Friday, January 25, 2008 

Is anyone thinking anything at all?

The mid-market tabloids seem to be attempting to out-do themselves this week in the nastiness and disingenuousness stakes. You probably didn't hear about it, but yesterday saw the release of the latest police and British Crime Survey figures (PDF). After spending around the last couple of years stabilising after falling for the best part of a decade, both figures show that crime is once again down, and going down at an increasingly rapid rate. The police figures show a 9% drop in recorded crime, while the British Crime Survey found a 4% drop. More significantly, the BCS also showed that the chance of being a victim of crime had dropped by a further 1% compared to the year previously, down now to 23%, the lowest level since the survey began in 1981. The only real rises were in the police figures, which showed a 4% in gun crime, were they were used to threaten rather than harm, and in drug offences, up 21%, mainly down to cannabis being reclassified at Class C and officers issuing on-the-spot warnings and confiscation rather than arresting and prosecuting. Jacqui Smith might not feel safe walking around London at night, and nor may the general public, as the fear of crime is still high, but neither of the main indicators of crime suggest that we should be panicking by any means over the current level of offending.

Reading the front pages of the tabloids today you'd get a completely different story. Both the Mail and Express go with emotive and indeed startling arrests made yesterday by police in Slough and Berkshire, arresting 25 and taking 10 children care. The arrests were on the basis that gangs from Romania were using children to take part in street crime in London, mainly pickpocketing, opportunistic thefts from those using cashpoints and stealing mobile phones/iPods/etc. It is indeed a matter of concern, especially if the children are being kidnapped, although that doesn't seem to be the case.

It's not very often that the Express front page is less hysterical than the Daily Mail's, but it seems that the paper's subs were last night slacking off. It goes only with "Crime by migrants soars 530%". This is based on figures in the article towards the end:

Before the eastern European country joined the EU, its nationals were associated with 146 crimes over six months in Britain. A year after it joined – over a second six-month period – that figure leapt to 922, a 530 per cent rise.

Well, that's hardly a surprise, is it? Considering that up to 20,000 Romanians and Bulgarians were given permission to apply for work here last year, the crime rate was always going to go up. Rather more applicable figures to this case are provided by the Guardian:

Allen said that between April and December 2006, 12 Romanian nationals were arrested for theft. A year later that number was 214.

Which is also going to contain those who have been caught shoplifting for example, or stealing from work. Again, because of the rise of those given permission to come here to work, the rise seems both eminently explainable and hardly overwhelming.

The Express does however use the same figure of the numbers estimated to have been trafficked here as the Mail does in rather more expansive and sensationalistic terms. According to the Romanian authorities, up to 2,000 children might have been involved. The police don't agree though, if the Grauniad article is anything to go by:

Police say that since Romania joined the EU in 2007 there has been a sharp rise in children being brought to London by modern-day "Fagin's gangs". Up to 200 Romanian children have been forced into crime in London and can generate up to £20m a year for gangs controlling them.

The Express and Guardian also differ over how much this "crime wave" is worth to those behind it; the Express suggests £1bn, while the Guardian suggests up to £100,000 can be made by each child. Even if there were 2,000 children making such an amount in a year, that doesn't get close to £1bn. As for the Mail article, it seems to have disappeared into the ether, but there is a "revealed" article which claims that impoverished Romanian villages are being transformed into "palaces" thanks to the money swirling back. Oh, and it's all down to the Roma, or rather the "gipsies", who the Mail and other newspapers call what are more widely known as gypsies so they can't be accused of racism, instead of the organised criminal gangs which usually aren't anything to do with the Roma. Interestingly, the article is by Sue Reid, who you might remember was behind the Mail's attempt to prove that Polish migrants could drive around London without paying the congestion charge, which was going to involve paying a Polish couple to err, break the law.

All of which help enormously in putting the crime figures down the news agenda. The Mail's article on them doesn't so much as mention that the police figures show a 9% fall in crime, and instead focuses on the rise in drug offences because of its own agenda on cannabis, while saying only that crime in general has remained "stable" while it has in fact fallen, and also picks up on the statistically insignificant slight rise in burglaries, even though on the whole "household acquisitive" crime has fallen by 2%. The Express doesn't seem to even bothered printing an article, with the only piece on its site un-bylined and dated yesterday. This though has always been how they've operated, or at least have operated against the Labour government; if the statistics don't fit with their own prejudices of how things are, they're shoved down the news, distorted and helpfully replaced with something more fitting with their own views. It's the same approach they've used previously over the immigration figures. In a similar fashion, the Sun hasn't even seemingly bothered to report the figures at all, despite its demands at the beginning of the week to "get tough NOW", and yesterday's online report also only focused on the gun crime figures.

