Thursday, August 01, 2013
BBC attacks Humphrys for telling the truth on welfare: Corporation bosses accused of Left-wing bias after criticising respected Today presenter
The BBC was accused of ‘blatant Left-wing bias’ after bosses attacked one of their most respected journalists for a programme exposing the truth about the bloated welfare state.
The BBC Trust concluded that the TV show examining the Government’s welfare reforms, written and fronted by Radio 4 Today presenter John Humphrys, breached rules on impartiality and accuracy.
The ruling criticised the programme for suggesting the welfare state was in crisis and that there was a dependency culture in which some claimants preferred life on benefits to working.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith reacted angrily to the ruling, telling the Daily Mail last night that the programme had been ‘thoughtful’ and ‘intelligent’.
He contrasted it to most of the corporation’s ‘biased’ and negative coverage of his attempts to cut the benefits bill, the subject of frequent complaints by the Government.
The programme, The Future of the Welfare State, featured Mr Humphrys going back to his working-class birthplace in Cardiff, where one in four working-age people is on some form of welfare handout.
The BBC2 production suggested Britain was going through an ‘age of entitlement’, and featured claimants, including a couple on £1,600 of benefits a month, who thought ‘living on benefits an acceptable lifestyle’.
In a newspaper article to accompany the programme, Mr Humphrys wrote about evidence of a ‘dependency culture that has grown steadily over the past year’ and a ‘sense that the State owes us a living’.
But following a complaint from a poverty charity and an unnamed individual, the BBC Trust launched an inquiry into the documentary.
The Trust, which governs the broadcaster, chided the programme-makers for not backing up assertions with statistics.
It complained that viewers would have concluded that the Government was targeting benefits that were responsible for leaving the ‘welfare state in crisis’ and creating the impression that ‘despite the anecdotal testimonies of jobseekers heard in the programme that there was [a] healthy supply of jobs’ that claimants could have taken.
The Trust warned that ‘judgments reached or observations made are still required to be based on the evidence and should not give the appearance of presenting a personal view on a controversial subject’.
Its report claimed that because of ‘the absence of sufficient complementary statistical information to underpin contributors’ accounts, viewers were left unable to reach an informed opinion and the accuracy guidelines had been breached’.
Mr Duncan Smith condemned the ruling, complaining about the corporation’s coverage of a court ruling yesterday against opponents of cuts to housing benefit to people in social housing with spare bedrooms.
Coalition MPs were dismayed when the BBC devoted almost half an hour of a radio phone-in programme with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to complaints about what Labour has misleadingly called a ‘bedroom tax’.
Presenters read out messages from listeners saying Mr Clegg was ‘finished as an MP’ and condemning the coalition as a ‘betrayal’, and put through a caller who asked how he slept at night.
The Work and Pensions Secretary said: ‘We are now in the disappointing position where we are frequently compelled to complain to the BBC about the biased nature of their reporting of government reforms.
‘Watching the reporting today about the Government winning a High Court judgment on the spare room subsidy has once again left me absolutely staggered at the blatant Left-wing bias within the coverage.
'It was as if the BBC thought the High Court had made a terrible decision, instead of effectively upholding the status quo. It’s almost an insult to the courts.
‘And yet here we have the BBC Trust criticising John Humphrys – one of the organisation’s most lauded and respected journalists.
'I watched John’s programme and found it to be thoughtful, intelligent and quite clearly borne out of the real-life experience of the individuals he encountered.
‘John is undoubtedly a robust broadcaster, as I have encountered many times myself, and I don’t know anybody who thinks he is in any way biased.’
A BBC Trust spokesman said: ‘A number of allegations were made about the programme, and we have not upheld all of these. We have not upheld a complaint suggesting John Humphrys was personally conflating opinion with objective facts.
‘The Trust considers each complaint with considerable care and on the basis of what was broadcast. In this case we found no evidence that The Future State of Welfare was advocating government reforms and we judged John Humphrys’ presentation to have been based on professional judgment, not personal opinion.
‘Although we found that the programme did include an appropriately wide range of voices, some statistics were omitted which we believed ought to have been included to help viewers to reach an informed opinion.’
The spokesman added: ‘We are satisfied that our coverage of today’s housing benefit ruling was fair, balanced and impartial.’
Stay-at-home mothers are the happiest: Women who don't return to work suffer less from feelings of boredom and worthlessness
Stay-at-home mothers are more likely to think their lives are worthwhile than women who go to work, a study of national happiness suggests.
They tend not to suffer from boredom, frustration or feelings of worthlessness, according to the research on Britain’s wellbeing.
Full-time mothers gave the value of their lives a score of eight out of ten, compared to 7.8 for people in work.
Data also revealed that married people are significantly more contented than cohabitees and much happier than single or divorced people.
The findings will add further pressure on the Government to change the treatment of married couples where only one partner works. Couples with a full-time mother pay higher taxes in Britain than in almost every other western country and lose out badly in the benefits system, particularly over tax credits.
