Tuesday, April 29, 2008 

Scum-watch: Going soft on immigrants, but not on "Town Hall Hitlers".

In another sign of the Sun's increasing move towards something approaching liberalism, at least outside of the criminal justice system, here's a surprisingly positive leader on immigration:

THE vast majority of immigrants are decent, law-abiding people — whichever country they come from.

They work hard, claim few benefits and are grateful for what Britain has to offer — not just in higher pay and better conditions, but in friendship.

In return, most Brits are hospitable and ready to make room for well-behaved newcomers, as long as they play by our rules.

The experience of Polish builder Piotr Szepsel and his wife Anna is typical.

The couple have mixed in with neighbours and made many new friends. Piotr is a regular at his local pub and an avid Arsenal fan.

The couple work all hours to keep their heads above water, pay their taxes — and refuse to accept welfare.

Now they want to stay and raise their baby daughter, Anastazya, as a British citizen.

They are a credit to their own country — and to ours.

WE benefit from their skills and industry. THEY gain from a country which is genuinely tolerant to its migrant communities.

Now, as patronising and emphatic as it is on how immigrants must assimilate and not rock the boat by bringing any funny ideas with them, not to mention the insolence of considering claiming any benefits, can you seriously imagine a similarly mostly positive editorial in the Mail which didn't have a sting in the tail, let alone the Express? Undoubtedly, one of the reasons why the debate on immigration has become "deracialised" as Trevor Phillips said is because the latest wave has been, to use a Greg Dyke quote completely out of context, "hideously white". It's not because race itself is no longer an issue, it's because race is at the moment not involved in the discussion, or only is at the very periphery, for example in the hysteria over "Fagin's Heirs", where the Roma were wrongly implicated, or as the tabloids refer to them "gipsies". Fittingly, those who will be hit by the government's points system and restrictions now coming in will be the non-whites, while the eastern Europeans will continue to be able to come and go as they more or less please.

Some of this current approach could be linked back to Murdoch himself: he might be a stupendous hypocrite on most things, but even he realises that he can't get away with bashing immigrants too much, although "foreigners", especially the French, still get in the neck regularly. It would be nice to think that the Sun is perhaps reflecting its readers more accurately than some of the other press, but going by the reactions on MySun whenever immigration is mentioned, although hardly representative, that seems unlikely. It could be related to James Murdoch's appointment as the overseer of the UK News Corp business, as he's known to be more liberal than his father, having convinced him of the virtues of going green, but he's certainly no less tenacious over the BBC, as evidenced by his pathetic bleating about the iPlayer. The most compelling explanation though is that Wade and those around her are figuring out exactly where they want their paper to sit, still assuredly on the right, but not as stuck in the mud as the Mail and Express, moving with the times as those two inexorably age.

Don't be fooled though. The Sun can still be just as unpleasant, idiotic and over-the-top when it needs to be or when Murdoch's own interests are threatened. The signing of the talk radio blowhard Jon Gaunt and the giving of a column to the executive editor Fergus Shanahan ensures that all those bases are still covered. Shanahan's column today is typically boneheaded and offensive, a poor Richard Littlejohn-esque knock-off, tarring all councils with the same brush by using the example of one-offs, such as the man convicted for not having his bin shut and the family spied on by the local council using the powers under RIPA (not anti-terror legislation, as news organisations continue to misleadingly claim), finishing with the flourish that a vote for the Tories is the best option because "at least... you know they are desperate to impress". Those desperate to impress are always the best people to put in charge.

Oh, and not to dwell too long on the on-going Madeleine madness, but the Sun's incredibly one-sided account, which could only have been produced with direct cooperation with the McCanns, has this charming break in the middle of it:

For most of the last 12 months Kate McCann has been the embodiment of suffering — her face wracked with the unbearable agony of a mother whose child was taken to an uncertain fate. The slideshow pictures below show her pain, month by month.

Here's someone suffering - and you too can gaze on 12 different pictures of them doing so for no other reason than voyeurism. Lovely. Some things are set to never change.

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Friday, April 18, 2008 

Migrants stole my baby part three.

Unity attempts to get to the very bottom of the whole migrant crime statistics controversy, and while even by his standards it's lengthy, it's well worth reading in full just to realise how fraught and difficult it is to even begin to be able draw conclusions from the data currently available. The only solution to this is for the government and the police to bang heads together and come up with a proper, easy to understand system for identifying the origin of those charged with offences, not just arrested or connected with "crimes solved". We might be waiting a long time.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008 

Migrants stole my baby part two.

You can tell just how much the Grauniad's report yesterday on how migrants have not brought a crime wave with them and how, unsurprisingly, they're not committing more offences than anyone else overall has wound up the Daily Mail and Express by the vehemence of their response today. Along with the recent immigration report by the Lords committee that, despite tabloid coverage, concluded migrants had on the whole not significantly benefited or been detrimental to the country, the crime angle is the one sure fire hit which they can rely upon to really fire minds against the current immigration policy, with their impact on public services and negligible use of benefits following closely behind. For it to blown apart just as they appeared to be getting the upper hand could not possibly be tolerated.

Hence why both have come out all guns blazing. The Express leads with "IMMIGRANTS BRING MORE CRIME", which is patently untrue as the report has already made clear, but more interesting is the Mail's account of how the Guardian report supposedly came to fruition.

The liberal Left had been right throughout, and the influx of one million eastern European migrants in less than four years - contrary to the claims of some chief constables - had created little pressure or trouble.

The source was good. A report by the Association of Chief Police Officers, prepared for the Home Secretary, had reached this firm conclusion.

Except it had done no such thing. The report itself, leaked in full yesterday, bore no relation to the BBC or Guardian headline claims.

"EU accession migrants are continuing to present challenges across a range of policing activity," reads one paragraph.

There are "notable changes in crime patterns, including extortion, 'dipping' [pick-pocketing], human trafficking and a growing sex trade", warns another.