(Correction: the Sun did cover the figures here, and sexed it up somewhat by claiming that the figures mean there are now the equivalent of 30 crimes involving guns taking place a day. Remarkably, the Sun's report is probably the most accurate and honest of the three.)

Elsewhere, Richard Littlejohn comments on the goth couple that were not allowed on a bus in Dewsbury:

My Geordie mate, Black Mike, would take one look at her in her absurd "Goth" outfit and remark: "Gi' us a stick and I'll kill it."

Normally, ignoring Littlejohn is the best policy. For the most part, his rants tend to fisk themselves, so flimsy as they usually are to see through. This, however, is simply vile, as his views on why the bus driver was perfectly within his rights to not allow on them bus are:

Let's hope she's housetrained. But just as it's their prerogative to play One Man and His Dog, so the driver should have the right to decide whom he wants, and doesn't want, on his bus.

Presumably Littlejohn would agree if it was the bus driver's policy not to allow black, brown, or indeed, white people on his bus. Just as Littlejohn thinks it's perfectly OK for the bus driver to say "We don't let freaks and dogs like you on" to them, he'll not be offended if I ever meet him and get the opportunity to call him a fat, poisonous, bumptious, heartless cunt.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007 

Pass the sick bags.

It's hard to judge just who is the most nauseating in the continuing battle over the selling by some of the 15 hostages of their stories to the tabloids. The Grauniad leader gets it mostly right by saying that nobody comes out of it well. It was always to be expected that a few days' long civil war would break out between the newspapers that were successful in getting the "exclusives" and those that weren't; it happens every time a big story like this comes along - remember how Paul Burrell was attacked after selling his story to the Mirror? Even by the usual low standards of our press though this is an abysmal trough.

If the hostages had told us anything, absolutely anything slightly interesting or insightful about their brief imprisonment, then maybe the obscene payouts would have been at least somewhat justified. As it happens, they've told us even less than was revealed at the staged MoD press conference last Friday. The closest Turney has come to telling us something new was that she supposedly had a more charged conversation with Ahmadinejad than that which appeared on the news. The treatment which they received, while not pleasant, was certainly not anything which they shouldn't have perhaps expected if they were to have been captured. The staged photographs on the front page of the Sun this morning, mother and daughter kissing, happy to be reunited, meant to make you feel pleased at the outcome of this whole sorry affair, instead leave a sour taste in the mouth. Some of the details just make you wince - that Turney will be keeping a doll given to her in the "goody bags" they received from the Iranians, but only after it was checked for explosives, as you can never be too sure about those extremist suicide bombing plastic Islamic warriors.

The Sun has then set about attempting to defend itself. Turney makes clear that the money is not going to be spent on her - it's instead going into a trust fund for her daughter, with some going to the HMS Cornwall benevolent fund, although she predictably doesn't reveal how much. It also launches an attack on two ex-army figures who went public with their concerns whom apparently received fees themselves for doing so, enlisting Andy McNab, who obviously won't be getting any money for his own appearance to denounce them. That the fees given to them will have been next to negligible, while Turney will be receiving a quoted £100,000 through her deal with the Sun and Tonight with Trevor McDonald, doesn't affect the Sun's righteous outrage.

All this said, it's hard to not feel somewhat sorry for Turney when you read the disgusting bilious reaction of everyone's favourite blowhard, Richard Littlejohn. Almost half the front page of the Daily Hate is given over to advertising his attack on Turney and the others, liberally sprinkling in insults about Blair and Labour in general, as if the Tories would have handled things differently if they'd been in power. I mean, does Turney really deserve this revolting passage from Littlejohn?

How long before the ludicrous Faye Turney pops up on Celebrity Fat Club? I bet they didn't let her get in the dinghy first. This is a woman who is capable of capsizing the Ark Royal if she shifts her weight to the wrong cheek.

