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Eddie Mair | 06:18 UK time, Monday, 28 May 2007

Something serious you want to raise? Even something never heard on PM? This is the place.


  1. At 09:08 AM on 28 May 2007, Peej wrote:

    I wonder what other froggers think about the proposed new powers for the police? My first reaction is that its a step too far, but I have lived all my life in a society where the police (and army) have exactly those rights. Being stopped occasionally was part of daily life, and being honest it was no more than a mild nuisance, I certainly didn't feel that my human rights had been eroded. On my weekly flights to England I still pass under the steely gaze of two special branch officers, peace process notwithstanding. The nub of the matter is that I recognised there was a very real and very active terrorist threat and that the occasional checkpoint was in small a way my contribution to its eradication. So the question for someone living in Great Britain is, do you feel under threat of terrorism? and / or do you trust those in authority who tell you that you should feel under threat? I suspect that for many the answer is no, and no.

  2. At 10:18 AM on 28 May 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    My thoughts lie more with Africa today. Listening to Start the Week this morning, combined with an ongoing anguish about the situation in Darfur, the atrocities being committed by the Jinjawid, and the failure of the international community to exert pressure on African states to intervene.

    The following links to an Amnesty video on the situation. Mind, it is nothing as harrowing as the reports from the region that we have had recently on Today, but it is a useful introduction to the situation.


  3. At 11:21 AM on 28 May 2007, Peej wrote:

    I agree with you Big Sis. But its a very difficult subject to discuss without being labelled as a racist, (which I most certainly am not). I wouldn't try and minimise the West's responsibility in these matters, but surely Africa has to do its bit too? Can you imagine the African reaction if the events in Darfur / Rwanda / Zimbabwe / Nigeria / Sierra Leone / Somalia / Ethiopia / Eritrea etc were being perpertrated by a group perceived to be 'non-African'? The West can throw money at the problem, but it can't eradicate corruption, nor can it create a stable security situation without putting its troops on the ground - Sierra Leone proves the point to an extent. That's where we should be committing forces - not a lost cause like Iraq.

  4. At 11:55 AM on 28 May 2007, Big Sister wrote:


    I totally agree with almost everything you say in your posting, and you'll have noted that I carefully said that I referred to a need for the international community to exert pressure on African states to intervene, i.e. I think we outside Africa have a moral duty to express as clearly as possible our censure of events, yet should be expecting other African nations to take the lead.

    As ex colonial countries, we do have to tread very carefully as we are not blameless, in a general sense, over some of the problems which rack Africa today. The involvement of the developed nations in Africa's past and present for economic advantage have indubitably made it extremely difficult for us to make our humanitarian concerns to be heard by African governments. Nevertheless, that isn't a reason not to try.

    I certainly don't think we should have committed troops to Iraq, as I think regular froggers know, but I don't think either that we should commit them to Sierra Leone, except at the specific invitation of Africa and for clearly specified purposes. UN peacekeeping troops, as has been pointed out elsewhere, are largely useless in these instances too.

  5. At 01:43 PM on 28 May 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Frog seems to be a bit random today, and my response to Peej has gone walkabout.

  6. At 02:03 PM on 28 May 2007, Gillian wrote:

    Big Sister (2) I heard Start the Week, too...how desperate that father must have been, to ask a stranger to take his child away to give him/her the chance of a better life.
    Peej (3) To suggest that Africa has to take responsibility for its own affairs strikes me as realist, not racist. However, the West should exert pressure on those African nations who can take action to do just that.
    This was also a point made on Start the Week....how to help those worst affected to help themselves?

  7. At 02:12 PM on 28 May 2007, ben wrote:

    I am amused to note the silence that is greeting the official "unofficial" visit of the Emperor and Empress of JAPAN. Lunch or Supper in Oxford with VC Patten; tomorrow ditto with HM the Queen. But Embassy refused to allow Arthur Titherington, former slave worker, to request the Emperor that the Emperor bring pressure upon the Japanese Government to apologise formally.

    Why is the BBC not reporting the visit which is reported by Reuters and the Scotsman?

  8. At 02:18 PM on 28 May 2007, Peej wrote:

    The Sierra Leone case is an interesting one. A very small ( a battalion or so) was commited to stop a few hundred armed thugs from sweeping aside the regular army and bringing mayhem to the capital. It was done ar the invitation of their government, was very low profile and very successful. But of course a situation like Darfur where the government is hostile even to Aid Agencies is a different matter. I guess the point I'm making is that if the government in question for reasons of its own won't co-operate (Darfur Zimbabwe) or if there really isn't a government (Somalia). We have a choice - impose a secure environment or prepare for some more ghastly TV images. What do you think Big Sis - am I missing another way round it?

