BBC BLOGS - See Also

Archives for May 2011

Media reaction to Fifa's dramas

Clare Spencer | 14:10 UK time, Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Sepp Blatter

 

Commentators give their suggestions about how Fifa should be run. It's in the run-up to the Fifa election now that the organisation's current president Sepp Blatter is the only person left in the running for the position after Mohamed Bin Hammam and Jack Warner were provisionally suspended over allegations that financial incentives were offered to Caribbean Football Union members.

 

The Qatar based Gulf Times urges Fifa to make serious reforms:

"It would have been ideal if Blatter himself had stepped down himself after naming someone as the acting head until investigations concluded against Bin Hammam and a new date set for the election, which now has lost its meaning and relevance. When there is only one candidate in the running, it only points to a dictatorial set-up and not a democratic one."

Mark Perryman says in the Guardian that the fans have to pick up the bill for Fifa so they should have a say in how it is run:

"Worldwide, most fans have three demands: as many tickets for World Cups as possible should go to the fans, not the sponsors, and they should be at the lowest possible price. And all games should be screened on free-to-air TV, not overpriced subscription channels. Above all, serving Fifa should not be a job for life nor a way to get rich quick. If football's bureaucrats, many of whom do an excellent job, but some we know do anything but, were outnumbered three to one at a Fifa congress by the players, coaches and fans, it would transform the organisation for the better overnight."

In the New York Times' soccer blog, Simon Clancy thinks Fifa should speak for the fans:

"Fans don't want to hear that any more than they want to see Fifa's untouchables riding in chauffeur-driven cars and checking into the world's best hotels. They don't want to hear about privilege or backhanders. And they certainly don't want to hear Blatter refuse to answer questions from nasty journalists over whether FIFA's house is in order.
 
"Supporters actually don't want much. A little transparency perhaps. But what they want most of all is for the beautiful game to be theirs, to see it in its electrifying glory as it was when Barcelona tore apart Manchester United on Saturday. They want a new Emperor."

In South Africa's Mail and Guardian Verashini Pillay compares Sepp Blatter to Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi:

"There are quite a few similarities between Muammar Gaddafi and Sepp Blatter. They're both ancient, unwelcome, and have a penchant for ludicrous statements...
 
"The idea that Blatter will stand unopposed to again take the helm of the football super-body on Wednesday is utterly repulsive given the background of the situation. The two possible contenders for the throne were taken out of play by a series of political plays that saw them suspended for corrupt activities. Blatter was cleared of all wrongdoing by an internal committee of the organisation he is president of.
 
"It is a blatant mockery of any sort of system of accountability.

"And that is where Blatter echoes the Libyan dictator. He may not have murdered dozens or been complicit in genocide, but his sheer lack of accountability and greed put him firmly in the same camp as Gaddafi."

 

The Economist's Buttonwood suggests why the the press has reacted with outrage:

"Sepp Blatter's attempts to deal with journalists yesterday brought to mind the image of an absolute monarch confronted with some awkward questions from the plebs. His tone implied that humble hacks should not be allowed to question his integrity, or that of his organisation.
 
"Now the British press has many faults, from a prurient interest in the sex lives of sports stars through to the occasional bout of xenophobia. But along with the American media, the British newspapers have a robust attitude towards people in authority and a deep suspicion of deals done behind closed doors. There is no surer way to provoke a campaign against your organisation than to patronise or lecture the assembled press."

Daily View: Are judges battling MPs?

Clare Spencer | 10:00 UK time, Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Commentators are describing what they see as a battle between MPs and judges following differing views on superinjunctions, the sacking of Haringey's director of children's services Sharon Shoesmith and the release of a burglar to look after his children.

In the Daily Mail Stephen Glover had previously accused judges of being an "inward-looking and obstinate a private clique" over issuing super-injunctions. He adds in an article objecting to a burglar being released to look after his five children, that this will add to the long list of abuses of the Human Rights Act's right to family life:

"I have no doubt that, following the freeing of the burglar Wayne Bishop, dozens of lawyers clutching copies of the Human Rights Act will now be queuing up in the hope of getting their clients out of prison.
 
"As Article Eight has spawned numerous unforeseen privacy and deportation cases, so it may now be used to enable prisoners to walk free from jail. I suppose it is one way of achieving Ken Clarke's ambition of fewer prison places, but it is wrong and unjust, and must be stopped.
 
"Will the absurdity of Mr Bishop's early release - an absurdity so extreme as to be beyond parody - finally galvanise David Cameron into action?"

The Guardian's editorial sticks up for judges against politicians' criticisms but admits that they could do more to improve their image:

"The judges' defence, that they do no more than interpret the law as parliament has made it, is true, though not the whole story. Politicians are wrong to moan that judicial decisions threaten the sovereignty of parliament, even when - as the court of appeal did last Friday in the Shoesmith ruling - upholding the rule of law checks governmental action. But it is also true that judges make choices, and unless MPs subsequently change the law, those choices determine what the law is.
 