Take that, you dumb overweight bitch! In fact, the whole of Littlejohn's piece sets out to belittle the whole incident. He doesn't criticise them for the contents of their interviews, except to make fun of Batchelor for being a "wimp", as if Littlejohn himself would dare to go out to Iraq in the first place, but for the whole selling of the story and their conduct while in captivity. If Turney had sold her story to the Daily Mail, then the boot would be on the other foot. As it is, Littlejohn is more than happy to oblige in attacking Turney for making the wrong choice. That the Mail was at the forefront of the why-oh-whying about Turney even being out in the disputed waters in the first place doesn't seem to have made them reflect on why she rejected them.

Littlejohn does have a point about emotion and drama being used and abused more than ever. This isn't the fault of the sailors, but the sensationalist media which Littlejohn himself works for which has created that very culture. He often makes mocking references to the cult which surrounded the death of Princess Diana, but the Mail was one of the chief culprits in elevating her from a flawed, ordinary woman who married a member of the royal family into a modern day saint purely because of her untimely death.

As a result, every news story has to be ever more hard-hitting, every death is always an avoidable tragedy, every mourning mother needs to have her anguish documented, otherwise no one will care. Turney's time in an Iranian jail is therefore an ordeal, her 13 days mental agony, or even torture. Words, as we know, are weapons. Simon Jenkins wonders, quite legitimately, how all this hate being directed towards Tehran is going to affect the chances of the only solution to their alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapons program, a diplomatic one.

Does Turney then deserve a medal, as the Sun's discussion board rather optimistically asks? Does she deserve to be called a fat ass by a man known disparagingly for the alleged shortness of his own appendage? It's hard not to reflect that this whole outbreak of mass idiocy wouldn't have occurred if we hadn't already dealt with the equal stupidity of staying in southern Iraq for no particular reason. Until then, I think I'm going to go sit in the corner with a sick bag over my head, just in case.

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Friday, February 09, 2007 

Littlejohn-watch: Beyond parody.

Last time we looked in on the musings of Richard Littlejohn, the Daily Mail's star white-van-man hack, he told us that the death of 5 prostitutes was no great loss. Today he's decided to go one step further: he's justifying, or attempting to at best understand the motives of a terrorist. Not of the Islamic variety, carried out as it is by brown uppity mouth-breathers, but of the motorist kind:

Be honest, until you heard that a woman had been injured, how many of you suppressed a cheer at the news someone had sent a letter bomb to the company which runs London's congestion charge?

Or that a similar device had turned up at a firm which is involved in providing digital speed cameras to the Government and local councils?

Even after we learnt that two men were treated for blast injuries, I'll bet that there were still plenty of motorists who thought: serves the bastards right.

I was so excited that I fell out of my chair. Who wouldn't sympathise with such a worthy cause? If there's one section of society that deserves everything it gets, it's the office and council workers that sort out the incoming mail. Bastards!

Don't worry though dear reader, Littlejohn isn't suggesting that such methods are worthy of support. No, he utterly abhors what has happened:

Let me say for the record that no protest, however legitimate, which inflicts physical injury on another human being can ever be justified.

The current wave of bombs directed at a range of targets, from the DVLA in Swansea to the laboratory which controls the national DNA and fingerprint databases, is clearly the work of a madman.

That's all right then. I was worried for a second there.

Police are proceeding on the theory that whoever is responsible could be motivated by a hatred of Britain's burgeoning surveillance society, the technological manifestation of our Bully State.

They are? I thought they were working on the theory that it was a highly disgruntled motorist, possibly of the same radical bent as "Captain Gatso", the self-styled moniker of a man who probably likes to think of himself as a modern day superman. Unfortunately, we'll never discover whether he also wears his pants outside his trousers.

And this is where Littlejohn's trousers fall down. He's attempting to conflate what seems to have been the actions of a idiot angry about being caught breaking the law in his car, with the general loathing for the loss of civil liberties and the rise of the surveillance society.

I've remarked before that this column is all that keeps me from wandering the streets with a Kalashnikov, firing at random, like Michael Douglas in Falling Down.

That explains a lot. Personally, I blog to take my mind off other things, to remind myself that life isn't all just one monotonous binge of meaningless twaddle, and it's surprisingly reassuring. Littlejohn writes to stop himself from killing other people. We're kindred spirits.

Many of us fantasise about a random act of retaliation, which is why we cheer on Captain Gatso, the masked avenger who takes a chainsaw to speed cameras.

Better that he takes out his anger on inanimate objects than on others, I suppose. If Littlejohn writes to stop him from committing murder, does Gatso attack cameras for the same reason? Are Littlejohn and Gatso related? We should be told.