  9. At 02:50 PM on 28 May 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Well, Peej, I rather think it's a case of building bridges within Africa.

    There is no doubt that it is an enormously thorny issue - Tim Butcher (for it was he on Start the Week) commented on the level of corruption and indifference within the governments of some African states, with nests being feathered by the few at the expense of the many. Whether we try to appeal to the greed of those who hold power by bribing them to accept reform, or try to bring on those who appear least susceptible to corruption, I think a degree of pragmatism is inevitable. Whatever help is offered from outside, however, needs to be presented as 'no strings' or it risks being misrepresented.

    I don't think there can be direct intervention from our quarter: rather there needs to be support for those in Africa who are willing to tackle the issue from within by persuasion and example. International censure is probably helpful, but sanctions are always more difficult as they tend to hit worst those who are already suffering.

    Support for organisations like Amnesty International, Medecins Sans Frontieres, and the charities actively working in the region are probably the best we can do at an individual level.

  10. At 03:20 PM on 28 May 2007, Travis wrote:

    There was talk of building a bridge from Africa to Gibraltar.

    Now that would be an impressive erection!

  11. At 05:41 PM on 28 May 2007, madmary wrote:

    Just heard Diane Abbot about the new "sus" laws. I tend to agree with her but the real reason we should resist these things is that the police will use them to stop anybody. I rather think I don't want to live in a country where I have to justify my presence in the streets.

    We must be free to go about our business.

    And this tosh that TB peddles that we give too much consideration to the civil liberties of suspects makes my blood boil.

    This is to say, is it not, that civil liberties of us all must be subservient to the aims of government? We are all suspects in a country where the police have the right to stop us all and demand to know what we are doing.

    And lest anyone thinks that because they haven't done anything wrong they will have nothing to worry about, I refer them to the many many people who are arrested by the police who are not prosecuted for offences because they haven't committed any offences.


  12. At 05:54 PM on 28 May 2007, Frances O wrote:

    Back to peej's first post for me.

    (I don't feel I know enough to comment on the many terrible occurrences in Africa, BBC news notwithstanding)

    And drawing together three recent stories: chip n bin, CCTV and stop and search.

    We are under surveillance, observation and prying eyes so much that 1984 springs predictably to mind.

    When I lived, for a few months, in Belfast I actually felt safer if I was out at night knowing that there would be RUC not too far away. But then I lived and worked in fairly 'neutral' territory, if there was/is such a thing.

    Now, back in London, where the terrorist threat seems to be focussed, I feel fairly safe from terrorists - as safe as any other. It's street-level violence I am afraid of - I was mugged nearly a year ago and no CCTV cameras captured the assailant - and I'm pretty wary now.

    I don't think that the stop and search measures are going to be used against (supposed?) terrorists as much as against other people, probably young males, probably young non-white males, who may or may not be involved in crime.

    So was Diana Abbott over the top in likening stop and search to the old Sus laws?

  13. At 06:20 PM on 28 May 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Frances @ 12
    'So was Diana Abbott over the top in likening stop and search to the old Sus laws?'

    No, I don't think so. The old 'nothing fear if you've nothing to hide' garbage applies now, just as it did then.

    This is just one more bit of unnecessary authoritarian panic-legislation that will fail to do what it is ostensibly intended to do, will annoy a lot of people, will make the unfortunate police even less respected, and will get everyone feeling even more got at than we do already.

  14. At 06:40 PM on 28 May 2007, pedant wrote:

    Having missed pm I did just manage to hear the tail of the 6pm news tonight.

    Alas, the newsreader referred to a "Robin Reliant" in one item. Please get it right and call the vehicle by it's correct name - Relaint Robin. After all we never hear of Escort Ford or Viva Vauxhall.

  15. At 06:47 PM on 28 May 2007, eddie mair wrote:

    Do you mean Reliant Robin? What sort of a pedant are you?


  16. At 06:50 PM on 28 May 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Here's my tuppence on the proposed new ploice measures...

