Butler-Sloss gone, but who could chair the child sex abuse inquiry?

So within 24 hours of my post and significant pressure from various quarters, Lady Butler-Sloss has quit her position leading the child abuse inquiry.

The media is focusing on concerns that because her brother, Michael Havers, sat in the Cabinet during the 1980s there could be a question about her impartiality if he were found to have failed to act on information that may have been given to him.  But the real issue behind her resignation concerns her own role in concealing from a report she had been asked to write, sex abuse allegations levelled against a Church of England Bishop.  She put her ‘care for the Church’ before her duty to bring criminal activity to light for investigation and prosecution.

That, more than anything else, demonstrates that Butler-Sloss is an unreliable, pro-establishment figure who cannot be trusted to unearth and make public evidence that could destroy the reputations of people who inhabit the circles she has long moved in.  Yet despite all of that the government line is one of defiance.  David Cameron’s offical spokesman had this to say:

The Government’s view hasn’t changed, that she would have done a first-class job as chair.

The reasons for her appointment still absolutely stand in terms of her professional expertise and her integrity, which I don’t think has been questioned from any quarter whatsoever, and rightly so.

There is an important task here in terms of having the over-arching inquiry and we will put a panel together that ensures that that that job is done comprehensively.

The key thing around the appointment will be getting a panel that has the right range of skills and expertise and credibility that gives the inquiry confidence in its work.

It is absolutely incredible that despite Butler-Sloss having covered up the name of a Bishop accused of abuse, and the public response to the story thereafter, that Cameron’s spokesman pretends that her integrity hasn’t been questioned ‘from any quarter whatsoever.’  In fact it’s disgusting spin.

Butler-Sloss may have gone, but who now could possibly chair such an inquiry?  The odds of anyone in the upper reaches of the establishment who may have engaged in child sex abuse being uncovered, and prosecuted if still alive, are very long indeed.  Once again the public has been treated with contempt by those who have been paid large sums to ‘serve’ us.

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Lady Butler-Sloss must step down

What a time for me to go on holiday. I leave the country for a break and all is pretty quiet, yet I come back and we have a full blown child abuse inquiry centred on the political elite getting underway.

At least it’s supposed to be a full blown inquiry.  It’s a basic fact of political life that the best way to shove something unhelpful or embarrassing under a very heavy carpet in a very dark room, to which the door has been closed and the key thrown away, is to hold a public inquiry.

This tactic should have served the Westminster bubble well in this case.  Announce the inquiry, put a respected retired judge in charge who also happens to have child welfare credentials, and the media maelstrom will be calmed until the fit of public disquiet ebbs away and something new emerges for the plebs to wave their pitchforks at.  But the politicians have been too clever by half and chosen an inquiry chairwoman whose own words have undermined any confidence in her and the report she has been asked to write.

The news in The Times that Lady Butler-Sloss kept allegations about a bishop out of a review of how the Church of England dealt with two paedophile priests because she ‘cared about the Church’ demonstrates she is partial and therefore completely untrustworthy in matters concerning the establishment.  In telling a victim of alleged abuse that she did not want the claims to be in the public domain because ‘the press would love a bishop’ has destroyed her credibility and makes her unreliable.  What if she feels the same reluctance about exposing a former Cabinet Minister for having been involved in child sex abuse, for example?

What is just as distasteful as Butler-Sloss clinging on to her position leading the inquiry is the public announcement from the Home Office:

The integrity of Baroness Butler-Sloss is beyond reproach and we stand by her appointment unreservedly.

It’s a typically moronic, kneejerk response from officialdom that holds everyone else in contempt.  Butler-Sloss’ integrity has already been called into question and found wanting.  A Bishop who could have been arrested and investigated in 2011 has only this year been charged indecent assault offences directly as a consequence of her efforts to exclude him from her previous report into abuse, commissioned by the Church.  She cannot be trusted and should be removed from her position immediately.

 

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Independence side losing in Scotland and without a plan Eurosceptics would lose too

This is a long post I’ve been working on for a couple of days.