And the Coalition’s drive to get more mothers to work has produced even more disadvantages. Under a new policy, parents will be given up to £1,200 a year for each child under the age of five to help with the cost of childcare – but only if both parents are in work.
Yesterday’s report from the Office for National Statistics on personal well-being, ordered by David Cameron, looked at the happiness of people who are economically inactive – the class into which full-time mothers fall.
While those who stay at home scored the worth of their lives higher than those who go to work, scores for happiness, life satisfaction and anxiety levels were broadly the same.
The ONS figures do not include a breakdown that reveals whether men or women at work are the happier. Nor is there any data to show the difference in contentment between full-time mothers who are married or cohabiting, and those who are single parents.
But the findings do show that married people and cohabitees are much happier than single people – which suggests that married or cohabiting stay-at-home mothers feel their lives are more worthwhile than working people.
The official endorsement of the benefits of marriage over other relationships comes at a time when Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne have failed to make good on repeated promises to bring in a tax break for married couples.
Campaigner Laura Perrins, who earlier this year accused Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on his radio programme of betraying stay-at-home mothers, yesterday made a fresh call for an end to Government ‘prejudice’.
‘I speak as a stay-at-home mother,’ she said. ‘I know that if you choose to stay at home with your children it is a worthwhile job. It is now clear that many mothers feel the same. The Government should not be denigrating those who stay at home.
‘Being a full-time mother can be challenging, but it is satisfying and worthwhile. It is obvious that all mothers do not want to work.’
Patricia Morgan, an author on family issues, added: ‘If we really want to take happiness seriously, as Mr Cameron advises, why don’t we promote the things that make us happy? Why can’t we support marriage, and why can’t we give married couples transferable tax allowances to help stay-at-home mothers?’
The findings are based on a survey of around 165,000 people, who were asked how satisfied, worthwhile, happy or anxious they felt about their lives.
A total of 77 per cent gave their satisfaction levels at least seven out of 10 – a year-on-year rise of 1.2 per cent. Some 81 per cent rated their lives as worthwhile with a score of seven or more, while the average value for life satisfaction rose from 7.4 to 7.5.
The ONS said last year’s Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Olympics and Paralympics may also have raised peoples’ spirits.
‘All of those could potentially have influenced people’s assessment of how well their life is going and how they feel overall and generally raise their spirits,’ said spokesman Dawn Snape.
Unemployment has also been falling since late 2011 and job vacancies rising since early 2012.
The well-being measures have shown that unemployment is a major cause of disenchantment and unhappiness.
British police won't hand stolen caravan back to couple to protect human rights of the travellers living in it
A couple whose £30,000 caravan was stolen have been told a traveller family now living in it cannot be removed because it would breach their human rights.
Kathleen McClelland and her partner Michael Curry spent their life savings on the top-of-the-range camper and were devastated when it vanished from the secure site where they kept it.
When police eventually found the 26ft-long Bailey Louisiana caravan 18 months later, its owners were told a traveller couple and their two young children were living in it only ten miles from their home in Surrey.
Their initial relief turned to outrage, however, when the police said they had ‘no lawful powers’ to get it back.
They were told their only option was to begin costly civil proceedings against the family, which they say they cannot afford.
Mrs McClelland and Mr Curry had spent £10,000 improving the £20,000 caravan, including putting in a widescreen TV. They bought the vehicle on hire purchase – and still have to make monthly payments of £250 for the next two years.
Hospital ward clerk Mrs McClelland, 68, said: ‘Why should we have to pay for someone else to live in our brand new caravan? That was for our pleasure in our older years.
‘The police said that removing the family would breach their human rights and that they would have to be rehoused before it could be seized. We spent all our retirement money on that caravan because we thought it would last us a lifetime. We’re absolutely devastated. It seems as though no one cares about our human rights.
‘I’ve worked all my life and saved up, surely I have the right to enjoy my retirement? When that caravan was stolen, our right to a happy retirement was stolen.’
The couple, who live in a semi-detached home in Tongham, Surrey, were in between insurance policies at the time of the theft in 2011 so were not covered for a payout.
In an apologetic letter, PC Karen East of Hampshire Constabulary told them the matter was out of the force’s hands. It read: ‘Unfortunately it has transpired that we have no lawful power to recover the caravan. It will be the responsibility of you as the owner to start civil proceedings against the current occupier.’
The letter added: ‘I sincerely apologise for this decision and I am sure that you feel the onus has been put back to you but my hands have been tied due to police powers.’
Last September police located and identified the caravan in Hook, Hampshire, after interviewing a suspect for an unrelated offence. But because officers did not have evidence that the current occupier knew the caravan was stolen when he allegedly purchased it, he could not be prosecuted and the force said it was unable to seize it.
Mr Curry, 53, who gave up his job as an HGV driver after being diagnosed with diabetes, said the police refused to reveal the caravan’s exact location.