Most curious of all, there is not a single mention of a migrant crimewave, let alone about one being "unfounded" or a "myth".

Did it really bear no relation to the BBC or Guardian headline claims? Let's go back to the Guardian's report:

The report says: "While overall this country has accommodated this huge influx with little rise in community tension, in some areas sheer numbers, resentment and misunderstanding, have created problems." It adds that the immigration from eastern Europe has been different to previous arrivals, because it happened much more quickly. The report says that new migrants may be more likely to commit certain types of offences. Polish people are linked to drink-driving, and problems have arisen in central London with some Romanian children being used by adults to commit petty robberies.

There are also problems with people trafficking and exploitation, but while these may be more likely in some migrant communities, other types of offences are less likely to occur.

Well that's strange then, isn't it? The Guardian report did mention nearly all those things that the Mail now reports, just in a different fashion, considering that the Guardian didn't have access to the full document which the Mail and Express now apparently have. The easy way to sort the whole mess out would be if us lower mortals could also get access to the full report, but it seems for now that it'll remain confidential. The Grauniad has also expanded slightly on its original points in today's follow-up:

Peter Fahy, chief constable of Cheshire, who co-authored the study, said: "Migration has had a significant impact on UK communities in past years, but while this has led to new demands made on the police service, the evidence does not support theories of a large-scale crime wave generated through migration.

"In fact, crime has been falling across the country over the past year. Cultural differences such as attitudes to offences like drink-driving may exist, but can be exaggerated.

"The influx of eastern Europeans has created pressures on forces in some areas, including local rumour and misunderstandings fuelling tensions which police have had to be proactive in resolving, and leading to significant increases in spending on interpreters, which can also make investigations more complex."

Back to James Slack's analysis of the original Grauniad report:

Even if accurate, the coverage would have begged several questions, not least who had claimed there was a migrant crimewave in the first place?

Hmm. I wonder who could have done such a thing?

The influx of Romanian migrants has led to an explosion in crime in this country, it emerged last night.

As recent members of the EU, Romanians have had free access to Britain only since January 1.

Yet in the first six months of this year, police say, they were responsible for 1,080 offences.

This is from the Daily Mail, 19th of September last year, written by.... James Slack. The Daily Express also claimed in January that "migrants send our crime rate soaring", which as Fahy points out, they haven't, as crime overall has dropped by 9%.

Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Julie Spence - whose intervention last year was the report's spur - had warned of pressure on her local force, and problems with sex trafficking and eastern Europeans drink driving.

Neither she nor any other respected critic had suggested the new arrivals were committing disproportionate levels of overall crime (indeed, it is widely accepted - not least by the Daily Mail - that the vast majority are here to work hard).

What is true is that the migrants are as likely to be arrested by the police as a British citizen, but - when this happens - consume more resources by virtue of speaking little or no English.

Gosh, could that "the Daily Mail line" be anything to do with the Federation of Poles complaining about the Mail's coverage? Obviously Slack isn't including himself or the Express as respected critics, as both, as we have seen, claimed that new arrivals were committing disproportionate levels of overall crime, the Express claiming that crime by migrants had soared by 530%.

Rather than debunking the Guardian's original article, all Slack is doing is actually confirming that its story was accurate. He agrees that migrants are no more likely to commit crimes than the average British citizen, which was the Guardian report's main point. Where the Grauniad erred slightly was that it didn't put enough emphasis in how when arrested migrants obviously use more police resources, and translation costs therefore come into the equation, something that the report makes clear, but it can hardly be blamed for not doing so when it didn't have the full report in front of them, especially considering that their source was Peter Fahy, the co-author of the report, who should himself have communicated that robustly. In any case, today's follow-up contains a lengthy quote dealing with just that from Mail's favourite police officer, Cambridgeshire's Julie Spence. Its fears that the Guardian's report would affect the extra money the police were asking for from Jacqui Smith today when they met her were also unfounded; new funding was promised.

For the Daily Mail and especially James Slack to be moaning about the Guardian slightly misreporting an important study is the height of chutzpah. Such has been Slack's record in distorting figures and baiting and switching that you can't take a single article he's ever written seriously. This blog and others have on numerous occasions recorded the Mail and Express scaremongering, churning and in some cases downright lying about immigration. It ought to come down to trust; do you regard the Mail or Express to tell the truth or be more accurate about immigration, knowing their track record, or do you overall regard the Guardian, or any "broadsheet", or the BBC to do so? Opinion polls on trust on individuals and organisations in public life show that it's overwhelmingly the latter.

Speaking of lying, to bring it back to the Express, here's how it justifies its "IMMIGRANTS BRING MORE CRIME" super splash:

IMMIGRATION from Eastern Europe has led to a huge surge in crime, police chiefs will tell the Home Secretary today.

Oh, so the report doesn't say that then, there's no evidence whatsoever to back it up, but it must be true because "police chiefs" will say so. Then there's the blatant exaggerations of its content:

The damning report will be presented to Jacqui Smith in a key meeting, at which many chief constables will demand extra funds to cope with the effects of Labour’s open-door policy.

In an alarming message, the report warns: “EU migration has brought with it a huge surge in the exploitation of migrants and organised crime.”


The findings provide yet another devastating sign of the pressure Labour’s immigration policies have had on our towns and communities.

Which just goes to show that you really can make black into white and white into black.

Elsewhere, 5cc clarifies further the claim that 1 in 5 crimes in London are now committed by foreigners with figures from his own freedom of information request.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008 

Migrants stole my baby.

It turns out then that migrants only commit a level of crime proportionate to that of every other citizen, in an amazing report by the Association of Chief Police Officers themselves. This at the same time as other sections of the press have been trying to claim that 1 in 5 crimes in London are now committed by foreigners, or at least those of foreign origin. Except, as Unity explains, those figures are bogus also, although Laban Tall in the comments disputes this to an extent. It would be nice if we could argue about the current levels of immigration, something quite rightly at the centre of many voters' concerns without febrile scaremongering taking over, but that seems to be increasingly difficult.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008 

Immigration wave over? Not if the Mail and Express have their way.

