Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Why press freedom matters….if we respect the power we have

YESTERDAY was not a victory for journalism, it should be nothing more than a relief our industry has dodged a bullet which could have claimed us all.

Section 40 of the Data Protection Bill will probably not mean a great deal to many people but could have had dire consequences for print journalism in this country.

Labour had proposed an amendment which would have seen newspapers like the one I work for have to pay both sides of a libel bill, no matter if we won the case or how frivolous the complaint was.

We could have avoided that, by signing up to a state regulator IMPRESS set up by former F1 boss Max Moseley and funded by private benefactors.

So would we like to shoot ourselves in the head or shoot ourselves in the foot? Either way the gun was loaded in favour of those with something to hide.

The nationals may, in time, have reluctantly signed up knowing they had the money to cut through the issues.

But I work for a local family publisher, any money we do make in a tough marketplace is reinvested
in our product.

The rise of the internet and social media means people’s needs are changing and the days of picking up the local paper for all your news are gone. We have had to adapt and keep up and we are doing our best.

This amendment would have meant bad news for local journalism, so often the first port of call for people’s stories of heartache, betrayal and the quest for truth.

But on a national level it would have heavily influenced investigative journalism with editors having to think hard before green lighting a scoop which may have taken months to prepare for fear of costing the company millions.

Think of the disgraceful Rotherham sex abuse scandal, MPs expenses, Cambridge Analytica, Lance Armstrong’s doping and even the Stephen Lawrence case.

Some of those huge stories may never have seen the light has these measures been put in place.

Journalism is a privilege, you have a seat at many important moments and often are rewarded with many special memories to treasure.

But with such power comes a responsibility to print the truth, to do so ethically and to always put people first.

Bad apples at the top forgot about their readers when they hacked phones and printed sheer lies in the desperate bid for sales.

A line was crossed but the solutions imposed since are a one size fits all answer to a cancer which many of us had no knowledge of until the scandal broke.

Change is needed and of course journalism should be regulated, but it should always be free to expose those who have genuinely done wrong.

Is there a solution which will please everyone? I hope so because I believe in my industry, I believe there will be a place for journalism in the future.

What form it takes is unknown thanks to the digital world we live in but one thing will never change.

We don’t exist without the support of our readers, that’s something we all need to remember.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Luckless May must end this farce

THE SPEECH which would relaunch her authority as Prime Minister will now be remembered as the beginning of the end for Theresa May.

Forget the coughing and spluttering, the intervention from the 'comedian' and the letters failing down, the Prime Minister floundered in the last chance saloon.

The promise of 2016 has descended into the  farce of 2017. A Prime Minister who asked for a majority to deliver Brexit and was told by voters "Errrrr, nah!"

A Prime Minister who had the chance to finish off the Labour Party instead energised them with an appalling and robotic campaign that made millions turn their backs on the Tories.

A Prime Minister so fearful of the future she won't sack her Foreign Secretary despite Boris's frequent undermining of her authority.

And as today showed, a Prime Minister who left the human touch until it was too late.

How different could the election have been had Mrs May spoken of her diabetes on the campaign trail? Of her and Phillip's pain and not being able to have children.

The message would have resonated and given a real human side to a woman cruelly labelled the 'Maybot'.

Stymied by Brexit and leading a party which looks knackered and in need of a break, Mrs May is reaching for the Strepsils at a time her party needs a six pack of Red Bull.

And so to Manchester where she would tell her party to stop obsessing about leadership and get on with the job. She needed some luck, something she ran out of a long time ago...

Instead of triumphalism we got turgid, joy was replaced by pain. Leadership again was lacking.

Visually, Labour's conference looked like the party of Government. The Tories have just finished a four day wake.

Her husband raced to her side to hug her after Mrs May had finally finished her speech.

I sincerely hope at some point on the journey home he has turned to his wife and asked: "Is it really worth all this?"

Because at the moment the job she has craved all her political career is doing its best to grind her into the dust.

The falling letters behind her provided a powerful visual metaphor.

Where's the F'in leadership this country desperately needs? 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Where's my country gone?

THE CRAZY people behind South Park dreamt up an episode in 2016 entitled ‘Where’s my Country Gone?’ which ripped into illegal immigration, the rise of the alt-right and the problems of political correctness.

Like most things on South Park you laugh (yes I am that juvenile!) but move on. But increasingly I now am asking myself, ‘Where has my country gone’.

The Britain of 2017 looks increasingly unfamiliar to me. Gone is compassion, replaced with hate and vengefulness. Tolerance and decency are packing their bags and heading for the airport while democracy is now a dirty word.

We’ve learned today any ‘unskilled’ EU migrants will be told to shove off post March 2019 in the latest horrid chapter from the Book of Brexit.

Let me declare I voted to remain but also respect democracy so understand we are leaving. But does it have to be like this?

Why are we lecturing the EU? Why are we closing our borders to people who genuinely want to come here to work? Why are we trying to revive the days of Empire?

Most EU migrants who come to the UK do so to get a job, settle down and raise a family. It’s the opposite to what a large portion of Brits do, retire to a foreign land.