‘I just cannot comprehend it,’ he said. ‘If I was stopped by the police and it turned out my car, which I had brought in good faith, was stolen, it would be confiscated and I would lose my money.’
Mr Curry said they bought the caravan in 2007 and would use it for family weekends away in Cornwall, Cumbria, Scotland and the south coast. It was stolen from a secure storage site in Crookham, Hampshire, after thieves disabled the alarm and cut through a wheel clamp and lock.
When the caravan was eventually found the couple were asked to provide proof of ownership, a logbook and photos.
They learned that the family found living in the caravan had taken it all over the country before temporarily settling down ten miles away from them.
Mr Curry said: ‘Apparently they had a receipt for it and had paid a guy £300 in a pub for it. ‘They had no proof apart from a handwritten note on a scrap of paper, while we had everything proving it was ours. If they wanted a caravan, why not save up for it like we did?
‘I have lost all faith in the police. It seems that they have completely let us down and turned their backs on us.’
A Hampshire Police spokesman said: ‘A 22-year-old man from Hook was arrested and interviewed on suspicion of theft, however there was insufficient evidence to prove he had been involved in the theft, or would have known the caravan was stolen when he bought it. He was released with no further action.
‘We have no police powers to seize the caravan and have advised the owners to seek civil action in order to recover it.’
Australia: Court-ordered parole, suspended sentences may be dumped as Qld. gets tough on criminals
CRIMINALS currently walking free from court face being sent to jail and others locked up for longer amid Government concerns crooks are being let out too early.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie told The Courier-Mail offenders who made no attempt to rehabilitate were being released, and he was not afraid to change the law to better protect the community.
The Government is looking at dumping court-ordered parole and suspended jail sentences which would see Queensland's prison population of about 6000 almost certainly increase.
Mr Bleijie said offenders were being given too many chances and judges could soon lose the power to decide when criminals are released from jail.
Highly placed sources told The Courier-Mail that the Attorney-General had lost faith in court-ordered parole, suspended sentences and the system's ability to deal with recidivist offenders.
Of the 53,952 prisoners sentenced in Queensland courts in the past three years, more than 41,000 received a wholly suspended jail sentence or received court-ordered parole.
Mr Bleijie admitted there were problems with the system.
"I am certainly questioning whether court-ordered parole and suspended sentences still have a place in our legal system," he said.
"I'm well aware of concern and anger in the community over offenders committing more crimes after either walking straight from court or getting let out of jail on court ordered parole."
Privately, prison boards and police have lamented the fact they have to release some prisoners into the community on court-ordered parole.
Sources say a 25-year-old man went from "maximum security to the street" this year, despite Corrective Services staff and the Parole Board believing he should not be released on the parole date set by a judge. Within a week of being released, the Gold Coast bikie was charged with allegedly firing a gun inside a taxi, attacking two drivers and a police officer.
Court-ordered parole is a release date set during sentencing by the sentencing judge. It can include immediate parole, which means an offender is sentenced but walks free straight away.
Under the current system, the Parole Board has no say on an offender's release if they are on court-ordered parole unless they commit a criminal offence in jail or there is an imminent risk.
Criminals aged between 18-24 years are causing the greatest headaches for policy makers, with internal Corrective Service statistics revealing 70 per cent of the cohort will return to jail at least one more time before they reach 35 years.
About 300 offenders a month are suspended and returned to prison for breaching their parole. In 2011-2012, the two regional Parole Boards suspended or cancelled 3548 court-ordered parole orders because offenders committed another offence or breached their parole orders.
Mr Bleijie said some offenders knew how to work the system. "For some, court-ordered parole means they just have to wait their sentence out, without even trying to rehabilitate themselves," he said.
"If offenders were only eligible for parole and had to prove themselves to the Parole Board, it might motivate them to rehabilitate and change their offending behaviour.
"We're committed to getting tough on crime and people who think they can get away with repeatedly thumbing their nose at the law.
"We are not afraid to change laws if they will better protect the community."
Queensland Council for Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman disputed Mr Bleijie's claim court-ordered parole was not working and asked how the Attorney-General would know given he scrapped the Sentence Advisory Council.
"The more you say no more second chances the more you push up recidivism," Mr O'Gorman said.
He predicted the judiciary would not be happy about any moves to limit their sentencing options.
Police Union president Ian Leavers said the Parole Board should be able to overrule a
court-ordered parole date if they thought a criminal should remain in prison.
"(It should be) until the Parole Board is satisfied they should be released or until they've served their full sentence, whatever comes first," Mr Leavers said.
Yesterday, Mr Bleijie ordered the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal against the sentences of three young offenders, aged 16, 15, and 12, who took part in a violent crime spree on the Gold Coast last year.
The 15 and 16-year-olds, who committed robberies, received two years probation and 40 hours community service. The 16-year-old driver received 18 months probation and was disqualified from driving for six months. No convictions were recorded.
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 POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.