A wave of immigration that helped to fuel Britain’s early 21st century boom is over, as the Polish plumber and thousands like him go home.

The Times has established that, for the first time since they began arriving en masse four years ago, more UK-based Poles are returning to their homeland than are entering Britain.

Statistics show that only 38,680 Poles signed up to the Government’s register of migrant workers in the third quarter of 2007, a slump of 18 per cent from the previous year. Polish officials say that Poles leaving the country outnumber thoses coming in.

Hard statistics on the number of Poles leaving Britain do not exist. There are no embarkation controls on EU members so they are are not counted out. But Polish officials, British employment agencies and the Polish media all believe that the tide of immigration has turned. Since Poland joined the EU in 2004, 274,065 Poles have signed up for work permits. They make up 66 per cent of all applications from Eastern European countries.

Oh, so you mean that 1.3 million Poles didn't arrive in the UK last year, that 860 migrants don't flood in every day, and that as some of us noted previously, the numbers peaked a while ago? Perhaps now a newspaper with slightly more authority than the Mail or Express has published something approaching reality on its front page we can something approaching a reasoned debate on immigration. Or, going by this, perhaps not:

I am urgently looking for anonymous horror stories of people who have employed Eastern European staff, only for them to steal from them, disappear, or have lied about their resident status. We can pay you £100 for taking part, and I promise it will be anonymous…

A personal plea from the Daily Mail's Diana Appleyard.

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Monday, February 11, 2008 

Prison bloodbaths and an Express hack bullshits every 4 minutes.

Tabloid stories really don't get much more pathetic than this:

PRISON chiefs sparked outrage last night for letting lags stage a production of violent musical Sweeney Todd.

Cast members, likely to include murderers, will use cardboard knives to act out the tale of the killer barber, currently a hit film starring Johnny Depp.

Or perhaps they were more inspired by the BBC drama a few years' back which starred Jessica Stevenson presiding over a production of Sweeney Todd in a... maximum security prison. Naturally, the Sun has found an appropriate person to give their view on how disgraceful this is:

But Sam Salmons, whose stepdaughter was murdered, said: “It’s awful, they’ll probably have a murderer playing a murderer.

“Sweeney Todd is a bad choice — what’s wrong with Grease or the Sound of Music?”

Ah yes, I can just see a prisoner deciding that he's the one that wants to channel Julie Andrews, or indeed Olivia Newton-John. You're the one that I want - ooh ooh ooh! Here are a few of my favourite things - cold showers, early lock-up and shitting in buckets?

They could of course go for a entirely different sort of play and decide on Shakespeare. There's the Scottish play - no bloodbath in that; Othello, which ends happily with the Moor and his white wife overcoming all the racial obstacles in their way and dying in old age; or Titus Andronicus, where well, you get the picture. Fact is, Sweeney Todd is probably one of the few plays that prisoners are most likely to either enjoy, or at least somewhat relate to. Sam Salmons is fully entitled to try her own hand and get those sentenced to life to put on a production centred around working-class late 1950s high school kids, but she'll probably need to be Mary Poppins to get anything out of them.

Slight P.S. I try to refrain from making glib statements such as "doing the BNP's work for them" but I really can't see any other motive behind the Express front page today, which, as usual, is full of mendacious distortion. As FCC writes, the number of migrants arrested, which is itself based on a estimate from only half of the police forces, amounts to only 7% of the actual total. That'll be 93% of number arrested NOT migrants then. If a migrant is therefore arrested every four minutes, how many of our "indigenous" population are arrested every second?

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Thursday, January 31, 2008 

The heirs of Fagan, that, err, weren't.

They were ‘twenty-first century Artful Dodgers’, we were told, a gang of ‘Fagin’s children’ from Romania, who had been trafficked to Slough, England, in order to work like slaves in a ‘pickpocketing and begging crimewave’. The Metropolitan Police launched dawn raids on various ‘slavery dens’ in Slough last Friday; some of the police reportedly wore balaclavas and riot gear and were closely followed by film crews invited along to witness the moment the ‘child slaves’ were liberated. Footage of officers carrying kids from terraced houses was beamed across the news bulletins, as various newspapers declared: ‘Romanian child slaves freed in Slough.’ A Met officer said his team was committed to ‘dismantling crime networks’ and to the ‘rescue of [trafficked] children’ (1).

There was only one problem with this story: it was as fictional as the original Dickensian tale of artful dodgers. The Roma children were not child slaves; of the 10 kids ‘rescued’ in Slough on Friday (one of whom was less than a year old: hardly pickpocketing material), all but one were reunited with their natural parents or guardians the following day (2). No evidence has been discovered to show that the Roma adults in Slough were involved in a ‘criminal gang’ or a ‘child slave ring’ or any other form of serious criminality. Of the 24 adults arrested, 14 have been charged: nine with immigration offences, three with the theft of mobile phones, and two with handling stolen mobile phones… hardly the kind of crimes that require a heavy-handed, camera-flashing raid at five in the morning.

Who honestly would have thought it?

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008 

Express-watch: Soft touch journalists.

Once you're on a relative roll, why bother to stop? The four previous Daily Express front pages have all in some way focused on immigrants and migrants, each with their own lies and distortions, so they seem to have decided to at least bring the total up to 5.

Screaming "SOFT TOUCH BRITAIN", the Express claims that migrants are now claiming £21m in benefits for their children that are back in Poland. Thing is, I've looked for the statistics that the story is apparently based on, and I can't find any that have been released in the last couple of days that are relevant, unless I've missed them somewhere. There's none on the HM Revenue and Customs website, which the Express claims issued them, the National Statistics site, or the Treasury website, so I can't check on their accuracy.