"The set of standoffs between the legislators and what used to be called the least-dangerous branch of government are triggering fresh attacks on the independence of judges, based on the argument that "political" law-making demands political accountability."

Political blogger Tim Worstall goes back to the basics to explain why he backs up three appeal judges' decision to overturn Sharon Shoesmith's sacking by Ed Balls without a proper procedure:

"The man in power doesn't get to do what he likes (or thinks in his judgment is in the public interest), but only what is already written down that he is allowed to do. He must, although he be elected and ever so high and mighty, follow the same procedures as the rest of us...
 
"Don't forget, this law stuff, this civil liberties stuff, the whole set of assumptions about public hearings, assumptions of innocence, juries, double jeopardy, the rule of law. They are not quaint archaic hangovers, they are not there just to hamper the pursuit of the guilty. They are there to protect us, the citizenry, from the politicians, the people wielding the power of the State."

Mary Riddell argues in the Telegraph that the conflict between MPs and judges has only just begun and at the heart of it is the UK's stance on human rights, something she urges to take seriously:

"There will be no prospect of progress, and every chance of disaster, unless judges pick their fights with care (no more easy injunctions for rich adulterers), politicians stop abusing their role (no more treating the Commons chamber like the parliamentary wing of Twitter) and society abandons an insular view of human rights under which unpopular minorities, prisoners included, are the legitimate prey of the lynch mob.
 
"As Ratko Mladic, the butcher of Srebrenica, is shuffled towards the dock, it pays to recall the blood sacrifice, the genocide and the torture that ensue when the rule of law collapses and human rights are scorned. Fulminating politicians, murmuring judges, greedy lawyers and outraged citizens should all remember the necessary compromises of a nation purporting to be just and fair and free."

Earlier last week Vernon Bogdanor said in the Times the super-injunctions and previous prisoner rights conflict highlight a constitutional crisis - where it isn't clear who is the authority on a matter:

"MPs and judges are both coming to believe that the other has broken the constitution. Many MPs believe that judges are thwarting the will of Parliament, usurping the power of judicial review so that it is being transformed into judicial supremacy. Judges reply that they are doing no more than applying the Human Rights Act as Parliament intended, and that MPs have no right to flout a court order.
 
"The British constitution is coming to mean something different to judges from what it means to Parliament. The argument from parliamentary sovereignty points in one direction, the argument from the rule of law in another. How will this be resolved? One possibility, favoured by many MPs is to reinforce Parliament's sovereignty by modifying the Human Rights Act, and perhaps even to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. The Government recently established a commission to investigate these options.
 
"The alternative would be to transform a state based on parliamentary sovereignty into a genuinely constitutional one by enacting a constitution."

Daily View: Looking ahead to Mladic's trial

Clare Spencer | 08:56 UK time, Friday, 27 May 2011

 

Ratko Mladic

 

Commentators discuss the arrest of of former head of the Bosnian Serb army Ratko Mladic. He has been on the run for 16 years as he faces genocide charges over the 1992-95 Bosnian war

Author Adam LeBor points out in the Financial Times the similarities between Ratko Mladic and Colonel Gaddafi:

"General Ratko Mladic, like Muammer Gaddafi, was once our friend, to be courted and flattered...
 
"For Pale in the 1990s, read Tripoli in the 21st century. The Libyan capital was for years the centre of the useful idiots tour of the Middle East, where Col Gaddafi and his son Saif were lauded by left-wing politicians and intellectuals, as the centre of a new civic dawning.
 
"But if Gen Mladic and the Gaddafis likely share a destination in the dock on charges of crimes against humanity, there the similarity between Bosnia and Libya ends."

In the Globe and Mail Misha Glenny disputes accusations that Serbia's President Boris Tadic has been hiding General Mladic, arguing instead that he, more than anyone, wanted Mladic captured:

"For many years, Mr. Tadic has regarded the arrest of all remaining indictees of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, including Mr. Mladic, as his top political priority. He knew full well that until that happened, Serbia's aspiration to join the European Union would be blocked. Mr. Tadic has always recognized that European integration is vital for his country's future prosperity and for the harmony of the entire Balkan region.
 
"But this simple political calculation is secondary to Mr. Tadic's primary motivation, which is moral above all else."

Martin Bell argues in the Times that courts try cases, but cases also try courts . He gives some advice on how the trial should be conducted:

"Such high-profile cases test the fairness of the court's proceedings, as is happening now with Karadzic's trial. Mladic cannot be convicted on the basis of newspaper headlines.
 
"The tribunal would also do well, when Mladic is handed over to it, to narrow its focus and cut its list of charges and witnesses. It must proceed justly and expeditiously. But the sheer length of its proceedings makes it more likely that defendants will die in its custody, just as Slobodan Milosevic did. That would be a denial of justice, especially for the families of the victims.
 