    1. Currently, the terrorist threat is seen as coming from a specific group of people, namely radicalised Muslims.Can anyone tell just by looking at a person if they're "radicalised" or not? So, I can see a case whereby Police officers tend to target young Muslims in general. This will have the effect of pushing the disaffected young Muslims towards the very cause we are in conflict with. It will also push the families of those stopped away from the Police, just when we need them to be closer, and more willing to work with the Police to stop such acts...

    2. The high profile successes in anti-terrorism we've seen over the decades have almost always been due to intelligence-led inquiries. That is wher we should be focussing our efforts.

    3. If these measures are neded, why the sudden decision to push them forward now? Why weren't they part of the last anti-terrorism package? There's been no recent events that spring to my mind that could be a "starting point" for this call. Yes, we've had the three people under control orders who are now "at large". This measure isn't related at all. So why the need for the new measures? Aren't the measures in section 44 of the terrorism act 2000 enough? These allow for officers to stop and search without suspicion in areas where there is deemed to be a risk of terrorism. This already covers the whole of London, all the airports, etc.

    4. The measure itself would give the right of the Police to demand your identity and an explanation of your movements. Failure to do so would leave you with a fine up to 5000 pounds. Now, how are we to prove our identity? Yes, some of us have driving licences, but not all. Would a credit card be sufficient? What about the times where you don't happen to take your wallet or purse with you?Oh, yes! It's obvious now. we'll need some sort of Identity Card! And while it won't be compulsory to carry it with you in the enabling legislation, the use of it as the only "credible" form of ID will make it compulsory by default.

    5. Just how do you prove what your movements are/will be?

    6. If you get fined for not having sufficient ID, does that mean you'll have a criminal record for not carrying a wallet?

    7. Finally, why should John Reid and Tony Blair still be setting agendas for the government and the country? in less than a month, we will have a new Prime Minister. We know who it will be. Gordon Brown should be the one proposing this. Likewise, we know that John Reid will no longer be Home Secretary. So, any such law would be for someone else to write and submit. I'm sorry, but this all comes across as an attempt to secure a legacy from Messers Blair and Reid. This is one legacy that the country should not stand for...


  17. At 06:58 PM on 28 May 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Eddie: Lol!

  18. At 06:59 PM on 28 May 2007, RJD wrote:

    "Robin Reliant" Google UK search - 10,900 finds.
    Perfectly OK!

  19. At 07:29 PM on 28 May 2007, Frances O wrote:

    2nd LOL, Eddie. And it's DianE, of course.

  20. At 07:36 PM on 28 May 2007, Escort Ford wrote:

    Out for a quick spin with my pals Viva Vauxhall and Fabia Skoda in Ben's Mercedes..... We're on our way to look in on Robin Reliant, who's been a little offcentre of late.

    Toodle-pip, Eddie, and thanks for giving him a name check!

  21. At 07:40 PM on 28 May 2007, pedant wrote:

    Yes Eddie, I did really leave myself wide open with that typing error. Will have to get a new spullchicker.

  22. At 07:42 PM on 28 May 2007, Escort Ford wrote:

    Out for a quick spin with my pals Viva Vauxhall and Fabia Skoda in Ben's Mercedes..... We're on our way to look in on Robin Reliant, who's been a little offcentre of late.

    Toodle-pip, Eddie, and thanks for giving him a name check!

  23. At 09:33 PM on 28 May 2007, Ford Prefect wrote:

    Just back from seeing Zaphod. He still has two heads and three arms. Pan galactic Gargle blasters all round

  24. At 09:42 PM on 28 May 2007, Stewart M wrote:

    FF (16) I agree. I see lots of muslim youths as patients. I can't tell who is radical or not.

    There is a major problem with youth unemployment. I don't know if the south asian unemployment rate is greater than that in the caucasian youth. Its a few years since the Bradford Riot but I worry that groups such as the BNP and the diasaffected youth may raise the underlying tension.

  25. At 09:50 PM on 28 May 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Fearless (@16) Well said.

    You miseed some bits, though.

    You ask

    'Can anyone tell just by looking at a person if they're "radicalised" or not?' in relation to young Muslims.

    There's another important question to ask as well:

    'Can anyone tell just by looking at a person if they're Muslim or not?'

    Not every young man with a brown skin is a Muslim: there are also Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Taoists, Christians and probably Pagans who happen to have brown skins. Not all people of Arab origin are followers of Islam, nor yet all people from the Indian subcontinent.

    What's more, not all Muslims have dark skins: some people of European ethnic origin are followers of Islam.