But we wouldn't dream of stuffing a Jiffy bag full of explosives and sending it to the headquarters of Capita, or any other organisation, where it would be opened inevitably by a young secretary or someone on work experience in the post room.

No, that would be taking things too far. Better to vent your spleen in a national newspaper about whores, Guardianistas and queers, right?

Having said all that, I don't mind admitting that I wouldn't lose much sleep if those wicked dupes, like Red Ken The Terrorist's Friend, who help glorify politically motivated murder and make common cause with killers, were to find themselves on the end of a bombing.

Completely different to cheering on the actions of a man who takes out road cameras that may well save lives and enforce speed limits on otherwise dangerous roads, or at least initially believing that sending a bomb to office workers is "serving the bastards right".

What separates us from the letter bomber is our innate respect for the law and human life.

Hello? You're the same person who wrote just a month ago that five dead prostitutes was no great loss?

But we can all empathise with what drives him over the edge.

I can empathise with a Palestinian who straps a bomb belt to himself and then explodes on a bus. I can understand that he lives under stifling occupation. I know that resisting what you believe is an oppressive state, when those around you are being killed, can lead to acts of murderous revenge. But it won't do me any good, him any good, the people he kills any good, or the Palestinians or the Israelis any good. It will only further the calls for revenge from the other side. It will only lead to a solution being even further away from being grasped.

This situation isn't even close to being comparable to such intractable and controversial issues as Israel/Palestine, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, or even Iraq. This is the petulant action of a man who thinks that sending explosives through the mail is somehow striking a blow against the wider government machine for daring to attempt to regulate the roads. I agree that some speed cameras are probably there simply to earn extra revenue. CCTV cameras on every street corner, even where crime is next to non-existent, piss me off. This government's dilution of civil liberties, the imposition of a 1km zone around parliament where protests have to be authorised, are all legitimate grievances, as it were.

The answer to this however is not to send what are essentially crude fireworks through the post. It's to protest. It's to get involved. It's to raise your voice. It's to vote against those who are enforcing these outrages. Burning some poor person's hand is only going to make you look like an lunatic, undermine the very nature of your cause, and lead to Richard Littlejohn trying desperately to come up with a way to feel your pain, while still condemning it.

Maybe the maniac who is sending out letter bombs was just like the rest of us until he snapped.

I hope they catch him soon. He's a dangerous man, who has already harmed enough innocent people. But will anyone in authority pause to consider the root cause of the grievances which drove him to this madness?

Not a cat in Hell's chance.

No, probably not. Same as the government rightly dismisses other grievances which some sections of the community might also think have driven others to madness. Motorists? Radical Islamists? They're all the same really.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006 

Littlejohn-watch: They were whores and it's all the liberals fault...

Fisking Littlejohn is even less rigorous than taking on a Sun-article, but by God if today's piece isn't the most despicable little rant from a little man that I've read in a long time:

Let's get the caveat out of the way from the off. The five women murdered in Ipswich were tragic, lost souls who met a grisly end. I sincerely hope whoever killed them is caught, charged and convicted.

That's nice of you. Why is this so reminiscent of the infamous: I'm not a racist, BUT..

And I know this might sound frightfully callous in the current hysterical, emotional climate, but we're not all guilty.

We do not share in the responsibility for either their grubby little existences or their murders. Society isn't to blame.

It might not be fashionable, or even acceptable in some quarters, to say so, but in their chosen field of "work'=", death by strangulation is an occupational hazard.

That doesn't make it justifiable homicide, but in the scheme of things the deaths of these five women is no great loss.

In a sense, Littlejohn is right. For those of us who have never experienced drug addiction, or had to sell our bodies in order to obtain the money to feed that addiction, we can't even begin to enter into the mindset of those who do it every single day of the year. Instead, we block it out. These people aren't human. They don't exist. If the women had been murdered over a period of years, for instance, rather than in the space of one or two months, and in different ways than through apparent strangulation, then the national media wouldn't so much have touched the case. It might have merited a local TV news report, or the odd paragraph in the local paper. It's easier to pretend these things don't happen. As soon as the word "prostitute" is mentioned to describe the person who has gone missing, they're written off, especially when there are cases of young, attractive, white women who have been killed or gone missing to report instead, who might not so much have sucked a dick, let alone been paid to do so.