This however isn't by any means a new story. It's been rehearsed twice before, back in September last year, then raised again in December, presumably when the last new statistics were released. The only difference is that the figures keep rising, again because the immigrants who have came over here are becoming more aware of their right if they're paying tax and making national insurance contributions to claim child benefit and also tax credits. Last time this was raised by the tabloids I emailed the child benefit office themselves, who despite taking two months to reply, explained that the EU rules governing such benefit payments mean that the state in which the claimant works in, whether they're a citizen or not, is responsible for providing the benefit. In other words, if you or I had children and left them here while we went to work in Poland, we'd be able to apply for their equivalent of child benefit, which the Express helpfully explains works out at roughly £10 a month. Our scheme, which is more generous for obvious reasons, works out at £18.10 for the first child a week, and another £12.10 for every other sibling. Doubtless the more rabid newspapers in Poland, if this were happening there, would be demanding immediate changes also.

Anyway, let's have a quick look through the more salient or dubious points of the article:

The huge drain on Treasury coffers provoked outrage, with warnings that the sum is bound to rocket even higher as the latest figures from HM Revenue and Customs do not include child tax credit.

To put this into perspective, around £90bn is spent each year on the NHS. £21m is hardly a drop in the ocean in government spending.

Senior Tory MP Andrew Selous, Shadow Minister for Family Welfare, said: “This shows there is a need for a serious reassessment of this aspect of the welfare state. “The Government still refuses to answer how much child tax credit is paid to migrant workers whose children live abroad. “It has shown no leadership or political will in trying to sort out this issue. We want this money spent on dealing with child poverty at home.”

The same thing the Tories said last time. I took the liberty of previously working out exactly how much the money would be worth to each child if it was directly redistributed to the number of children living in relative poverty. It would have amount to slightly less than £5. Even with the increase this time round, it's hardly going to change their lives.

The explosion in child benefit claims follows fresh evidence that the mass influx from Eastern Europe shows little sign of slowing down. A record 1.3 million Poles travelled to Britain last year, six times the figure before Poland joined the EU.

Err, except these figures are based on the tourist figures, not the immigration figures which detail those who have applied for a national insurance number so they can work here.

Polish official Agnieszka Zablocka, from Gdansk, told the BBC that Britain operates a “pay now, check later” welfare system.

Actually, the onus is on the Polish themselves to check that the children exist, under the EU rules, although applicants can be required to present the birth certificate of the child. Perhaps Zablocka ought to get on with those checks?

Little of the above really matters though. The article's job is already done. Rather than contributing to the economy, regardless of what they're taking out in benefits that any other taxpayer would also both demand and expect, with previous figures suggesting that 84% of migrant workers were not claiming any benefits whatsoever, with tiny numbers on unemployment benefit or income support, immigrants are variously raising the crime rate, taking money away from our children, training children to rob us so they can build palaces back in their own countries, and err, not spending enough when they come here on holiday. The only real question is what the Express would do if the government were decide tomorrow to shut the borders completely. Probably suffer a collective nervous breakdown.

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Monday, January 28, 2008 

Migrants send our crime rates plummeting! (And can't some of them kill Maxine Carr for us?)

Well, the title of this post is probably more accurate than the Express headline.

Another day, another despicable Daily Express front page, this one based on even less verifiable facts than usual. The entire premise of the front page claim that "migrants" are behind a 35% rise in violence (in Kent, not across the country) is a letter from the chief constable of Kent police, Mike Fuller, sent to the Home Office. The Express doesn't provide the letter unexpurgated, and if Fuller did provide figures on arrests or statistics that directly related the increase to the actions of immigrants, the paper certainly doesn't provide it. More than anything, it comes across as a plea for more funding, with Fuller depending on the argument of increased migration to back him up, even quoting that the predicted population rise in Kent over the next 20 years is estimated to be 20%, although what that has to do with the here and now neither he nor the Express explains. As we saw last week, crime, apart from that involving guns and drugs, has actually fell: that the country is experiencing a crimewave due to migration as the Express is claiming is simply not backed up by the statistics.

The other main story on the Express front page, ignoring the latest bollocks about Madeleine, is the manufactured outrage about Maxine Carr apparently being pregnant. What that fact has to do with anyone other than Carr and her partner on its own is questionable enough, but the Express has pulled out all the stops to create one of the most vile, hate-filled articles you're likely to read in a tabloid this year:

Last night the news sent shockwaves through the Cambridgeshire village where Ian Huntley murdered 10-year-old friends Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in the summer of 2002.

One said it was disgraceful that the taxpayer was subisiding Carr’s lifestyle, adding: “It’s outrageous that this woman keeps demanding money from ordinary people. Has she no shame for what she did?”

Err, Carr doesn't seem to be demanding money from anyone. She does however quite clearly require protection, as those who have been mistaken for her have discovered.

Her actions delayed his arrest for a fortnight, adding to the distress for Holly and Jessica’s families. She posed as somebody trying to help to find the girls – all the time knowing that he had already killed them.

This is completely untrue. Carr believed Huntley's lies that he had not had anything to do with their disappearance, and as he had twice before been accused of rape, on one of which occasions the claim was false, she provided an alibi. On the night of the murders she had been visiting her mother in Grimsby, and was not involved in any whatsoever in their deaths. Moreover, Carr displayed all the signs of being an abused partner: Huntley gravitated around women and girls that were impressionable and easily-manipulated, as his relationships with underage girls showed. Neighbours at their first home, before they moved to Soham reported that Huntley barked orders at Carr while he did nothing to help around the house; Carr apparently first realised that Huntley was possibly guilty when he washed a duvet, the first piece of housework he had ever done. She made clear while giving evidence during the trial that one of the reasons she gave an alibi was because she was scared of what he might do if she didn't.

Huntley, now 33, recently claimed he had wanted to confess, but that Carr had slapped him about the face and ordered him to pull himself together before telling him to burn their bodies.

