Thursday, 7 July 2011

To gag or not to gag?

The sex tales of midfielder Ryan Giggs and his playmates have provided gripping gossip for many of us over the past few weeks; but the case has also conveniently exposed the flaws surrounding super-injunctions, which immorally appear on the menu of rich male celebrities, who obtain them under the pretence of human rights violation. 

Far from violating his human rights, the revelation of Giggs’s extramarital affairs has simply made public something that has already began to destroy the life of his family, including his wife and brother, who have been left devastated.

Super-injunctions, which were historically granted when an individual was under threat of physical danger, seem to be no longer worth the paper they are written on. The High Court’s callous interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights means that super-injunctions are granted increasingly on the grounds of wealth, and it is this contention which newspapers find themselves at the very heart of. According to WikiLeaks The Guardian was served with 10 super-injunctions between January and September 2009. In the year before it was issued with six, and in 2007, five. 

 In reality this self-serving and dishonest practice enables individuals to protect nothing other than multimillion pound marketing deals or their own already tarnished reputations. In the grand scheme of things, publicising such news does not exacerbate the situation when fun on the side has already been had. And in view of this, Giggs’ lawyers pursuit of Twitter users who revealed his affair with Imogen Thomas is unnecessary and foolish. Social media users should continue to enjoy the freedom to post information online instead of being penalised for revealing acts that would have made it onto the front pages regardless.

More importantly the irresponsible issue of super-injunctions can be very dangerous as the sordid details of Trafigura’s oil-for-food scandal illustrates. The oil trading giant sought and won a super-injunction against The Guardian in 2009 as the paper sought to publish details of a report on the oil company’s dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast.  But the implications of this go far beyond the issues of freedom of speech and privacy. Had Trafigura upheld the case, their solicitors, Carter- Ruck, would have effectively been holding parliament to contempt. This has very serious implications, namely undermining parliamentary privilege. Not to mention, this desire for censorship would have robbed the public of information they had the right to read about. And thus Alan Rusbridger’s, editor of The Guardian, reaction to the case as “draconian and absolute” is completely understandable. 

However the media themselves are no better in all of this. Their desire to overturn super-injunctions is mainly to do with boosting readership, as opposed to public interest.  It is very clear that the tabloids themselves have issued an ‘informal super- injunction’ in regards to The News of the World phone hacking scandal. Depending on what newspapers you read, you may not have heard about the phone bugging of prominent figures and members of public alike. This makes it very clear that the press continue to refer to the term ‘public interest’ as and when it suits them. Yet they are keen to hide private details of phone hacking scandals which directly involve members of the public.

Indeed The Sun’s desire to publish details about the extramarital affair of Royal Bank of Scotland CEO, Sir Fred Goodwin, under the pretence that the affair had a part to play in the taxpayer bailout of the bank, is an example that the notion of public opinion has been turned on its head.  But it is a little difficult to conclude what is more humiliating, The Sun’s conduct or that of the senior judge who agreed that the name of Goodwin’s mistress should be kept private after the disgraced CEO admitted to having an affair.

The press’s preoccupation to expose the salacious stories of public figures private lives; has conveniently demonstrated that High Court judges and legal officials should not be allowed to issue super-injunctions by means of personal wealth, or by using the pretext of human rights violation. It seems as though, the power to influence and change the current situation lies with the press, as to whether they use this power responsibly is crucial to future revelations.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Nick, if you were Chancellor what would you cut?

Today's  the TUC's "All together for public services" rally kicked off with a vocal address's from trade union leaders including Brendan Barber whom I  interviewed. Members from the TUC, UNITE, and UNISON all took to the stage to inform trade union members that there is an alternative to the cuts. Tony Woodley, head of UNITE launched an attack on the private sector venting his anger towards the bankers.

But what do you think? Isn't this all a bit too leftist or do you think the cuts will actually reduce the deficit? 

The video above is just a preview of a short film I'm making on the cuts, and how they'll be affecting us. Please leave your comments below on how you think tomorrow's comprehensive spending review will affect the country. If you were Chancellor what would you cut? Given what you know now would you have voted differently in May?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The morning after the 100 before

written 24/08/2010

Con-Lib, Lib-Con, Con-Dem, at first we didn’t know what to call them, we didn’t know what to expect, but more importantly many didn’t expect it to work. The general consensus was this hybrid party would be so disjointed that their major ideological differences would create an incoherent mess.

Fast forward 100 days and surprisingly things could not be more different. The coalition has wasted no time drawing up plans to transform the NHS, the educational system, the economy, and electoral reform. Although the novelty of the coalition has worn off they seem to have withstood the honeymoon period and thus encouraging us to take stock and review the past 100 days.