    So [a], the police may well stop a whole lot of non-Muslims for the offence of being potentially a radicalised Muslim, and [b], as soon as they work that out, they may stop any young man of any ethnic origin for possibly being a Muslim who might possibly be radicalised.

    Or anyone else behaving suspiciously by walking after dark, standing still for more than ten minutes, having a bicycle, having a beard, having a scruffy coat in a 'nice' area of town, being under the age of thirty, not being under the age of thirty....

    I'm not saying that they *will* do this; I am very concerned indeed becasue under this legislation if it gets past consultation, they *could*, and as you say, once they had, five thousand quid is a rather large penalty for not taking a wallet with one.

  26. At 11:48 PM on 28 May 2007, Val P wrote:

    Just want to point out that I wasn't the pedant in question at 21, I've given all that up ;o) (unless I'm getting paid for it!)

  27. At 09:42 AM on 29 May 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Chris, Thanks for that. I had missed the other issue of how to tell if someone is a Muslim or not....

    I was interested by a report in the Grauniad yesterday that basically said that this hadn't been a request from the Police, rather it was a surprise to ACPO, and one senior officer branded it as "bizarre". The full story is here:


    Sounds as if this really is politically driven, rather than something that the Police have asked for. The role of the government and parliament in situations like this should be to take the requests from the Police for the powers, scrutinise them, and determine what powers should be granted in line with the values and standards of the liberal democracy that we live in.

  28. At 02:05 PM on 29 May 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Hmm, Fearless (27), whilst I agree with you on the point that this shouldn't be decided in political terms, I don't feel it should be entirely down to the police to request powers either -- public involement, for instance, is an important factor.

  29. At 02:57 PM on 29 May 2007, Jo Christie-Smith wrote:

    Once again, Fearless Fred (16) I'm with you! You are right to be concerned and also Chris Ghoti (25) makes a crucial point.

    One thought I'd like to throw in for consideration by the furrowed brow, when discussing stop & questioning and stop & search is the impact on the DNA database.

    I am going to assume that the purpose of new stop and questioning powers is to identify, arrest and convict more potential terrorists or just 'ordinary' criminals. Once this happens the police will take their DNA and put them on the DNA database.

    Some DNA database facts:

    25% of the people on the database innocent of any crime
    In London, 57% of the innocent people on the database are in fact non-white.
    A third of all the black population in England & Wales is already on the database.

    It is clear that the DNA database is becoming racially skewed, to mirror a racial skew in the police’s stop and search/questioning policy.

    This will eventually mean that an even higher proportion of convicted people are non-white.

    It is also at risk of being used for research purposes to racially profile suspects DNA. If the DNA were being collected in a random fashion it would not be as potentially socially explosive.

    Chris Ghoti's post underlines exactly why these things are so pernicious. A leap is made from colour of the skin to behaviour and then, in the UK, it gets hard coded into data on databases.

    I consider myself very fortunate to be living in Britain and I love my home, the country (England) and the city I live in (London) but when I think about how we as a nation are the world leaders in compiling databases on our citizens such as the dna database I hang my head in shame.

    "Those who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security." (Benjamin Franklin)

  30. At 03:07 PM on 29 May 2007, Jo Christie-Smith wrote:

    Actually, I did come to the furrowed brow, as directed by Eddie, to comment on the dutch game show that is offering a kidney as a prize.

    The whole idea horrifies me and makes me feel really quite sick. Are these people human beings? I can't even believe that this has to be pointed out, but, if there's a kidney you give it to the person who needs it. What are they going to do if she doesn't 'win' it: let her die???????

    So, now I am hanging my head in shame whilst feeling queasy...I think I should go out for a walk.

  31. At 03:29 PM on 29 May 2007, Richard Gosling wrote:

    Air travel making organic food non-organic??? Surely organic food is just about how it is grown, about non-intensive farming without the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides etc.

    There might well be ethical considerations about how the food is transported (and other issues such as ethical treatment of the producers), but I cannot see how that changes the organic-ness of the food.

    In addition, will it even be possible to buy organic tropical fruit if they cannot be transported by air?

  32. At 04:18 PM on 29 May 2007, Mr Nikki Noodle wrote:

    Whilst I'm all for cutting down on chemicals in farming, I think to add air-miles (or road-miles) into that label called 'organic' is not helpful. I want to buy local as a way of cutting down CO2 emissions. They are separate and not swappable terminology.