Again, completely untrue. In Huntley's version of events, his "confession" was to involve what he told the trial: that he had accidentally killed the two schoolgirls, a notion he still hangs desperately onto. Huntley is far more of a fantasist and a liar than Carr ever was, and his reliability as a witness is obviously completely discredited.

Since her release four years ago, the British taxpayer has spent around £1million giving her round-the-clock protection from vigilantes. She has lived in 10 safe houses so far.

And just why does she need such protection? It couldn't be because the tabloids have whipped such hate up against her, could it, that completely innocent women have been threatened and thought their lives were in danger because they'd been misidentified as her? Carr was perfect as the next Myra Hindley figure to be brought out whenever it's a slow news day, someone who could have venom directed at her from everywhere because of her role, however slight, in the most heinous and notorious murders of recent times. 1984 had its two minutes of hate; modern-day Britain has its equivalent provided not by the state, directed against a rogue political figure, but rather at a defenceless woman by the press who now emit far more propaganda than any government could ever manage.

Yesterday Winnie Johnson, mother of Moors Murder victim Keith Bennett, said: “Carr was Huntley’s accomplice and she tried to cover up his awful crimes – she is evil too.

The thought of her being allowed to raise and care for a child is hideous. Imagine if Myra Hindley had a baby? Why should we be protecting Maxine Carr anyway?”

See, here's the attempt to build the connection with Hindley. Never mind that Hindley was directly involved in the child murders committed by Ian Brady while Carr could not possibly have been because she wasn't at home at the time, but let's raise the suggestion and then let it do its own work. Johnson deserves nothing but compassion for her plight, but what makes her especially eligible to comment on a completely different case? Why should we be protecting Maxine Carr anyway? I don't honestly know. Perhaps we can remove her anonymity and Channel 4 can base its latest reality show around her. Ten contestants, including 2 celebrities, battle to find Carr and kill her first. The winner gets £100,000 and the admiration of the nation. How about it?

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers will be sickened that ordinary families are struggling to pay their taxes so money can be spent on monsters like Maxine Carr.

“It is time we got our priorities right – punishing the innocent with high taxes while subsidising criminals is very twisted logic.”

Speaking as a taxpayer, I'm more than happy that some of my taxes go towards protecting individuals such as Carr from being ripped to pieces by marauding mobs, just as it also goes to protecting anyone and everyone from being ripped to pieces by marauding mobs. I like to think it's what separates me from the degradation and savagery of inhumane cunts like Elliot. Never mind that Carr has long served her sentence and repaid her debt, she's still a criminal, and what's more, a monster. How can we punish the innocent with high taxes while monsters get free money?! It's insane! The second sentence has to be a non sequitur to end all non sequiturs, but then you couldn't ask for much more than from a spokesman for a Tory front that campaigns for a flat tax.

Next up, compare Carr to another murderer:

The most hated woman in Britain reportedly had a miscarriage in summer 2006, when she was at the same stage of pregnancy that she is now. She fears of a backlash against her, in a story that has many parallels with the case of female child-killer Mary Bell.

Again, never mind that Bell actually killed while Carr only provided an alibi, but obviously both are parallel cases because the tabloids wanted both to be exposed so that the vigilantes could do what the courts refused to. How very odd for a newspaper shrieking on its front page about a "rise" in violent crime to be so disgusted by a woman being protected from almost certain death at the hands of people who almost certainly wouldn't be migrants.

Coming from this blog, the next statement is likely to sound heretical, but it's certainly true. The Sun, despite being little more than a propaganda rag for Murdoch's interests which panders to the lowest common denominator, is now almost certainly a far more balanced, even liberal publication than the Express and possibly even than the Mail. Neither of the two aforementioned so-called mid-market papers bother to provide almost anything approaching an alternative voice to that spouted by its columnists and leader columns, as well as the nakedly politically motivated "news" articles. The Sun meanwhile gave space last week when reporting on the "extreme" mosques in Blackburn to both Ed Husain and Ibrahim Master, formerly chairman of the Blackburn council of mosques, both of whom gave different accounts to what you'd usually expect from the paper. (Incidentally, Iraq's deputy president has since clarified his original statement.) Today Richard Hawley comments on the Sun's "crusade" against yob violence, and condemns ASBOs and other punitive measures. That, more than anything else, is an indictment of just how bad things have got in the tabloid press.

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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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Monday, January 14, 2008 

2 million migrant homes, knives and the DNA database.

It's Monday, it's the Express, it must mean it's time for a Diana "exclusive", a Madeleine non-story or a rant against immigrants. How about all three? You lucky, lucky people!

Before we get carried away, the main Express story is based entirely on a MigrationWatch report prepared for a parliamentary committee. Now, I could of course read the entire thing, dissect it and make my mind up about whether it's bollocks, or I could just dismiss it out of hand. After all, their last report, claiming that migrants contributed only 4 pence a week in benefit to the country was completely and utterly wrong. This latest one, which claims we'll have to build 2 million houses just for immigrant workers (not that we are, as the headline misleadingly implies), I'm willing to hazard is also complete and utter crap. I think we'll go with the latter.

On then, to the Sun. The scaremongering stories of today are "Girls age (sic) three hitting puberty", which is based off today's Tonight with Trevor McDonut, and relies on the stories of a whole two girls, while Al-Qaeda 'to blow up Paris' is more concerned about British tourists in the Scum's parochial way than the French, who you would think would be more in the line of fire.

The Sun's latest big "exclusive" is that it's wrangled an interview with Gordon Brown, which must mean his polls are down again. His main promise is a "huge crackdown on Britain's knife crime epidemic", which is the biggest surprise since the last one. As ever, rather than attempting to understand why everyone and their mother seems to carrying a knife, the immediate solution is that anyone caught carrying one must be prosecuted rather than simply cautioned. Seeing as there have previously been suggestions that those carrying knives should get an automatic prison sentence of around three years, and the figures accompanying the report state that 8,500 of those caught with knives only received a caution, the implication is that we're going to be sending to prison thousands of youngsters, if this is to be vigorously implemented. Considering we simply don't have the prison places to do that, and also that doing that it well be far worse than giving a caution would, introducing them to the world of criminality by way of the slamming of a cell door, you get the feeling that we won't be hearing much about this until the next time someone impossibly young gets stabbed. Added into the mix is Brown's laughable if they weren't sinister remarks about how he's worried about "video and computer games" and the other reflex, the banning of "hunting" knives if they don't have a "practical" use.

