Thursday, October 25, 2012

Elected police bosses coming in Britain -- despite much elite disquiet

With three weeks to go until the first elections for police and crime commissioners (PCCs), the public is at last beginning to hear about this major reform. TV adverts, cunningly placed during Downton Abbey, have alerted Middle England. Information is being despatched to every household. The media has stopped complaining about the lack of coverage and started to cover the story. The Prime Minister has urged people to get out and vote.

In a less-than-principled stand, the Labour Party, who opposed PCCs at every stage, are fielding candidates. Even the Liberal Democrats, despite their attempt to sabotage the reform by delaying the poll, are bravely contesting half the seats. More than 50 independents have thrown their hats into the ring.

In this fervour of democracy, one voice dissents: Lord Blair, former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has told people to stay at home. He claims that a single individual cannot represent one police force area. Yet this is apparently not too big a task for one chief constable. Lord Blair himself headed a force of 55,000 people, serving a population of 7.4 million, with a budget of £4 billion. But perish the thought that the people should be given a say.

There’s something particularly distasteful about an unelected peer unsuccessfully seeking to halt a democratic reform, then urging the public to boycott the ballot box despite the parliamentary vote. Lord Blair is a member of the once-governing class who felt no need for public consent and who regard popular views as dangerous. His like ran the quangos of the land, presiding over a public that could not possibly be trusted to take decisions for themselves.

Well, good riddance to them. There’s an obvious reason why we need the police to be accountable: you can’t choose your force. Increasingly there’s choice over your local school or GP. But the police are a natural monopoly. If you live in London you get the Met. If you lived there between 2005 and 2008, you got Ian Blair. And there wasn’t a thing you could do about it.

But then along came Boris. With the democratic mandate of a newly elected mayor, he swiftly despatched his police chief. No wonder the victim opposes this policy. And that’s the power of the reform: it puts the people in charge. It makes the police accountable for their actions and, in turn, the elected representatives who supervise the force have their feet held to the fire.

Interminable objections were mounted to this change. It would politicise the police, critics said, though my experience was that chief constables were as skilful political practitioners as my colleagues in the Commons. They usually ran rings round the chairmen of local police authorities, who the public had rarely heard of. The chiefs will find it harder after next month.

There are plenty of checks and balances. Chief constables will remain operationally independent. No politician should have the power to demand an arrest or investigation. PCCs will swear an oath of impartiality, undertaking to serve all without fear or favour. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary will continue to watch over forces.

But the most powerful safeguard of all is that the public will be connected with their force. Decisions about whether to increase the amount we all pay through council tax for policing will no longer be taken behind closed doors. Big questions about whether to engage the private sector to deliver behind-the-scenes policing services will have to be settled in public. I think that letting companies do back-room tasks more efficiently is the way to protect the front line. But it will be Commissioners who decide.

The subtext of opposition to these changes is that the police don’t need reform. But it’s very hard to look at the tragic story of Hillsborough, or failings to investigate child abuse, or the murky business of phone hacking, without concluding that a powerful searchlight needs shining in some dark corners of policing. Any public service that routinely leaked confidential information to the press would give cause for concern. When that organisation is entrusted to uphold the law, yet some of its officers see nothing wrong, we have a problem.

This is why the new College of Policing, which will set standards and guard integrity, will be so important. Police officers should be trusted as professionals, able to exercise discretion without the bureaucratic interference that has kept them off the streets, but then held properly to account.

It’s true that crime is down – inconveniently undermining Labour’s sole policy on policing, which is to oppose cuts. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, would rather you didn’t know that her party is quietly committed to cutting police budgets, too. That would mean fewer police officers. But it’s not something she whispers while she’s locked in the embrace of the Police Federation.

In fact, across the 41 police force areas, good people are standing and they deserve attention. These are candidates with local roots who care about their communities. Their decisions over the next four years will matter. That’s why people should ignore the ill-intentioned advice of Lord Blair and exercise the precious right of democracy on Thursday, November 15. Those who hold power over the people should be accountable to the people.


The Twittermob is watching you, too

The twitch-hunt of far-right nutjob Nick Griffin over one daft tweet has frightening implications for us all

Nick Griffin, leader of the far-right British National Party (BNP), currently has 19,356 followers on Twitter. Given the events of the past week, it seems many of these are not following Griffin because they enjoy his rants on anything from fracking to Islamists. Rather, the majority are following him in order to monitor his newsfeed, seemingly just waiting for an opportunity to report him to the police for offensive tweets.

