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I guess we

Eddie Mair | 15:16 UK time, Friday, 17 November 2006

brought the emails on ourselves...after all, the newsletter is often riddled with errors. But we really meant Tim and Ms Homes. It was our little joke. I know - your poor aching sides.

Funny sort of a day here really. I arrived this morning to pass the Children In Need TV stage still being put together. At least I assume that's what was causing the sparks. The building is alive with celebs and fun. Unfortunately, I've been sitting here pretty much the whole day, and cannot vouch for that first hand. You may well ask what takes me all day, and I often ask that myself.

I mentioned in the newsletter that I was about to interview a council leader who's just sold off a valuable painting to raise money for essential services. Is that common sense or selling off the family silver, I wondered. Well, we did the interview, at around 2.30, and I think you'll find it engaging.

Our big news, about which people want more hints, is being delayed a little. I said on the show last night that there was a legal problem. Oh BOY is there a legal problem. But we think we can overcome it during next week. As for clues: ever been to a certain commune in Northern France? In the Pas-de-Calais département?


  1. At 03:37 PM on 17 Nov 2006, Mark Drew wrote:

    So what?
    Before 1700 France, like most other European nations, relied on animals, windmills, and water mills to supply power, and wood was used as its common fuel. The Industrial Revolution called for more concentrated sources of energy, and France was among the countries with abundant coal resources.
    How far off track am I?

  2. At 03:55 PM on 17 Nov 2006, Annasee wrote:

    It's all very well referring to the newsletter on today's blog. Some of us haven't even GOT the newsletter yet! What's it coming by today - navigationally-challenged pigeon?
    Maybe the speed of your comment posting is in inverse proportion to my newsletter delivery.

  3. At 04:05 PM on 17 Nov 2006, vw wrote:

    Something to do with Agincourt?

  4. At 04:28 PM on 17 Nov 2006, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    Some of us never get the newsletter, possibly having been deterred by the experiences of those who sometimes do.

    Is the presence of clues intended as a carrot to non-subscribers?

  5. At 04:44 PM on 17 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    Whisky-Joe, "ferfochen"? Is this rude? Is it something Eric needs to know?

  6. At 04:50 PM on 17 Nov 2006, andycroak wrote:

    There's a place called "Lens" in the Pas-de-Calais, combined with cap and flash might suggest a photo blog, or something. As for the 1660 - it might be reference to the Epson scanner of that ilk (other Epson scanners are available).

    Probably way out.

  7. At 05:14 PM on 17 Nov 2006, Belinda wrote:

    Maybe there is a photo comp where viewers send in pictures of themselves, so that the BBC can test the theory that Radio 4 listeners are all middle-aged, white and middle-class? or a "Which listeners look most like Eddie and Sequin? competition".

    Although the Mairmeister did say above about legal restrictions, which perhaps suggests a copyright thing going on...

  8. At 05:32 PM on 17 Nov 2006, Frances O wrote:

    Appy - it is, somewhat, as I remember. Also spelled 'forfuchit'.

    Lens - yes, top of the list on the google search page - does suggest photos; would the 'cap' be a lens cap? Does anyone still use SLRs these days? Ah, good.

    To confuse us. there's also 'avion', ie aeroplane

  9. At 06:17 PM on 17 Nov 2006, Helen wrote:

    I'm going to get serious here, because I can't organise myself in time to get communication into he PM office, and I've never had a letter read out anyway but I did want to say something about 'stranger danger' and the NOTW campaign for 'Sarah's Law'.

    It is an unpalatable fact that most children are not only harmed by someone they know well, but that more often than not, that person is one of their parents. This is the main reason Sarah's law is an issue in the UK and appears to be the cause of political procrastination. The USA differs in this respect but here, to reveal the name of most paedophiles in this country would also reveal the names of their victims which is illegal and ill-advised.

    The incidence of such offences against children has not increased in the last 100 years (Innocence Betrayed, David Wilson and Jon Silverman, 2002) and our awareness exceeds the risk. Stranger danger is a myth, very few sex offenders are hardened paedophiles, and they are closely monitored despite recent headlines. However despicable their actions, they are still part of our society and we really do need to find a way of accommodating them without putting them or paediatricians at risk.