The Scum Says column is slightly sharper (ho ho) than usual today on the matter:

AT last, the knife crackdown The Sun has been calling for.

But why was it so long coming? And why isn’t it tougher?

Last year 9,000 thugs escaped with meaningless cautions for carrying a blade. Meanwhile dozens of kids died on our anarchic streets.

It doesn’t take a genius to link those two facts.

If anything, it suggests that whatever the punishment is meant to be, and remember that the whole of last year was given over to demands for ever tougher penalties for those carrying knives, it seems that the hardcore will pack them regardless. I don't see how anyone can change that just through threats, however harsh the sentence is.

So only the fear of punishment can deter people from bringing them on to the streets.

Which, as the PM rightly says, means prosecutions, not cautions.

What he should have promised was automatic jail terms — but he’s hamstrung by our prisons being full.

Is the Sun really suggesting that we imprison 9,000 people a year simply for carrying a knife? It might give a false sense of security, but then we're back to the problem once they're released of young, probably angrier men, embittered at their lot, possibly thrown into the cycle of crime for a long time to come. There has to be another answer - and whether that involves community work, mentoring, fines or other punishments, such as the delaying of driving licences if they're of below that age, there has to be a better one than imprisonment.

Is that also why this crackdown, while obviously welcome, is limited to 12 crime “hot-spots”?

No one needs to walk around with a blade any bigger than a penknife.

So ban them from being carried in public EVERYWHERE.

It’s not exactly “zero tolerance” otherwise, is it?

Err, it is illegal to walk around with a knife EVERYWHERE. Just that in those so-called "hot-spots" those caught won't be cautioned.

Moving on:

BRITAIN’S DNA database has grown into a vital weapon against criminals.

It holds the details of four million arrested people. Last year it solved 45,000 crimes, among them hundreds of rapes and murders.

Now it’s under threat from . . . guess who? Yes, the European Court of Human Rights. Its judges are ready to rule that our database be purged of the details of anyone not convicted after their arrest.

Hundreds of rapes and murders? Really? Would the Sun like to present some evidence to back up that claim? Dozens maybe, hundreds I don't believe for a second.

Back here on planet reality, it isn't of course anything to do with the judges from the European Court of Human Rights intervening on their own, but rather, as the Scum's article admits, they're being asked to rule on the legality of the matter by err, two Britons who wanted their DNA removed from the database after they were cleared of the crimes they were accused of. The case is more about how fingerprints and a DNA sample are now taken from everyone arrested, rather than just those charged or even convicted. While it would be nice to demand that no one not charged or cleared should have their data entered into the database, a compromise would be in the interests of everyone, including delayed justice. Those who aren't charged should have their data removed after say, two years, which is plenty of time for those working on cold cases to keep searching the database for matches to their own forensic data to come through.

The real issue has long been about creating such a database by stealth. If politicians wanted to be honest with us, rather than gradually building the database through arrests, everyone should have their details entered onto it over a period of time. This though would be hugely unpopular and have massive civil liberties implications, especially raising the possibility for miscarriages of justice. The newspapers and politicians that inform us that if we have nothing to hide we have nothing to fear would quickly blanch at such a plan, but they have no problem with the current situation which is manifestly unfair. One would like to think that my above suggestion was workable, or indeed, that it would be followed through on, but the loss of data scandals and the police's previous lies about removing information from the database only makes you realise how intractable the current policy is.

The Sun continues:

We understand the arguments about a Big Brother state. But Britain is in the grip of an all-out war against rising crime.

DNA fingerprinting is the greatest weapon detectives have been handed in a century.

It would be appalling if it was undermined by meddlers in Brussels.

Except that crime is either stable or falling, and has been now for a decade. All the advances in forensic evidence, CCTV and state surveillance haven't made any change to the feeling of insecurity which manifests itself everywhere, and the removal of such records from the database, whether down to the ECHR or otherwise, which might feasibly stop justice being done in major cases around 100 times a year at a rough guess, will similarly do nothing to either tackle or give rise to everyday fear of the outside world and crime.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007 

165,000 asylum seekers sitting on the wall...

There's nothing quite like some humbug at Christmas. Both the Daily Mail and the Express today serve up some healthy servings of finest apoplexy, garnished with lashings of outrage sauce. It could only be both papers leading on how "165,000" asylum seekers are going to get an "amnesty".

See, that's two layers of bullshit just contained in the front page Mail headline. Before getting fully into it, let's have a look at James Slack's article in finer detail. (Those who read FCC probably find that name familiar: he writes most of the Mail's articles on immigration, and tends to pepper them with distortions.)

As many as 165,000 asylum seekers are to be granted an "amnesty" to live in Britain, it was revealed.

The vast bulk of the migrants are failed refugees whose files were left lying in boxes by bungling Home Office staff.

They have now been living here so long that officials have ruled that it would be a breach of their human rights to kick them out.

As said, we'll get to the 165,000 figure in a minute. Notice already that "the human rights" bogeyman has been brought up. As usual, this has very little to do with the Human Rights Act. Let's turn to the Grauniad for a report not laced with the usual dog-whistles:

More than 19,000 asylum seekers, some of whose cases date back more than 10 years, have finally been told they can stay in the country, the Home Office said last night.

They are among the first tranche of 52,000 cases that have been looked at as part of a Home Office "legacy" drive to clear a backlog of between 400,000 and 450,000 files.