One group pays into the country in taxes, National Insurance contributions and to the overall economy. The other does the square root of bugger all – sorry folks but you know which is which….

Surely instead of throwing a maternity until full of babies out in a sea of bath water, we could have just tightened up our immigration policies? Why are we taking such drastic steps?

Immigration is not a dirty word, we live in a world where freedom of movement is a real privilege. But equally we cannot expect other countries to house British people retiring to a life in the sun if we aren’t prepared to accept hard-working natives from their land.

That’s not fair. But then again, those in charge of the agenda in 2017 UK don’t do fairness, they do hectoring, lectures and abuse.

As Paul Dacre’s Daily Mail opined in June, those who oppose Brexit are ‘enemies of the people’, ‘saboteurs’ and don’t respect democracy.

It’s a mantra repeated by Conservative and Labour MPs who dream of nothing more than a Britain free from the EU and will do anything to secure that exit.

From Boris Johnson’s lies (£350million for the NHS) to Gisela Stuart running away from the people of Edgbaston, the Brexiteers lied their way to glory. If it had happened in any other country we’d be the first to call it corrupt….

But time and time again if Brexit is threatened the dark murmurings begin and let’s face it, the Prime Minister is being held hostage in Downing Street by rampant Brexiteers with the warning to deliver our exit or else.

What has happened to my country??

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Row over statues and bells should sound the alarm for democracy


UPSET about statues celebrating the confederacy? Think Admiral Nelson should be removed from Trafalgar Square? Weeping over Big Ben falling silent?
Then you are playing into the hands of the politicians who are monopolising ‘silly season’ to hide what is really going on from you, dear voter.

In case you aren’t aware of ‘silly season’ it’s the period of the summer where politics and politicians are often on holiday leaving news editors bereft of good stories.

Normally the gap is filled with what women politicians are wearing on the beach and the occasional shot of David Cameron in just some shorts. Google it if you dare!

This summer though we have had protests in the US over statues which laud those who oppressed black people in the United States of America.

One woman died in Charlottesville when rival protestors clashed and no matter what the Tangerine Toddler says, the only fault lies with the moron whose actions led to her life being lost.

Are these statues right? No of course not, but they are just what they are, relics of the past.

By fanning the flames of these protests, the Tangerine Toddler is diverting the attention away from
the chaos which is the White House.

An administration where none of the key players have survived, a President who has been drawn into the propaganda being peddled by North Korea while unable to get any policy through a Congress which is stacked in his party’s favour.

No wonder he wants to fan the flames of the left v right protests over these statues.

Meanwhile over here in good ol Blighty we were all supposed to feel jolly said that Big Ben will no longer announce the time on the hour every hour for four years.

The chief Brexit propaganda outlet the Daily Fail went to town and demanded it didn’t go ahead and how it would hurt us Brits not to hear Big Ben every day.

Erm….the work is needed and why should those poor folks going up there to do it be left tone deaf?

Oh and by the way, New Year’s Eve at 11.59.59pm we won’t be ringing in 2018 in silence as the big daft tower will be in working order!

Yet the days of headlines generated seemed to suggest a national crisis. Have you ever thought it was designed to distract you from a Government divided over Brexit with a policy which now seems to be ‘can we keep everything we had but still leave’.

Those in power know Brexit will finish them; should they succeed and pull Britain away from the comfort of life among the 27 nations in Europe our economy will sink to its knees gasping for air.

Should they fail to deliver they risk never being trusted on anything again.

Either way the Tories and Trump know they are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Don’t succumb to the silly season, keep what matters at the forefront of your minds.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Grenfell......Why?

ONE week on from one of the worst non terrorist tragedies I have ever seen, I can’t get past the first question…..Why?

Why did it happen? Why in Britain in 2017 can a place of solace, a place to rest your head, a place to laugh, a place to cry, a place to call home go up in flames so quickly and cause so much death and destruction?

Why did one brave firefighter feel the need to write on his shirt ‘We did our best, I promise’ when once again they ran towards the gates of hell as others fled.

And most importantly why on earth have our politicians gone ahead with a public inquiry when criminal proceedings MUST be explored first.

Profit was almost certainly put before the people of Grenfell, those who took such decisions must answer for them in a court of law.

I cannot for a second imagine the desperation of those trapped inside, their final moments and the realisation there was no exit when they needed it the most.

Nor can I imagine the pain of Grenfell, from those who lost everything in the disaster to those who have lost loved ones and may never be able to lay them properly to rest.

Death doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t take names, it just reaches in and causes pain and devastation to all those in its path.

All of us with a heart will be haunted by the images of that tower as it burned, but we should all have a burning shame that we aren’t as well forward as we thought we were.

Britain is full of wonderfully created buildings, from the historic to the modern, from churches to libraries, football stadiums to supermarkets.

We place our trust in those who designed and built them that they did their job and these venues would keep us reasonably safe.

Yet the victims of Grenfell were betrayed in the place which held their secrets, a place they could express all emotions, cast off the shackles society can place on people and truly be themselves.