    I am sure the NOTW’s circulation figures benefit from their campaign but a dangerous perspective of society is being perpetuated. I am disturbed by the knowledge that many, if not most, adults would no longer stop to help a child, even if they were in distress because they fear their motives being misinterpreted and won’t take the risk. I have no such hesitation, and I think it is the responsibility of all adults to look out for all children because we are a society.

    Despite the despicable nature of their actions, paedophiles are part of that society, and they are vulnerable too. We need to find a less alarmist way of discussing the issue as well as a way to accommodate them which doesn’t put them (or paediatricians) at risk. Child abusers in Canada who have been befriended by groups of volunteers rarely reoffend. Could the same happen here? (http://www.guardian.co.uk/child/story/0,,1353673,00.html)

  10. At 06:18 PM on 17 Nov 2006, Peter Johnston wrote:

    As to the Council leader who has sold off the Lowry to finance a budget deficit - anybody who knows anything about local government finance should know that you do not flog off capital assets to generate revenue spend. Never, never, never. The simple reason is that in the following financial year you will have to find the same amount, since the budget deficit remains unchanged. At best it is a gamble that next year's financial settlement from central Government will be significantly more generous than this year's. Anybody who seriously believes that probably believes in the tooth fairy, for an encore.

  11. At 06:37 PM on 17 Nov 2006, Valery P wrote:

    Andycroak - au contraire, probably way in!

    Presumably we won't be allowed to dress up as donkeys though, given last year's nonsense about not being allowed to photograph school nativity plays. :o)

    Eric was really whipping the Blog up a storm tonight wasn't he? Keep posting all weekend, the Man says.....

  12. At 07:05 PM on 17 Nov 2006, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Helen (10) that is a very well stated piece. I too always cringe whenever I see the S*n ot the N*ws Of The W*rld come up with alarmist pieces about "Beware the Stranger!". such pieces fail not only to inform. They also bias any discussion about how to create an environment where all members of society are cared for & kept safe. I remember a case earlier this year, I believe, where the Megans' Law spectacularly backfired. A young man in the US decided he would kill a number of Paedophiles. Using the access that Megans' Law gave him, He found a number of what we in the UK would deem Sex Offenders, and killed them. Unfortunately, one of those killed was a man who had been placed on the list solely because he had had, as a 17 year-old, consensual sex with his girlfriend, who was still 15. I do believe that any system where people are "named & shamed" does nothing to create a society where our families are safer. All it does is target anger towards some individuals, whilst the main cause of abuse is swept under the carpet.

  13. At 07:42 PM on 17 Nov 2006, marymary wrote:

    It seems some of my posts on the subject of Sar.ah's/Megan's law are taking a long time to come through on other threads.

    Helen and FFred I agree with you. The problem as I see it is the "knee jerk" reaction to creating criminal laws in general. Hard cases make bad laws.

    The issue here is child safety. You cannot legislate for that. You learn and share experiences. We seem to want to live in a society where as soon as something horrible happens everyone wants a law that will make them safe. Then I suppose if the law isn't upheld it's someone else's fault.

    We cannot live in a riskproof society.


  14. At 08:37 PM on 17 Nov 2006, whisht wrote:

    this kinda conversation/ discussion is why I come here.


    ok. two completely different conversations but y'know what i mean.
    Thanks to the councillor thinking (hadn't thought of that about budgets but rings true - excellent point)

    As for laws around paedophiles... agree that 'outing' is fraught with danger. (y'all know why and i won't reiterate)

    It would be interesting to get journalists into a discussion as to what they've written knowing the possible consequences. don't necessarily want them hung-drawn-and-quartered but it would be an interesting piece to hear about "my editor wanted this and I knew it would be controversial/ dangerous..." stories.

    y'know, these people aren't thick, they know the power of words (better than I) and know that people get hurt. I know I know, only people who are violent are violent but words and media are catalysts and there is responsibility with power (and providing information is power).