Every day it seems there is talk in the media about a referendum if the Tories win the next election. But while that may or may not happen, there is one referendum that is definitely taking place, the independence vote in Scotland.

That campaign looks increasingly like a pilot production for the main event that might come in 2017. There are many similarities that can be taken from the Scottish referendum campaign and overlaid on a potential EU in or out one, from the arguments used to the approaches both sides are utilising to win supporters.

There’s one big similartity that could be a lesson for Eurosceptics to learn, concerning how detail, or the lack of it, is being received by voters.

Iain Martin of the Telegraph sums it up in a post on his blog where he explains that the pro independence side are struggling to convince women voters to back independence, by 62 per cent to 38 per cent. Martin asks if this has anything to do with…

Alex Salmond’s demeanour whenever he is asked to answer practical questions about the detail of his plans for the currency, or the economy or anything else? He must remind some women voters of a caricature Fifties husband.

Woman: “Where are we going?”

Salmond (smirking): “I know where we are going.”

Woman: “We’re lost.”

Salmond: “Nonsense woman, we’re not lost.”

Women: “Where are we then?”

Salmond: “For crying out loud, would you stop it with your questions?”

Women: “You clearly don’t know where we are. How can you know which way to go next?”

Salmond (smirking): “Listen. I know where we are going. Stop your negativity. Desist with your scaremongering. I know best. Right?”

What this shows is that far from not wanting to be bothered with detail, voters do actually want to know the details about how things would be done in the event of a major change, such as independence.  Salmond’s refusal or inability to get into the detail is not appealing to voters, it is making them suspicious and turning them away from his ‘Yes’ campaign.

This must be a lesson for Eurosceptics if an EU referendum takes place.  The Scottish experience shows that not having a roadmap or a plan for how to deal with a newly independent UK exiting the EU is not the clever politics people like Dominic Cummings believe it to be.

Cummings’ article in the Times look as if he is positioning himself to have a leading role in the campaign to leave the EU.  He’s also written about a referendum campaign on his blog in more detail.  But it also shows he, like Salmond, would take the approach of not doing detail and not having a plan.

The Scottish experience is showing that it isn’t enough to say “Vote for us because we will take control of our country back”.  People are asking practical questions about the details of Salmond’s plan for the currency and the economy.  In an EU referendum we can be certain then that people are going to ask practical questions about how Britain can leave without losing jobs and access to markets, plus wanting to know what will happen about issues like immigration and fishing grounds.

There needs to be a plan and there needs to be details so that when questioned the Eurosceptics can reassure voters that leaving the EU can be done without pain and that we won’t all be taking a giant leap into a great unknown.  Otherwise it looks like, as in Scotland, the women will vote to stay where we are.

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Tory media friends are playing the referendum long game

An editorial piece in the Telegraph could be very helpful for political watchers who want to understand how David Cameron plans to win a future referendum on EU membership if he is returned to Downing Street in 2015.  Towards the end of the editorial is this question…

If Britain cannot stop a man who few think is any good from taking over at the helm of Europe’s bureaucracy what realistic chances are there of renegotiating this country’s position in the EU ahead of a possible in/out referendum in 2017?

This has the hallmark of a stage being set well ahead of time.  The EU has a flair for drama. What better way to set up a story of a successful renegotiation before 2017 than to have David Cameron win his battle to stop Jean-Claude Juncker becoming President of the European Commission?  If he does so, it gives plausibility to the idea that Cameron can renegotiate British membership of the EU.

With the recent Opinium opinion poll for the Observer suggesting that nearly half of voters would vote to leave the EU while only 37% would vote to stay, unless membership is renegotiated, the stakes could not be higher for Cameron.  For him to persuade voters to stick with the status quo, he has to claim to have secured reform, with powers coming back to the UK.  If he sees off the Juncker candidacy, such an agreement becomes a believable possibility regardless of the reality.  That is why this long game is being played out by the media for voter consumption.

