiet on some issue, because they can’t count on the SNP to vote against, and the SNP then flips, making them look like the real opposition. We’ve seen this play out over the Welfare bill this week – although the tax credit elements are clearly UK-wide, housing is a devolved issue and as Joe Halewood points out, the SNP might want to implement some of the Bill themselves in order to give social tenants a rate cut and ram the bill to Labour-run local councils.

Going back to my authenticity post, I think the idea of an In-party in Holyrood that’s an Out-party in Westminster fits the facts pretty well and therefore Labour should work on the presumption they will show up. So, yes, joining the bandwagon against Harman a bit late.