    And a baseball bat hurts. a lot.

    for the rest of your life.

    I was once involved in building an IT system that displayed information about people who were about to be talked to by people involved in law enforcement. Normally this stuff is just providing fields of information to appear on a screen (name, surname, alias, addresses, last known contact yadda yadda). I was used to doing this for 'commercial' clients (ie clients trying to sell stuff and so the most important thing is "if they bought this then they may want to buy that) .

    Fair enough, I understood a bunch about "usability" (don't get me started) and common sense (don't get me started).

    The difference on this occasion was the comment by the client: "You don't turn your back on these people. I've known colleagues hit by tyre irons. If they've got history, I've got to know"

    That crucial piece of information had not been appreciated by a colleague and for a while, to access this information someone had to click a link.


    it took seconds to access this but it only took seconds to be hit by a tyre iron.

    sorry. This is something that struck me about work. Sometimes its only about money. Sometimes its about being crippled.

    sometimes we don't appreciate this.

    [for the record, I still worry that I didn't solve this for the poeple I mention and that's not good enough]

  15. At 09:03 PM on 17 Nov 2006, marymary wrote:

    wisht, I think I've grasped your point.

    What I can't understand is the privilege of being able to access information about someone because of one's particular status and because of that person's particular prediliction.

    If single parents have access to ... well then why can't I have access to information about the people who move into next door in case they are mentally ill (and dangerous - possibly but not necessarily) or mad axemen or well ... get my drift?


  16. At 10:05 PM on 17 Nov 2006, admin annie formerly just plain Anne wrote:

    Just going back to the Lowry thing for a minute, of course I take your point Peter and in fact I agree with it. You don't sell capital assets to bridge revenue gaps, and that applies on a personal and family level as well as to councils etc. BUT cynical little me thinks that Bury council might well reckon this is worth the risk because, after all the stink that has been created they might think central government will UP their revenue allocation next year to avoid a similar thing happening again.

    Also on this topic who on earth was that ineffectual witterer that the Museums Assocaiation popped in the barrel to be shot at. Eddie was very kind to her, she was rubbish. Living where we do I no longer have to worry about the north/south divide, but really she did nothing to persuade you it didn't exist, did she?

  17. At 11:52 PM on 17 Nov 2006, Annasee wrote:

    Well well well,I've just looked in the garden & an exhausted pigeon was on the back doorstep holding my PM newsletter. I asked him what he thought he was doing after 10pm delivering letters that were sent 8 hours earlier - he just hung his head in shame. Invited him in for a bit of birdseed & a chat, it turns out he's the only pigeon working for PM now - bbc budget cuts meant the others were "Laid off", & he has to make 1600 deliveries every day, & today mine just happened to be last. Poor little thing.

    Mr Mair, you should be ashamed of yourself, working a poor little pigeon so hard. Why can't you use this new-fangled "E mail" thingie like everyone else does, apparently.

    Yours faithfully,
    A PM Listener & Pigeon admirer

  18. At 12:55 AM on 18 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    Oh Annasee (18), thank you for that LOL - really cheered me up.

    A, x.

  19. At 01:32 AM on 18 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    Whilst this thread is multi-subject, I want to to take up the paedophile issue and whisht's comment.

    I don't have such immediate experience as W, but did briefly work on military avionics (and have other more benign experiences that are relevant) and it does Make You Think. In my current capacity, I can't help thinking that I could learn something from W - perhaps I'll link in some contact details.

    The whole paedophile question is one I have thought about for more years than I care to remember. Somebody made the comment about British adults not helping a child in need for fear of the potential consequences. I remember, not a lot less than 20 years ago meeting a tiny child who wanted to go home but was terrified of passing a rather fierce dog. Naturally, I tried to "comfort" her [and was subsequently arrested... Sorry, that was a sick joke] and said it was ok and I would walk with her. She took hold of my hand and we walked the - what? - 20-30 yards to get her to "safety". I remember now that the fear of this being conceived as something other than it was was in my mind much more than helping the kid. She went off home, happy to have escaped the [fenced off, as it happens] dog and I walked off still concerned.