Ah, so the actual figure at the moment is 19,000. It takes three sentences and 66 words before the Mail actually gets to reporting what has happened so far rather than what might happen in the future, whereas the Grauniad article gets straight to the point. Back to the Mail:

Ministers admitted that the first 19,000 have already been granted leave to remain under what the Tories described as a "stealth amnesty".

All will now be free to bring their relatives to Britain - and claim the full range of benefits.

As the Guardian article goes on, all those now given leave to remain, that's leave to remain, not British citizenship, have found themselves in limbo, in some cases for as long as 13 years because of Home Office cock-ups involving the losing of files, files that were found following the foreign prisoner scandal last year. As Polly Toynbee writes, "failed" asylum seekers are given hardly any benefits whatsoever - no housing, no access to schools and if the government has its way, no access to GPs. Most are handed £35 worth of vouchers that can only be spent at one store, with no change given, once a week. This Shelter page outlines the support that failed asylum seekers can claim, and the reality is if you're able-bodied and have no family that you'll receive almost nothing.

It's therefore a nonsense that this is any sort of amnesty. If it was, then all those who have been in limbo for however many years thanks to the original losing or forgetting of their files would have given blanket leave to remain. On the contrary, of the 52,000 of the files processed so far, 33,000 have either resulted in the deportation of the original applicant or have been found to be duplicates or riddled with mistakes. It takes 414 words before the Mail gets to admitting this.

How then has the Mail reached this magic number of 165,000? It's taken the percentage so far granted leave to remain from the initial cleared backlog and applied it to the most pessimistic estimate of how many files there are to work through. This is a ridiculous way to predict the numbers likely to allowed to stay: all it does create a handy figure for those opposed to asylum in the first place to bandy about which creates a completely false impression of the current scale of asylum, numbers of which have been dropping now for years, with the government getting ever harsher and more punitive, leading to genuine refugees like Jahongir Sidikov being refused permission to stay. This latest fiasco will do nothing to help the situation. Even if 165,000 were given leave to remain, that's still around 35,000 less than those traveling here every year from the A8 EU ascension states, and also a similar number less than those emigrating every year (PDF).

As it is, commentators like the ubiquitous "Sir" Andrew Green have no idea how many of those in these files have been refused asylum and how many were lost inside the system - seeing as 16,000 have been deported, that would suggest those were the ones already refused, with the others likely to have either been lost or been inside the system so long that it would be unfair and perverse to deport them now granted leave to remain. The cost of deporting them is astronomical, despite all the demands for them to be frog-marched on to planes, as if it was that easy. Far better that they become taxpayers and contribute to the actual economy rather than the hidden one. Claiming that they're now free to bring their families here is also wholly disingenuous: those that didn't in the first place either tend to not have any or were the only ones threatened. Believe it or not, those already settled aren't likely to up sticks just because a relative has finally been officially recognised. Also, as the number of illegal immigrants working in the security industry has showed, there's a shadow economy where cash is in hand and anything goes, while also making clear that the vast majority of migrants tend not to be "spongers". The policy ought to be to regularise them and reimburse the taxpayer rather than spending yet more money deporting them.

Slack and the Mail though have identified the real culprit:

The major reason why so many of the claims will be approved is the Human Rights Act.

Those who have been in the country for many years can claim it is now their home and they no longer have links to their homeland.

The legislation, passed by Labour, also prevents the removal of asylum seekers to countries where they could face torture or persecution, which is likely to apply to thousands of cases in the backlog.

A Home Office document on how the scheme - known as the Legacy Exercise by the department - will operate says "each case will be evaluated on its individual merits, with an assessment of any human rights factors that may be relevant".

Of course the Home Office document says that - just as every government department now has to take into consideration the HRA. The Mail is referring to the considerations that have to be taken under Article 8 - the right to respect for private and family life. This doesn't affect those that have no dependents or who are on their own, which already rules out plenty of single asylum seekers. As for the protection against torture or persecution, this doesn't seem to both worth the paper it's written on when deportations to countries such as Uzbekistan, the Congo, Sudan and Iraq are going on. In any case, the government would have had to taken both factors into consideration prior to the HRA as they are in the European Convention of Human Rights, which I've got tired of saying is what the HRA is based on. All the HRA has done is brought it into British law, whereas those previously had to go to Strasbourg to get their appeal heard. As ever, the HRA becomes the handy whipping boy.

Also, to clear up one of the misconceptions prevalent in the Mail's comments, those being allowed to stay are not being given British citizenship and so cannot vote until they apply, for which you now have to jump through numerous numbers of hoops in order to obtain. It, amazingly, isn't all a conspiracy designed to keep Labour forever in power on the back of immigrant and asylum seeker votes.

Indicative of the comments, with one or two slight exceptions, is this:

Isn't it against OUR human rights to have people in this country using our services when they have not paid for them? Isn't it against OUR human rights for OUR children to be in classes with pupils who cannot speak English, so the teacher’s time is wasted by these incomers? Isn't it against OUR human rights that immigrants get housing which is badly needed by English couples? Isn't it against OUR human rights that our Island is now so crowded with people who neither care nor want to be part of our country, yet want all the benefits? I could go on and on but what's the point. This government doesn't care about OUR human rights.

- Jan, London,England

Where on earth do you even start?

The reality on the ground is that there are two choices: either we continue to try to deport all those who are failed asylum seekers and/or illegal immigrants, the numbers of which could be anything up to around 600,000 or more, which has huge costs and which at the current rate will take decades, or we can implement the kind of selective policy that has been introduced here. An actual amnesty is attractive, but the lessons from Spain and Italy, both of which have previously implemented amnesties, is that it does little more encourage more migrants to come, waiting for the next "amnesty" to come along. There needs to be a carrot and stick approach, involving a very juicy carrot and a great big stick: either you become "legal", or well, you can get out. Afterwards, the points system currently planned, for all its faults, is probably the best option, with those with needed skills allowed to come. We certainly continue to need immigration, and if anything will need it more as our "indigenous" population ages. Those so furious in the Mail's comments would soon be gasping for the immigrants to return when the crops rot in the fields, the pensions of their children become worthless and the NHS withers. Then again, with some in those comments calling for a coup, perhaps that sort of thing is innately attractive.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007 

Scum-watch: More thieving migrants and an eulogy for Andy Hayman.