The issue of the economy is one thing that highlights just how united the coalition can be where matters of urgency are concerned. George Osborne, David Laws, and later Danny Alexander, have sung the convincing song that cuts must come first for growth to follow. Importantly it’s this song that the electorate feel as though we can accept, and indeed many of us are now singing along too. The budget cuts have helped to define the coalition, and conveniently, many of us feel as though we finally have a government that is not afraid to take bold steps to tackle a deficit that amounts to £155 billion.

Although uncertainty looms as to where exactly all the cuts will be made, talks of severity and hardship have not helped the coalition’s popularity. In fact recent ratings highlight that the honeymoon is very much over. However it is not the cuts themselves that are being criticised, but rather who will suffer the most as a result of the cuts. The poorest of society feel under attack with the current war on benefits. With MORI highlighting that £4 billion out of the £5 billion wasted on benefits is due to administrative errors, instead of fraudulent claims, it appears that this government isn’t getting everything right. In fact, the rapidity with which Cameron wishes to force austere measures through scares many who feel they will be left alone in troubled times.

The middle classes too feel under fire as the future of universal benefits is in jeopardy. With this in mind the key question here is how consumer spending will fair in this climate of cuts. Who can be relied upon to prop up the economy, indeed the private sector is suffering from the frugality of the banks. Whether we like to pretend or not the threat of a double dip recession is still very much real. Ignoring this fact will not change anything.

When it comes to political reform however unity is not a recurring theme within the g. A fixed term of five years is as far as the two parties have been able to agree upon. At present it appears that little is being done to establish a comprehensive agreement for electoral reform, a key issue for the basis of the coalition agreement. With this in mind as it stands the Liberal Democrats have not done enough to maintain their political identity and integrity. Whilst Cameron would face a backlash from his own party, if Clegg were to successfully fight for alternative voting his decision to unite with Cameron would finally be justified, and he would be revered. At the moment however Clegg is no longer solely determined to push for electoral reform. Last week he spoke about the subject ‘it is not my sole purpose of political life’; the coalition will continue if political reform does not come through. At this moment in time it seems as though Clegg has sold himself short and the identity of the party is being submerged to accommodate the opportunity to work alongside the Conservatives.

Although it is early days Cameron and Clegg are working at an astonishing rate to transform the country. This should be praised. The real test is yet to come however as the emergency spending review and the increased VAT rate starts to take effect; it will be interesting to see where the priories of this government lie.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

"A big, open, and comprehensive offer", err get on with it

Written on 08/05/10

302, 258, and 57. It was these figures that put the whole country into a state of excitement and uncertainty yesterday. What is certain however that is the electorate has spoken and a hung parliament is here to stay. Britain now faces the opportunity of a new kind of politics but now it is our political leaders who appear hesitant, Nick Clegg in particular. Faced with the opportunity to create a coalition government with David Cameron, Clegg appears to be in quandary in what is the best opportunity of power the Liberal Democrats have received in over 80 years.

Gordon Brown has only helped to exacerbate Clegg's doubtful state by offering him, the big red juicy apple of an immediate parliamentary referendum- something the Liberal Democrats have been fighting for desperately. Clegg however would be stupid to entertain his offer. The reality of an immediate referendum being offered is highly unlikely, given that many Labour MP's would not agree to back a new political system that would jeopardise the future of their party. If Clegg were to prop up Brown there is no doubt that the electorate would never forgive him. He would be helping an unpopular, unelected Prime Minister remain in power of a government unsupported by the Constitution. Brown has clearly shown that unlike Cameron he is unable to act in the nation's interests, but rather that of his own, desperately clamouring on to power.

One thing that has been highlighted through the electoral results and televised debates is that a new form of politics is emerging. We the electorate, like never before are tired of politicians promises and are prepared to go against our voting traditions to see change, but will the actions of our politicians, mirror that of our own? Will tradition and routine be put aside to welcome change? Clearly the events of the past few days have forced Clegg and Cameron to view things differently and it is becoming increasingly apparent that Brown's archaic view of politics has not been progressive. Cameron has offered Mr Clegg "a big, open, and comprehensive offer" and it is time for Clegg to accept. Despite the ideological differences of both parties the two leaders appear to be mindful of new politics and its demands.

More importantly the markets will not hold out where uncertainty looms, indeed as the FTSE 100 demonstrated on Friday falling by 2.6 per cent against the dollar. Although the comments of one hedge fund manager that prolonged political uncertainty could lead the banks to insolvency should be ignored, it is in times like these where John Major appears to be attuned to current situation. The former Prime Minister encouraged Cameron to offer
some cabinet seats to the Liberal Democrats, "If that's the price to ensure we have economic stability, then that's the way I think we should go." Indeed the markets will not wait for up to a week.

What seems certain however that is the electorate and politicians alike must put pessimism and ideological differences aside for the time being and remember that the country is facing the biggest deficit since World War Two. Clegg must accept Cameron's offer for Britain to move ahead and be legitimately governed. We are entering a new phase in politics and our politicians must rise to the challenge.