    I have absolutely no truck with Sarah's/Megan's Law. As far as I am concerned, it is simply a media conceit. That said, the issue of paedophilia worries me. As a slightly obscure analogy, let's take Catholic priests, these are peopple who in the main have "ordinary" heterosexual inclinations and "choose" not to act upon them. There are then, paedophiles, who because of their "nature" are attracted to young children, and we can imagine some recognise that this inclination is judged to be unacceptable and "choose" not to act upon it. This to me is a "risk" group, but certainly one that should be supported. But what to do about the (I'm sure, relatively small) group who do not consider their "inclinaton" to be unacceptable? Is this group a part of "society" in the sense that they should be cared for, or simply in the sense that they should be idntified and "locked up"? I have to admit that my own bias is that the small number of "stranger offenders" should not be free in society. If they are free, then I struggle with the balance between their freedom to "predate" and the freedom of "concerned parents" to "protect" their children. I say this knowing that within a generation, or less, of my own, the concept of the "funny men" - to be avoided - was prevalent.

    As has been stated, the problem is not a new one, nor one that is growing out of control, but in the hands of the "popular press" it is one that is likely to provoke action. I do believe that it requires "decent minded folk" to think about their position before a violent vocal minority and an overly liberal minority take the debate into too obscure and abstract territory.

    [Sorry, can't be bothered to preview - need to go to bed - too much wine - apols if this is something I will want to retract tomorrow!]

  20. At 02:26 AM on 18 Nov 2006, Valery P wrote:

    Annasee, wonderful stuff, I am humbled by the wit of fellow froggers. Keep it up! thanks, on that note I shall retire.

  21. At 12:05 PM on 18 Nov 2006, whisht wrote:

    oops all,
    sorry - my posting was done through a fug of beer.
    Now posting through a hangover so this might be just as poor...!!

    my point as unfocussed as it was (good go for trying though marymary!!) was about journalists (as opposed to the actual paedophiles)

    We all do our work and get on with it and sometimes have good days and sometimes have bad days and sometimes make decisions we shouldn't.

    Sometimes the consequences of poor decisions are minor and sometimes the consequences are serious.

    My example being a poor decision leading to people being put in danger, which is exactly what the journalists who knowingly clamour for a law to be passed where they can then mislead the public about the risk of "stranger danger" and thereby be complicit in putting people (guilty or otherwise) in danger.

    hence it would be interesting to ask certain journalists if they had considered this, had knowingly made poor decisons or simply follow what their Editors ask for.

    Now writing this again I think i'm being a tad simplistic, but that was the mood of the moment last night!

    To be honest I didn't comment about paedophiles per se but I think John H covered most things (yet again).

  22. At 05:58 PM on 18 Nov 2006, whisht wrote:

    oh - that's odd. My reply to John H et al hasn't appeared.

    I mentioned that the clarity of my post last night was affected by a beer or 3 and that I'd been simplistic but that I wanted to stress how decsions we make affect others.

    that's not moderator territory so I guess I posted at a "busy" time.

    pity, cos I won't attempt to write my thoughts a 3rd time but hey ho. no loss i guess.

  23. At 06:05 PM on 18 Nov 2006, Helen wrote:

    It is an absolute joy to find myself reading such sane minded comments, & Annasee made me laugh. I knew there was a good reason for posting here, & thanks very much Fearless Fred (13) for saying my post was well stated. I had been slightly concerned that my peculiar copying & pasting might have led some to think I represent the protection of paediatricians’ society… I would just like to pick up on some of the beautifully made points.

    As marymary (14) says; “the issue here is child safety” which we can’t legislate for. Our society would be healthier if all adults were looking out for all children, speaking up when something looks odd, & identifying the “funny man” (John H, 20). Paedophiles can be manipulative, and single out the vulnerable, but a collective responsibility would mean a whole lot more adults would be aware of the behaviour of other adults, which might just negate the need for the risk avoidance which I find an unwelcome feature of our lives.