It's been a few months since the last figures showed that immigrants from eastern Europe were supposedly bleeding the exchequer dry with benefit claims, so it must surely be time to resurrect them once again. After all, the Sun has to find non-news stories to fill the paper when it can't be bothered to report on small things like Iran being declared not to have a nuclear weapons program:

MIGRANTS claim £1.4million a month in child benefit for kids living ABROAD, shocking new figures show.

The cash is given to 18,000 workers from new EU countries, without any checks on if the children actually exist. The number of East Europeans pocketing the handout soared by almost a third in just three months, the latest figures show.

Happily, when the Sun last flagged up this heinous outrage, I emailed the child benefit office and despite them taking the best part of two months to reply, I did finally get a very helpful explanatory response. Here it is in full:

Thank you for your e-mail of 17 September about Child Benefit. Your e-mail has been forwarded to HM Revenue & Customs and I have been asked to reply. I apologise for the delay in doing so.

You ask if foreign workers are entitled to claim Child Benefit for their children, even if they do not reside with them in this country.

The main purpose of Child Benefit is to support families living in the United Kingdom. In this regard, the general rules for this benefit do not provide for them to be paid in respect of children who reside outside the United Kingdom. However, these general rules are supplemented by the co-ordinating rules in European Community Regulations which the United Kingdom has applied since it joined the European Economic Community (now the European Union) in 1973.

The Regulations protect the acquired social security rights of European Economic Area (EEA) workers and their families moving within the Community.
The Regulations have detailed rules that determine which social security scheme a worker should contribute to, and which State has responsibility for the payment of family benefits. In general, it provides that the worker pays into the social security scheme where the work takes place and that State is responsible for the payment of family benefits. If entitlement to family benefits arises in more than one Member State, the Regulations contain priority rules to determine who has responsibility for paying. More detailed information relating to these Community rules can be found in leaflet SA 29 “Your social security insurance, benefits and healthcare rights in the European Economic Area”, published by the Department for Work and Pensions and available from its website at www.dwp.gov.uk/international/sa29. Similarly, the thousands of UK nationals who live in another EEA country also benefit from these rules in a wide number of areas.

The vast majority of Eastern European migrants, who were the subject of recent media publications, are in employment, paying UK taxes and National Insurance contributions and in many cases in hard-to-fill jobs in sectors with high levels of vacancies.

When a claim is made under the EC Regulations, there are long-standing checks in place to prevent fraud. For example, the relevant authorities in the family’s country of residence are required to confirm the identity and address of the children in the claim. In addition, the person claiming can be required to provide the original birth or adoption certificate of the child in support of their claim.

I hope that you will find this helpful.

This immediately demolishes the Scum's spurious claim that there are no checks that the children actually exist. Secondly, it makes clear that anyone living in any current EU member state while their children live in their "home" country can claim that country's equivalent of child benefit on the exact same basis, similarly without the children actually being present.

The Sun article accordingly doesn't deign to mention that only those paying national insurance are entitled to claim child benefit. They're contributing to the economy and are just as entitled to claim the benefits available to "us" as anyone else. The simple fact they're foreign automatically means this is "shocking".

Last time round the Sun introduced the notion that the fact that 200,000 more British children are living in poverty is somehow related in any way whatsoever to the fact that 14,000 migrants are claiming child benefit, with the disingenuous Tory Philip Hammond following up. This time Hammond just jumps straight in:

Shadow Treasury Chief Secretary Philip Hammond said: “About 3.8million British children are living in poverty yet Gordon Brown is siphoning off more than £320,000 per week to children abroad.”

Shall we do some elementary maths? £320,000 x 52 weeks = £16,640,000. Divide £16,640,000 by 3,800,000 and you get 4.3789473684210526315789473684211. In other words, if we took all the money back from the Poles which they are legitimately claiming, and redistributed it between those children, each could look forward to having an early Christmas present of £4.37p. Don't spend it all at once kids!

Going on:

HM Revenues and Customs said: “Under EU rules, an EU national working and paying compulsory contributions in one EU country can claim child benefits for their family resident in another.”

Which is a more concise and dumbed-down version for the Sun readership of the email I received.

Naturally, the good burghers of MyScum are enraged by this insult to the English working man, although one or two do dare to suggest that this is actually only fair. JanJud is representative:

It's an absolute disgrace, the working man is being taxed to death to pay for children that have no right to anything from the British Taxpayer. This Government are totally incompetent & corrupt, this throwing money down the drain must stop. British families can't even get housing, yet immigrants can!!!!!

And where does JanJud hail from? Err, South Africa.

I read a far more interesting fact in one of today's Grauniad articles on the Nimrod crash. The cost of operations in Iraq, despite the draw down in troops, is estimated to come to £995m, a rise of 2%. You decide which is more of a burden on the humble British taxpayer.

Elsewhere, the Sun is mourning the loss of Andy Hayman. Says crime editor Mike Sullivan, previously featured here, here and here:

THE resignation of Andy Hayman is a sad day for British policing.


Unlike others, Hayman fell on his sword and for that he must be praised.

I obviously cannot condone any wrong doing but he was respected and admired by grassroots police officers.

Andy Hayman was one of the good guys and our police force is a weaker force without him.

One has to wonder if Sullivan's sadness might be related to the "unique" relationship between the Sun and the police. Rebekah Wade has previously admitted to paying officers for information, while the stories which were so horribly wrong about Rochelle Holness and Janet Hossain were likely sourced on information from the police. Last week, when Harry Redknapp was arrested, the photographers from a certain newspaper had turned up at the same time as the police did, which might just suggest the two were in cahoots. The newspaper? The Sun.

Finally, this. Fucking this:

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