It is worth noting that while Juncker is being painted as the arch-federalist candidate, the reality is that whichever candidate is successful they will share the same goal of ever closer union among the EU member states.  It makes everything that is happening little more than a soap opera.

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Lottery winner comes forward in Worcestershire

Clare Marchant, 41, from Worcestershire, has come forward to claim a lottery win this week.  She is taking over Worcestershire county council, where about £100 million has to be cut by 2018, 1,500 jobs lost and 85% of services handed to new providers.

Despite these changes and the consequent reduction in responsibility, Mrs Marchant will start on a £151,000 salary.  But as long as she continues to draw her winnings until 2017 without going elsewhere that will increase to £171,000, which is £5,000 less than the winner she is replacing.

Taxpayers in the county should be assembling outside County Hall to show their gratitude for such selfless sacrifice.  Clearly this lower rate is a demonstration that we really are all in this together.

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Rotten Boroughs… Caerphilly

Caerphilly County Borough Council has to make savings in excess of £14 million in this financial year, 2014-15.  What better way to start than for this Labour-run authority to advertise the new interim chief executive role for up to two years at an annual salary of £142,524 – an increase of more than £11,000 on the current rate?

The current interim chief executive of the council, Stuart Rosser, is due to step down at the end of July from his role where he is filling in for Anthony O’Sullivan.  O’Sullivan, along with deputy chief executive Nigel Barnett and head of legal Daniel Perkins, are suspended on full pay while they are embroiled in a court case after being charged with misconduct in a public office.

So why the increase?  It transpires that the helpful Mr Rosser advised the council that advertising the role at his “special rate” of £131,000 would mean that the council’s deputy chief executive’s pay could be higher than that of the new chief executive, because the maximum of the deputy chief executive’s scale was £132,000!  That’s over quarter of a million pounds a year paid in salary (excluding pension payments and other package enhancements) to just two people in a poor area in Wales.  Then there is the rest of the senior team they work with who receive huge salaries

Many councils complain bitterly about “cuts to front line services” they “have to make” as the government reins in the amount of money handed out to councils.  Yet where is the justification for paying two people in some Welsh backwater almost as much money for running a local authority of 180,000 residents as a government cabinet minister with nationwide responsibility for entire departments affecting around 60 million people?

Demonstrating his “man of the people” credentials after discussions in the council chamber, the deputy leader of the Caerphilly Labour group, Cllr Gerald Jones, said:

It was clear to everyone in the council chamber that Coun Mann’s proposal to offer an uncompetitive salary rate for our new interim chief executive was a non-starter.

Two members of Coun Mann’s own group abstained from supporting the proposal.

It’s clear that not only has Coun Mann misjudged the needs of our county borough and its residents, but that he’s also losing the support of his own political group.

Many residents of Caerphilly will probably be wondering just which of their needs require servicing by people at the council who are paid more than £131,000 a year along with a gold plated pension?

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Rotten Boroughs… Tower Hamlets

There’s a very good response piece in the Daily Telegraph today by Andrew Gilligan (he of sexing up the dossier fame). He is responding to an article in the Guardian which declares that there is a racist smear campaign against Lutfur Rahman, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets in London, and that it is an insult to democracy.

The best way to combat falsehoods is with facts. So Gilligan has set about doing this while the rest of the media dances on pin heads in a desperate attempt not to be saddled with the racist tag.  Gilligan is not always right on issues, but he is one of the better journalists today and his piece is a very good example of how to pull lazy journalism and casual claims of racism apart.

Maybe it’s because of the lies Rahman’s campaign has spread around that so many people in Tower Hamlets are so militant in their support of him, to the point at which they are prepared to spend election day haranguing voters entering polling stations and get into the count without proper authority and intimidate counting staff into allocating votes to the wrong candidates, prompting an expensive investigation into the election. But more likely it is Rahman’s track record of abusing his office, such as giving preferential treatment to Bangladeshi Muslims, channelling money to Islamic organisations, giving a platform to extremist speakers and transferring council property to his close associates at well below market price at the expense of council taxpayers.

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