It was the place they called home which killed them, how in god’s name am I even writing that sentence in 2017?

For crying out loud, we put a man on the moon, we’ve stood up to the most dangerous threat posed to the free world in the Nazis and we have made medical advances which mean a diagnosis now doesn’t necessarily mean death.

But on this night, we couldn’t keep people safe in their own damned homes and watched as a community was ripped to shreds with some choosing to leap to certain death than await the inevitable.

My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy, we can’t bring the fallen back but together as a nation we can help a community begin to heal.

Grenfell is a monument now, a symbol of how Britain failed the basic function of the state, to keep its people safe.

It must never happen again.

Friday, 28 April 2017

In praise of the Special One

JOSE Mourinho is already a success at Manchester United, but don't tell that to some who want him to fail.

It's been strange to watch how the Special One has been covered this season, almost through a prism of him constantly being under pressure.

What did we expect? A league title in his first season? The Red Devils don't have the squad for that just now.

But at a trophy hungry club, Mourinho has already plonked the League Cup on the sideboard and realistically should add the Europa League to the cabinet by the end of May.

All the while keeping in touch in the league, a difficult task for English clubs who often struggle with the Thursday night to weekend turnaround required.

The draw with Manchester City on Thursday keeps United well in touch with a Liverpool side attempting  to treat triumph and disaster the same each week.

Yes they have drawn too many games but United have dominated many of those stalemates without reward. 

If just four of those games had ended in victory for Mourinho's men United would be joint second and four points off the top.

Of course he has spent a lot of money, but which Premier League manager isn't afraid of waiving the chequebook in a cash rich league? 

And the excuses and bizarre comments such as claiming Middlesbrough would beat them? Come on everyone, we are dealing with the master of deflecting attention here.

Remember Mourinho was the man who named Barcelona's team 24 hours before a game. The result? Everyone was talking about Jose the next day not the challenge awaiting Chelsea....

The spectre of Sir Alex still looms at Old Trafford at a club which went 26 years without a league title and arguably without the continued success the Govan guv'nor delivered.

A period of change was almost certain, but had Moyes or LVG put a trophy on the table in year one they would be there now.

Mourinho has brought himself time with the League Cup but knows the owners want Champions League football.

Should he achieve that then it will be a job well done in his first year. The expectation level will rise again at Old Trafford I am sure.

But if anyone can meet the challenge it's the Special One. 

By the way, any chance of a smile Jose?

Thursday, 23 March 2017

#WeStandTogether to defeat this evil no matter how long it takes

YESTERDAY was a dark day for the capital with innocent lives taken and others changed in ways we cannot comprehend.

Hopefully any broken bodies will heal and in time some of the horrors witnessed yesterday will be locked away deep in the recesses of the victim's minds.

The stories of the victims from the brave PC Keith Palmer who ran towards danger rather than away to the American man on a 'trip of a lifetime' to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversay, are utterly tragic and emotional.

My heart goes out to their families and all those whose loved ones were caught up in this murderous rampage.

And I sincerely hope PC Palmer was welcomed to a higher plain with a pat on the back from his fellow fallen bobbies for bringing the target down. It's heartbreaking to think it cost him his life.

But already some on the right are seeking to make political gain from this, including Ms Hopkins and messers Farage and Nuttall, speaking from his home in......where does he live again?

'Britons are scared' 'Muslims need to do more', etc etc. The same old claptrap trotted out everytime something like this happens.

The problem is this mantra is so deeply flawed that actually if we dared ever take their views seriously we'd be playing straight into the so-called ISIS's hands.

Firstly, we aren't scared – look how quickly London has bounced back, nervous yes but normality has ensued today. Remember Hitler tried to flatten London and we simply drank tea and hit him with everything we had!

Secondly, terrorism is not a new weapon exclusively available to the Islamic world, it's been a cancer on all races, creeds and religions since the year dot.

When diplomacy and democracy don't work – the tapped amongst us turn to bombs and bullets.

Has it ever worked in the modern world? No of course not!

Do you really think the Muslim community across the UK is turning a blind eye to this radicalisation of young men? Of course they aren't. But a number of men and women are being sucked into a vicious vacuum where jihad is there only way out.

I recoil when the phrase Islamic Extremism is used – what happened yesterday and on other occasions is simply terrorism, it didn't work for the IRA (We never called that Catholic Extremism did we?) and it won't work now.

The terrorist failed in his mission yesterday, as well as multiple deaths on Westminster Bridge he wanted to take victims in the seat of our democracy and be taken down as a martyr.

Instead, thanks to the compassion and care of British people, the casualties were heavily reduced, although one wishes the only death had been his.

Look beyond the attacker's religion, give him no name other than 'the terrorist' and stand together with your fellow man and woman of all races and religions.

The threat we face today is not from Islam, from immigrants to our country or from people who look and sound different to us.

It's from people who don't accept our way of life, our values, our tolerance and our respect and have bastardized a peaceful religion to achieve their wicked aims.

All of us, in London, the UK and the rest of the world won't let them win.


#WeStandTogether, today, tomorrow and always....