Green: Like being arrested for allowing a duck to fart in public on a Sunday

The initial report on the Damian Green arrest on the Telegraph website (see clip below from Google news) stated he had “been arrested under the Official Secrets Act”. I based my post yesterday on that report.
I have since noticed that the Telegraph have changed their report to take out the reference to the Official Secrets Act. Indeed, Andrew Rawnsley today says:

Mr Green was not detained under the Official Secrets Act. The authorities resorted to a catch-all law about ‘procuring misconduct in public office’, a piece of blunderbuss legislation which dates back to the 18th century.

(This is like being arrested for allowing a duck to fart in public on a Sunday under a 14th century piece of legislation.)

In that case, I am going to turn on a sixpence, do a 180 degree U turn, and say that I take back everything I said in my post yesterday and whole-heartedly condemn the ludicrous and outrageous arrest of Damian Green.

I am going to leave my post from yesterday intact, with a note of correction, as a monument to my stupidity in believing the Telegraph in the first place.

Humbug and hysteria over Damian Green arrest

UPDATE 30th November: This is a load of cobblers due to being based on an incorrect, subsequently corrected, report on the Telegraph website. See an explanation and correction here.

Oh, so it’s not OK for the police to investigate a potential breach of the Official Secrets Act allegedly involving Damian Green, but it was OK for the Tories to lock up Sarah Tisdall, try to lock up Clive Ponting and pursue Spycatcher author Peter Wright across the world in his dotage, was it?


And I don’t remember David Cameron raising any objection to Ruth Turner being arrested at dawn over the Cash for Honours investigation.

I applaud the dropping of party political norms evidenced by Nick Clegg’s Telegraph article today. I agree with his general thrust.

But the police have the task of upholding the law, in this case one which had its public interest defence removed in 1989 under a Tory government.

The fact that no Labour politician was apparently told about this before it happened is surely a sensible way of firewalling them from the action, as they should be, is it not?

If the law is wrong, it should be changed. In the case of the Official Secrets Act, a public interest defence should be allowed. But we cannot complain if the police are legally seeking to uphold the law. That’s their job. People are not forced to work in the Home Office. They know they will have to sign the Official Secrets Act if they do.

Without knowing the full details of the police investigation it is almost impossible to make an objective comment. If it turns out that Inspector Knacker has over-stepped the mark on this occasion, I’ll be among the first to call for appropriate disciplinary action.

Hat-tip: Alex Wilcock.

Heroes at the end of the phone

It’s tempting to think of people working at the end of the phone as doing a simple task. The traditional lady sitting in front a telephone exchange is perhaps indelible in our minds. But it is worth thinking of the awesome job done by some people at the end of a phone.

I helped with some fund raising activities a few years back for the Friends of the Samaritans. As a result I got to know a little about how the Samaritans do their excellent work. They really have an awesome role. Often they are sat around with nothing to do, but the sword of Damocles hangs over them. The next phone ring could be a life or death situation. But their role is strictly “passive”. They don’t advise or cajole or even phone the emergency services (unless freely asked to do so by the person on the phone). Imagine that. It takes an admirable brand of courage to be prepared to put yourself in that situation.
Those responding to 999 calls also have a certain degree of courage to be able to calmly deal with life or death situations while being geographically divorced from the action. This week I have read a number of verbatim accounts of calls to the emergency services. The Guardian’s Weekend has a number of accounts which all had reasonably happy endings. I recommend reading them. One involves a gentleman who cut his arm off (by accident) and whose neighbour had to call 999, respond to medical advice and then go and find his neighbour’s arm in his garden. You some of the calls related by Weekend here.
On a more sobering note, the Newbury Weekly News this week carries an account (also here on the Times website) of the 999 call made by Julia Pemberton as her son was shot to death by her estranged husband, as she unsuccessfully hid in a cupboard and as her husband found her and shot her.
The circumstances of the death of Julia Pemberton and her son Will are perfectly outrageous. It is a scandal that we, as a society, could not prevent their deaths after Alan Pemberton the husband had actually said several times that he intended to kill them, including in writing, months before he finally did.
Indeed, the recent Domestic Homicide Review report on the deaths made clear many failures in the police response over months, including guidelines which led to delays in the handling of the final 999 call.
However, imagine the person on the police end of that 999 call. To go into work day after day knowing that you could be talking to someone and then listening to them being tragically murdered, takes a special kind of strength.

David Cameron has just alienated 5 million people

That is, public sector workers who will greet with alarm his announcement that “We have got to end the apartheid” in pensions, by ending their final salary scheme:

We are getting into a situation now where pretty much everyone in the private sector has gone to defined contributions and the final salary schemes are closed. In the public sector you have still got a lot of people on final salary schemes including members of parliament.
MPs are going to have to lead by example. We have got to close the MP’s final salary scheme because we have got to be able to turn around to the rest of the public sector and say that over time it does makes sense to move towards defined contribution.
There is an issue of fairness between the private sector and the public sector but there is also an issue of economic efficiency. We do not want to make it so hard for people to move from the public sector to the private sector or from the private sector to the public sector.
My vision over time is to move increasingly towards defined contribution rather than final salary schemes.
This is something (sic) where the government has been remarkably feeble partly because they are in hock to the public sector unions.