    The other issue which has long been on my mind is treatment. I am a card carrying liberal, but like John H (20), even I would lock the doors of the small number of paedophiles who are committed to their predilection & I perceive their behaviours as being as pathological as those of the prisoners in Rampton. If it is a given that that other peadophiles would rather not have their inclination towards children, I have been thinking that it must be very hard for them to seek help in the current climate, & wondering how they could access ‘treatment’. Prison Treatment programmes for sex offenders tend to use CBT, & appear to have proved effective if judged on the rate of recidivism. Short of incarceration, I wonder what is available outside the CJS, & for those who have not yet offended… but fear they might.

    The moral panic, somewhat created by the media, is dangerous if it prevents anyone seeking support & it is definitely erroneous in making parents behave over-protectively towards their children. As Whisht (15) so rightly points out, news people are not dummies, & Journalists on the tabloids are just as smart as those on the broadsheets, so let’s have a discussion with them to find out if they are fully informed, or just looking at the circulation numbers.

    Is the NOTW using its power without responsibility? I think Eddie is just the man to chair such a debate, don’t you all?

  24. At 10:21 PM on 18 Nov 2006, marymary wrote:

    It's great to see a open minded debate on the subject of child abusers.

    I listened to Any Questions today and the panel were on the whole putting some good points.

    I hadn't appreciated that the suggestion was that a single parent could only access police information if they had reasonable grounds.

    This is worrying on several fronts. Firstly, as the panel pointed out, if you had such grounds wouldn't you just make a complaint to the police.

    Secondly and more frightening was a point touched on by someone in any answers. If you went to the police with "reasonable grounds" you can bet your bottom dollar that the police would take a serious note and if there wasn't sufficient information for a criminal inquiry there would almost certainly be enough to alert social services.

    There is therefore a huge potential for abuses of the law by bitter partners who can then say that they weren't making a false allegation (and thus attempting to pervert the course of justice) and abuses by the authorities.

    It has the potential for stigmatising people who are completely innocent. It does happen now that people who have not abused children are accused of such abuse for all sorts of convoluted reasons.

    The resultant confusion would be bound to mean that such laws could create a smoke screen behind which the real offenders could hide. Nobody wins with such sloppy forensic thinking.


  25. At 11:05 PM on 19 Nov 2006, whisht wrote:

    Hi Helen (Sparkles) - glad you joined in the conversation.

    Not really in addition to what's being said but a far clearer thinker than I (Ben Goldacre a doctor and writer of "Bad Science" in the Guardian) wrote this about the paucity of reporters actually reporting (rather than simply retelling what they've been told and thus misinforming the public).

    His exasperation comes acropss well in terms of expecting a modicum of fact-checking before pen hit paper. His gripe is more in the Science field where similar lax reporting (with dangerous results) occurs (his example is of the anti-MMR reporting).

    anyway, just thought I'd say hello, thanks, and hope to hear from you again, as you're clearly asking questions that desrve answers!

  26. At 08:37 AM on 20 Nov 2006, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    Very interesting posts. Helen (10) wrote,
    "... many, if not most, adults would no longer stop to help a child, even if ..."

    And new child car seat regulations prevent many of us even from giving a lift to most children.

  27. At 10:13 AM on 20 Nov 2006, Whisht wrote:

    blimey - now there's a coincidence.
    Seems there's an Institute of Journalism being launched today (or so Today said - can't find it on the newss.bbc.co.uk site as yet).

    and then they had a whole piece on the difficulties of reporting wars and the need for experts.....

    btw - I too would flinch from helping a child in case someone thought I was a bit "weird". Hopefully it wouldn't stop me but the thought would be there. Its terrible. As a tall guy who walks quite quickly I also tend to move to the other side of the road if I see a lone woman ahead of me rather than "catch up" and overtake. It'd be ccomical if it wasn't so sad.

  28. At 09:37 PM on 11 Dec 2006, ricky wrote:

    please put "the eye of animated christmas EVE" on TV is feaure hurry up distribute and put on channel.please put on soon, kids love to watch it on BBC.
    thank you.

    © 2006 United Productions Licensed by BBC Worldwide Limited

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