This is what Littlejohn is suggesting. Rather than every life being equal, the fact that these women were paying for their drug habits through sex work instantly lowers them below the tragedy of a "normal" person being killed by a serial killer. As some have suggested in recent days, it was only once Peter Sutcliffe had attacked "normal" women that the public really took notice. That this has changed is to be celebrated. Instead, comfortable right wing hacks like Littlejohn are given pages to try to turn back the tide.

They weren't going to discover a cure for cancer or embark on missionary work in Darfur. The only kind of missionary position they undertook was in the back seat of a car.

No, and neither are the vast, vast majority of the population of this country. Is Littlejohn suggesting that their deaths would also be "no great loss"? No, this is just a conceit so that he can get a crude joke in.

Of course their friends and families are grieving. That's what friends and families do. But they should also be asking themselves if there was anything they could have done to prevent what happened.

If you discovered your daughter had gone on the game to feed her heroin habit, wouldn't you move heaven and earth to get her off it?

Well, surprise surprise, Tania Nichol's parents didn't know she was working on the streets, so whether they knew that she was also on drugs is doubtful. Neither did Gemma Adams', and they had tried to help her, but apparently failed. Anneli Alderton had been on drug treatment programmes but failed in her attempts to get off. Paula Clennell's father didn't know she was "on the game". Annette Nichols' cousin had tried to get her off prostitution and drugs, but had also failed.

All of which underlines just the kind of place which street prostitutes find themselves in. They end up there because there usually is nowhere else for them. Their parents may have disowned them, or have similar problems themselves. They may have tried to help but failed. For Littlejohn to just dismissively complain that they should have done more is insulting. By their own nature, most prostitutes are ashamed of what they are reduced to. They often don't want the people who are closest to them, especially relatives, to know what they do.

Frankly, I'm tired of the lame excuses about how they all fell victim to ruthless pimps who plied them with drugs. These women were on the streets because they wanted to be.

We are all capable of free will. At any time, one or all of them could have sought help from the police, or the church, or a charity, or a government agency specifically established to deal with heroin addicts. They chose not to.

As noted above, it looks as if some of them did have help, or attempted to get some. Any person who has battled nicotine addiction will know how difficult it is to give up. Crack cocaine addiction is almost certainly far worse. In a study on monkeys, even when starving and with food in the cage, they would instead use the drug.

Littlejohn is right though that they were on the streets because they wanted to be. As interviews by the media have made clear, they have almost no alternative to doing so. The sad fact is that unless any of those organisations that he mentions had been willing to get any of them straight away onto programmes, then they would have just walked back out. The funding is simply not there, and waiting lists are long, as they are in the prisons as well. Unless treatment becomes as plentiful as the drugs are, the situation will remain the same.

The tortuous twistings of the sisterhood over the past week have been a joy to behold. The 30-yearold Spare Rib T-shirts have been brought out of mothballs and we've been treated to the All Men Are Bastards/Rapists/Murderers mantra from assorted Glendas who ought to be old enough to know better.

As opposed to the Taxi Driver/White Van Man stereotype that Littlejohn lives up to. Besides, at least one Glenda, Carole Malone, has already been out following the line of Littlejohn, rather than the "sisterhood". It also may be something to do with the fact that male commentators, such as AN Wilson, Simon Heffer and Leo McKinstry have already been out blaming the liberals and political correctness.

We've heard the well-rehearsed arguments for legalised and regulated prostitution, as if we were living under the Taliban. The fact is, we've already got de facto legal brothels on every High Street.

They're call saunas or massage parlours.

As I remarked when the Labour MP Joe Ashton was once caught in a Siamese "sauna" in Northampton, he must have been the only man in Britain ever to go to a massage parlour for a massage. It doesn't get much more glamorous than that.

All of this depends on the local police force and local council. Some inevitably turn a blind eye, while others are a lot more hardline. Besides Mr Littlejohn, how is it you know so much about this?

The arguments for regulating and legalising prostitution also go a lot deeper than this, as he well knows. The Observer at the weekend reported that Blair vetoed the attempts by Blunkett, in one of his only sane moves, to introduce regulated "red light zones", which have worked in the Netherlands and Germany. No prostitute has been killed in such zones which have been introduced overseas. Such regulated zones could also be useful in cracking down on human trafficking, meaning that modern day sex slavery could be almost entirely avoided. Littlejohn dismisses all these various suggestions and plans in one swipe of his pen, or tap on his keyboard.

These five women were on the streets because even the filthiest, most disreputable back-alley "sauna" above a kebab shop wouldn't give them house room.