Hat-tip to the Westminster blog, which comments on this here and here.

Woollies: Nemesis in its own genesis

On Tuesday night on the BBC Six O’Clock news I was expecting the usual manic Robert Peston reactive commentary about Woolworths and MFI going into administration.

Albeit that I was in the bath and could only hear him, he seemed remarkably calm and reserved, choosing his words very carefully.

Although I couldn’t see to check, it sounded as though the rolling eyes and usual OTT behaviour were refreshingly absent.

I can only feel great sadness that MFI and Woolworths have gone into administration. That is mixed with enormous sympathy for the staff facing great uncertainty.

I suppose that deep inside me there is a hard-hearted devil who takes the attitude that Woolworths has been on its last legs for years (its founding American counterpart business lost its name and transmogrified into a sports goods chain over ten years ago). A business that started in this country as the “3d and 6d” shop was being undercut at the lower end by the Pound shop and the 99p shop (its nemesis was its own genesis); and at the other end by supermarkets.

But, frankly, on this occasion my over-riding emotion is sympathy for the managers and staff, and prayers that some decent enterprise can be salvaged from what is a huge business and a major landmark in the British high street.

I am a woman

So says “Gender Analyzer“. I regard this high praise for my writing style.

There is one slight snag, however.

If you vote to say whether or not they have got the gender right, you see that only 53% say yes – they got it right, against 47% saying they got it wrong. That means that whatever software they are using is only 6% better than tossing a coin.

The rubbish spoken about "squeeze the rich"

Spare a thought for John Humprhys. On Today, he has to play devil’s advocate. He has to earn his salt. It’s not his fault that he ends up sounding like a whining school boy who’s had his sweets taken away from him. It’s not his fault he ends up making Alastair Darling sound reasonable.

This morning he asked Darling “exactly” when growth would restart. What a damned stupid question. Who does Humprhys think the Chancellor is? God?

At several points, as Humprhys bemoaned the economic situation, I was willing Darling to reply “Well John, s*** happens, doesn’t it?” It would have been the honest answer.

This stuff about returning to old Labour is just utter, hysterical nonsense. Even the Daily Mail demonstrates that, while attempting to make the opposite point:

Denis Healey, the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, increased the higher rate of tax on incomes of £20,000 and above to 83 per cent in 1975. Those earning more than £8,000 a year paid 60 per cent.
On top of that, there was a special 15 per cent surcharge for ‘unearned income’. So anyone living on a pension or savings was taxed at up to 98p in the pound.

Against that, 45% for those earning over £12,500 per month or about seven times the national average, is hardly “squeezing the rich”! (Especially when the VAT cut of 2.5 points, such as is, will be more likely to benefit those with plenty of money, rather than average earners)

Come off it!

Minnesota senate seat is a doddle for Al Franken….regressively speaking

For some reason, the Minnesota Senatorial recount is giving rise to extraordinary outbreaks of political anorakking.

First, we have the ongoing detailed discussion of actual contested ballot paper examples on the Minnesota Public radio site.

Now, Nate Silver on FiveThirtyEight has, remarkably, gone to great lengths to present a regression analysis on the recounting so far and the potential outcome. Here’s a sample that gives you some idea of the level of the analysis:

Now, we can attempt to solve this equation at the statewide level. When we plug in a t of .499956 — Franken was picked on just slightly very less than half of the ballots during the initial count — we get a value for franken_net of .837. That is, Franken will gain a net of .837 votes for every 10,000 cast.

And the conclusion? Al Franken, the Democrat, will be an absolute shoo-in and win by a resoundingly clear margin of 27 votes out of 2,885,555 cast.

That’s a margin of 0.00094%.

……a doddle.

Blink and you miss the share rise: The BBC’s hysterical news coverage continues

We got pulverised with pulsating red “FINANCIAL CRISIS” graphs with shares going vertically downwards on the BBC News for weeks.

Now shares go up by 10% in one day and do we get a green graph with the arrow going upwards? (Sample helpfully provided below)

Do we heck as like.

It gets mentioned in one sentence by Robert Peston.

FTSE up 9.84%. Dow Jones IA up by 11% in 2 days. But, those poor people sitting round who worried about those pulsating red downward graphs hardly get told about it.

A month ago journalists were telling us all about the London inter bank offer rate (LIBR). Now it hardly gets a look in. That’s because it has dramatically fallen for three month borrowing (see graph below from so it’s no longer news. Instead we get hysteria about the chancellor’s borrowing.

So let’s briefly recap. First of all we’re told it’s a bank lending crisis. But that’s got better. So then it was a share crisis but now they’ve gone up – albeit for one day – and it doesn’t get a look in. Because now they’ve decided it’s a government borrowing crisis….or a government taxing rich journalists in two years time crisis….

It’s all a great reason to listen to Terry Wogan instead of Today and watch Emmerdale instead of the News.