Griffin’s latest misdemeanour was to tweet part of the address of two gay men who had won a court case against a couple of Christian B&B owners who had refused the men a room. Griffin then suggested to his followers that they might like to cause ‘a bit of drama’ outside the gay couple’s home in Huntingdon. So did any Twitter followers turn up? No – they were too busy shopping Griffin to the police.

One of the quickest off the mark was the Labour LGBT campaign group, which claimed to take ‘genuine offence’ at Griffin’s tweets. Labour LGBT tweeted: ‘If you agree Nick Griffin has just breached Sec 127 (1) of the Communications Act 2003 (see link), report him!’ This was retweeted by over 400 individuals, with the group sending interested individuals to the Metropolitan Police website where Griffin could be reported for a hate crime. A full-blown twitch-hunt had begun, with the hashtag #bangriffin heavily used. And almost 40,000 people signied a petition to ‘Get Griffin off Twitter’ for ‘publicly tweeting the address of a gay couple and inciting protest outside their home’.

The National Union of Students (NUS) joined in, posting a statement that the reporting of hate crime should be ‘encouraged’ and ‘the NUS LGBT campaign welcomes the police investigation into these tweets and will be monitoring the situation on behalf of our members’. The LGBT office of campaign group Hope Not Hate wrote an open letter to Cambridgeshire police stating: ‘In Nick Griffin’s tweets he seeks to incite violence against the gay couple.’ Griffin’s Twitter account was suspended and Cambridgeshire police declared that it was investigating Griffin.

Without doubt, tweeting the address of a gay couple, and threatening to give them ‘a bit of drama’ in the form of a demonstration, is an idiotic thing to do. But did anyone really think that a militant wing of the BNP was going to swoop down to Huntingdon and pay the sixtysomething gay couple a visit? Certainly not the couple themselves, whose chilled-out approach – as Brendan O’Neill has pointed out in his Telegraph blog – contrasts sharply with the hysteria of the Twittermob. Any demo, the couple said, would be a ‘damp squib’. Furthermore, ‘it would be difficult for people to gather as we live in a small village and there’s nowhere to park’.

Such cool reasoning was not shared by members of the Twittersphere, or by some gay-rights campaigners. In the words of a spokesperson for gay-rights group Stonewall, Griffin’s behaviour was ‘beyond words, unbelievably shocking. It is a real example of the hatred still out there towards gay people.’

‘Out there’ - it is a revealing phrase. It seems that this Twitter-stoked furore is not just about the loon Griffin, who has for many years developed notoriety for spouting offensive rubbish. It speaks also to the fear of some sort of silent, bigoted majority that Griffin supposedly represents. All it takes, it seems, is a tweet from Fuhrer Griffin and the gay-bashing hordes will arise. They won’t, of course, because they don’t exist. Yet, that someone widely known as a bit of a nutjob is seen as a ‘real example’ of hatred towards gays says more about a culture of offence-seeking than actual attitudes towards homosexuals in twenty-first century Britain.

It appears, however, that Cambridgeshire police has decided not to press charges against Griffin. And his Twitter account has been reinstated, albeit with the offending tweet deleted. To Griffin’s delight, he’s even attracted 3,500 extra followers on the back of the publicity. This time, it appears Griffin lives to tweet another day.

But the furore provoked by a few words online, coupled with the Twittermob’s censorious desire neither to debate nor countenance protest, speaks volumes about the increasingly intolerant nature of the Twittersphere. In its hounding of Griffin, the Twittermob is sending a frightening message: we are watching you, too. Conform or else.


EU is forced to abandon plans for women to take 40% of company board seats after lawyers argue quota would be illegal

A European Union plan to force companies to allot 40 per cent of board seats to women by 2020 has been dropped at the last minute, after lawyers argued strict quotas were unlawful.

Men currently represent over 85 percent of all executive posts in the European Union, an imbalance some prominent women in EU institutions are trying to correct, but their efforts have run into widespread opposition.

Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for justice and fundamental rights, has been struggling to overcome obstacles to her draft proposal for binding gender quotas, and had to scale back the plan after lawyers in the Commission said its main tenet was unlawful.

Ms Reding had wanted to push a binding 40 per cent quota for women on company boards, enforced with sanctions. And earlier drafts of her proposal showed that she wanted a quota to be enforced by 2020.

But officials say that has now been diluted in the proposal, which was still being drafted ahead of a vote by the 27 EU commissioners later on Tuesday afternoon.