Again, not necessarily. As the pictures of the women have also shown, none of them were the stereotype of a hard-faced, drug-battered old prostitute which so many have of street girls. Diane Taylor has also reported that the police attitude towards prostitutes in Ipswich was not among the most liberal. Really though, this is just Littlejohn attacking the women for being the lowest of the low, an attempt to make the reader feel contempt for them rather than sympathy. They weren't even good enough to work in a mangy brothel, don't you get it?

The men who used them were either too mean to fork out whatever a massage parlour charges, or simply weren't fussy. Some men are actually turned on by disgusting, drug-addled street whores. Where there's demand, there'll always be supply.

Or that some would rather go to an area where it's less likely they'll be caught by someone they know. Most "saunas" are now in areas of high-level CCTV. Down by Ipswich's Portman Road stadium there was none, as the police have found to their disadvantage. Men will always go where they know the working girls are. For some, sex is just sex. It doesn't matter what the woman looks like. Men can also get stung in massage parlours, some of which resemble places like those in Soho where the naive get trapped. Those working on the street are often more honest. As above, this is just another swipe at the women involved. Notice how the men are only insulted for being mean, while the women themselves are "disgusting".

This wasn't a case of women going on the game to put bread on the table, or to look after their "babies". That's what the welfare state is for. They did it for drugs.

No shit? I thought you were meant to tell it like it is, not state the obvious.

The gormless Guardianistas simply refuse to confront this blindingly obvious reality. They would rather deify celebrity druggies such as Kate Moss and Will Self than face the truth that hard drugs wreck lives.

Ah, now we get down to insulting the liberals. It's the gormless Guardianistas that are responsible for these women being on smack. The tabloids which Littlejohn has worked for never so much as cover the lives of celebrity smackheads like Pete Doherty, do they? Besides, this is a false argument. What kind of person looks up to Doherty for being a drug addict? They might for his music, not for the way he's killing himself. How many young people would have even heard of Will Self? "Drug chic", if it does actually exist, which is far from proved, is more evident amongst the celebrity mags and gutter press than it is among the the liberal Guardian and Independent readers. The chattering classes that read the Daily Mail and love their dinner parties are similarly likely to regard cocaine use as aspirational rather than something to look down upon.

Contrary to Littlejohn's liberal insults, as has been noticed, it's been the attitudes of the tabloids towards both tolerance zones and towards treatment programmes that mean they often don't see the light of day, so we don't know whether they would work or not. When Howard Roberts, deputy chief constable of Nottinghamshire police earlier in the year suggested giving heroin to addicts, he was jumped on by the same people who have now jumped to blaming liberals. They want to blame and decry at the same time, without offering any solution themselves other than the current one which is so evidently failing.

What I find most objectionable about all this is the attempt to make us all feel responsible for the murders. There is a nasty whiff of Lady Di about the enforced mood of mourning, with even the Old Bill coming across like hand-wringing archbishops.

This is nothing to do though with the women themselves, or the "liberal" media; it's been the tabloids and TV that have been driving it, as they always have and always did. It's a case of great public interest, and when five young women have been killed, everyone wants the perpetrator to be found, and quickly. The police have learned their mistakes from their past, in the way they dealt with Peter Sutcliffe, and the tone struck by them has been just the right one. This is nothing like the huge, mindless gnashing of teeth that followed Diana's death, which was genuinely enforced mourning on a grand scale.

At Ipswich Town's home game on Saturday, there was a minute's silence. We were supposed to believe that this was a true reflection of the community's sympathy.

I don't buy it. Most people went along with it in the spirit of emotional correctness and through fear of getting their heads kicked in if they didn't.

I'd agree if it had been at football grounds across the land, but this was at Ipswich Town's stadium, very close to the area from where the women disappeared. I heard the minute's silence on the radio, preceded by a moving prayer from a local minister, and it was observed impeccably, with everyone applauding when it was over. The population of Ipswich might know their mood better than a gor blimey hack who probably only read about the silence, rather than heard it.

There was only one thing missing, but don't bet against it.

When Blair gets back from saving the Middle East, don't be surprised if he turns up at the funeral of one of these unfortunate women to deliver a lip-trembling, tear-stained eulogy: "She was the People's Prostitute".

There we go, the obligatory Blair insult. The cherry on the cake of an offensive, heartless piece, a true reflection on the writer himself.

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