  33. At 05:23 PM on 29 May 2007, barrie singleton wrote:

    How did the planet get its different ethnic types? The only possible answer is “long isolation”. Living amongst “our own” means no need for inbuilt tolerance of difference; over a long time this makes us de facto intolerant. Each ethnic group is fundamentally intolerant of any other but the pot has been stirred. Organised society and prosperity can minimise consequences. When stress arrives (recession, war/internment or what have you?) difference triggers strife – especially in an alcohol fuelled society. Put simply: non-white suspects in a white country are to be expected, but this is tiny compared to the underlying potential for difference-based mayhem.

  34. At 10:35 AM on 30 May 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Appy (28) You are right in that informed public opinion should be a great part of this and any debate/decision on any new legislation. The problem with this is "How informed are the public"? I would say that a lot of people will have their opinions formed by the 30-second soundbite that tends to be used in TV news. As a culture, we demand that we get everything now. This applies to the news and current affairs as well as everything else. On issues like these, there's a lot of background information and debate that isn't covered by news bulletins. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't take the effort to dig deeper. This leads to an over-reliance on the most strident voice as "percieved wisdom" and aquiescence to a point of view without others being considered. As an extreme example, you only have to look at certain sectors of US media that pushed the line that disagreeing with the President during the Iraq war was tantamount to treason. This was screamed from the metaphorical rooftops so loudly that political debate was almost quashed for two years. We need people to take the time to think, question, and debate the issues, rather than be rushed into bringing in legislation...

    As for the other strands of debate here, I'll add my opinions a little later, once I've had another coffee (fairtrade!)

  35. At 12:14 PM on 30 May 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:



  36. At 01:14 PM on 30 May 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    I quite agree with you Fearless (34), but there is no right answer -- who can decide whether someone is well informed enough to be party to making make a decision? The world belongs to stupid people as well as everyone else (;-p). I didn't mean to suggest that only public involvement is important-- but I think it must be a factor. Neither do I infer from your earlier posting that you meant that only the police should be able to make recommendations, but I was flagging it up just in case.

    I believe that the role of the police -- and other public servants -- needs to be based upon inter alia the evidence of solid research into effectiveness and broad concensus. Expert opinion is important, as is public ownership. I don't think that's going to be too controversial?

  37. At 03:11 PM on 30 May 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:



  38. At 11:38 PM on 30 May 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    What are you pushing Fearless? It must be rather heavy as it's taking a lot of doing ;-)

  39. At 10:02 AM on 31 May 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Sorry Appy for pushing :-) I guess it's something to do with the network at work. For some reason my 34 and your 36 weren't visible until I'd logged on at home. You must've been able to see mine at lease, as you commented on it. Strange!!!

  40. At 10:45 AM on 31 May 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Okay, as promised, here's my thoughts o the Organic/Air Miles debate...
    I think both sides are right in this case! These aren't mutually exclusive standpoints. Whilst I support those who wish to eat food that has been grown/reared without the use of pesticides, herbicides, hormones, etc, we are now at a point where we have to consider the impact that bring the food half way round the world has on the environment. I think the real problem is that we as a consumer society have become too demanding. We seem to want to have all sorts of fruit, veg, meat, and fish available to us all through the year. That leads the supermarkets importing foodstuffs from wherever they can get it, usually by air to ensure they stay fresh (the foodstuffs, that is, not the supermarkets!). We've lost the ability to accept that some foodstuffs are seasonal. We also want to appear more "global" in our lifestyles, so we want to make meals that, say 30 years ago, we wouldn't even have considered. I think we need to consider what we choose to eat more carefully in order to reduce our impact on the environment

  41. At 08:13 PM on 31 May 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    There you go again Fearless -- talking sense!

  42. At 10:41 PM on 01 Jun 2007, s0up_dragon wrote:

    This my first post here.
    A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine at work was given a discount card by our local pub. Great you’d think. However my friend is a smoker and the discount card was intended only for smokers and gives them 10% off for themselves and a guest. The barman didn’t think this was right and was actually only giving them to people he knew.
    This is an attempt by the owners to try to maintain support from smokers after the ban next month, but actually it is discriminating against non-smokers isn’t it?
    What they are saying is “If you smoke we’ll give you cheap drinks!” How is that helping the health of the nation?

  43. At 11:16 AM on 03 Jun 2007, Peteb wrote:

    Do you think i should petition the government to remove 50% of street/road lights and install metal reflectors on the remaining 50%,
    thereby halving this astronomical energy waste and vastly inproving the terrible light polution throughout the UK

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