The EU's legal service said countries cannot be obliged to reach the 40 per cent female quota, but can ensure that more is done to address gender bias on boards.

Previous drafts outlined hefty sanctions for companies which were not meeting the quota. In a recent version the size of such sanctions has been left to member states to decide.

Supporters of Ms Reding's plans say men could also benefit from the corporate gender push.

If a man who is out of work on paternity leave for a year is up against a woman in a job interview who had been in work for a year, then the man could get priority, one official said.

Many of the EU's 27 member countries have already said they will not support Ms Reding's proposal, and their opposition has also contributed to the softening of her position.

A recent survey of female workers in the UK showed the majority did not aspire to become directors.

The survey of 547 female workers, by the Daily Telegraph found, only four per cent aspired to join the board with a similarly small proportion saying they were looking to become chief executive.

While some other female commissioners say they agree with the proposal's objective, some say its unwieldiness and subsequent unpopularity could kill off much-needed debate on gender inequality.

Five of the commission's nine female commissioners are against the proposal a commission official said while several of the male commissioners, including Finland's Olli Rehn and Michel Barnier of France, are in favour.

Dutch commissioner Neelie Kroes is set to vote against it. Her career has spanned several company board positions and two tenures as a commissioner.

But despite the difficulties Reding's proposal faces, the gender debate has been high on the agenda of other EU institutions.

Members of the European Parliament economics committee on Monday rejected the appointment of Luxembourg's Yves Mersch to the ECB Executive Board, because no women had been considered for the post. While Mersch is still expected to get the job, members of the Parliament believe the stand has put the issue under the spotlight.


Hotheads and no 'home training'

In case you're one of those people who values your sanity and seeks to preserve it -- which means you avoid most of what is on the Internet -- here's what happened: Artis Hughes, a 59-year-old bus driver for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, hit 25-year-old Shi'Dea Lane with a right uppercut that would have done former heavyweight champion George Foreman proud. Under normal circumstances, many -- and I'm hoping most -- people would be adamantly opposed to a man hitting a woman, especially with a hard, potentially jaw-breaking uppercut. But what happened on that Cleveland bus back on Sept. 18 can hardly be described as normal, which is why the incident is chock-full of fodder for newspaper columnists.

Lane boarded the bus and didn't pay her fare. That led to what is called a "beef" between her and Hughes. Lane grabbed Hughes by the neck and spat in his face. That's when he got up out of the driver's seat and cold-cocked her.

It's a sign of the times that there were several on the bus who had their cellphones ready to record the entire incident, which brings me to my first point. The video shows Hughes and Lane threatening physical violence against each other, and the situation was clearly quickly spiraling out of control. Instead of whipping out their cellphones to record the confrontation, why didn't at least one of those geniuses call the police?

That brings me to my second point. Many have expressed sympathy for Hughes, the bus driver. Sorry, I'm not one of them. As a bus driver, his first priority should have been the safety of the passengers. HE's the one that should have called police. And just how did getting out of his seat to pop Lane's face inside-out contribute to passenger safety? Lane is not completely to blame. Hughes did his part to escalate the confrontation, by threatening to bring his daughter and even granddaughter to the scene to beat up Lane. And wisecracking about a scar on Lane's face was completely uncalled-for.

But then we come to my third point: Lane, who's a real piece of work. In addition to threatening to beat up Hughes, Lane called him the dreaded "b" word. Then she called his mother the same thing. After Hughes punched Lane, he threw her bodily off the bus. Lane rushed back onto the bus and continued the fight, ratcheting up the expletives. Hughes was no longer just the "b" word; now he was the "n" word too. Lane told Hughes that her boyfriend -- her "n---a," in Lane's elegant phrasing -- was going to beat Hughes up. Totally ghetto.

Fourth, can anyone say "home training"? Because that's what was completely lacking in this situation. When I was growing up on Baltimore's west side, "home training" was a phrase I heard all the time. Whenever we'd see someone acting disgracefully or inappropriately, we'd shake our heads and lament the offender's lack of home training. "No home training" was how we put it.

Hughes showed little home training, Lane absolutely none. In fact, if home training could be measured on a scale of zero to 10, with zero being no training at all, Lane would send the scale's meter well into double-digit negative numbers.

Still, the main fault lies with Hughes. At 59 years old, his should have been the wiser head that prevailed. He grew up in the era when black Americans (both Hughes and Lane are black) talked about "home training" all the time.

I wouldn't expect Lane, born circa 1987, to know anything about home training. Unfortunately, neither does Hughes.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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