"The trial of Ratko Mladic will probably be the tribunal's final Balkans case and will determine its reputation as well as his fate. It must deliver a fair trial, not a show trial, and one that does not stretch out to the crack of doom."

Chris Stephen asks in the Irish Times if the tribunal will do more harm than good:

"Mladic's chances in the dock appear bleak. They will rest on his assertion that he knew nothing of the genocide his men unleashed on Srebrenica.
 
"A bigger question, perhaps, is what effect this last, greatest, Hague tribunal trial will have. Will it finally close old wounds or cause them to spring violently open?"

The New York Times' editorial looks at what the future may now bring for the region:

"Europe now has to prove its sincerity and move Serbia's application to the European Union forward.
 
"We hope the arrest will also facilitate reconciliation among Bosnia's ethnic factions. There is plenty of blame. But the Bosnian Serb leadership in particular needs to abandon its fantasies about dismantling the multiethnic Bosnian state. It has few friends left in Belgrade and none anywhere else."

Daily View: What now for the Euro?

Clare Spencer | 11:48 UK time, Wednesday, 25 May 2011

At a time when Europe is looking at restructuring Greece's debt, more European countries are having debt problems and the euro has plummeted commentators ask if the euro is worth saving.

The Guardian's editorial says what happens this week in EU discussions in Frankfurt and Greece will "define the entire eurozone for years":

"Whatever the high politics of the Greek crisis there is a crucial aspect of the discussion that is not often aired: the economic reality. The cuts already imposed on Greece have seen its economy collapse and the budget deficit soar way above official forecasts. The emergency loans that Europe and the IMF extended to Athens a year ago were really nothing more than a means for the government to repay its debts rather than regenerate the economy. As Vince Cable rightly remarked yesterday: 'You can't just deal with this by cutting, cutting, cutting ... it does not work.' Sadly, Europe's policymakers are some way from recognising this; nor has the Athens government made the case."

Hamish McRae says in the Independent that the euro crisis is symptomatic of an illogical bond market:

"At the moment we have a two-tier situation in the bond markets. Most developed countries can borrow very cheaply, while a few can't borrow at all. This makes no sense. Ireland could borrow cheaply four years ago when it did not need to; now it can't when it does. This flip from easy money to the reverse represents a market failure and a lot of people have lost a lot of money as a result. So it is reasonable to expect investors being asked to lend to a country for, say, 30 years, to do due diligence about the likely tax base of the country in a generation and the implications of that for its current policies."

The Times editorial argues Britain should not be "in the business of bailing out the eurozone":

"Britain is fortunate that, having wisely not joined the single currency, it is protected to some degree against eurozone contagion. It is also not bound to chip in to every bailout fund beyond those obligations arising from its membership of the IMF and its participation in a European crisis fund agreed by the former Chancellor, Alistair Darling. Yet the demands for Britain to open its chequebook more generously persist. Some Italian policymakers, for instance, have gingerly (and preposterously) suggested that maybe London's contribution to the EU's bailout fund should be greater than Rome's in view of the fact that British banks are more exposed to any fallout from the eurozone's problems. While true, this would be not only a political price too far, but a financial one, too."

In the Financial Times Neil Hume picks out what Christian Noyer, governor of the Bank of France and a member of the European Central Bank's governing council says will happens if European debts aren't paid after restructuring Greece's debt:

"And for the central banks, what happens? Greek debt will become debt that is no longer worth anything. It's no longer debt that can be considered as sufficiently safe for operations in the Euro System. That means by definition that to restructure is to become ineligible as collateral. If it's ineligible, then it means a large part of what the Greek banks bring as collateral for refinancing can no longer be used. That means the Greek banking system can no longer be financed."

In Der Spiegel Matthias Brendel and Christoph Pauly say the European Central Banks need to learn the lesson about purchasing risky bonds:

"If the euro crisis rumbles on, the worst-case scenario isn't all that far away. To ensure its national survival, Ireland should reject the European rescue effort and, instead, accept the failure of its banks as a necessary evil, Morgan Kelly recently said. The renowned professor of economics at University College Dublin knows who would be especially hard-hit by such a step: the ECB.
 
"'The ECB can then learn the basic economic truth that if you lend €160 billion to insolvent banks backed by an insolvent state, you are no longer a creditor: you are the owner' Kelly wrote in the Irish Times earlier this month."

Daily View: The battle between MPs and judges over Ryan Giggs

Clare Spencer | 10:00 UK time, Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Imogen Thomas and Ryan Giggs

 

A married footballer named on Twitter as having an injunction over an alleged affair with a reality TV star has been identified in Parliament as Ryan Giggs. Commentators dissect how the battle was played out between the media, judges and Parliament.

Rachel Sylvester says in the Times newspaper that the row over privacy is just part of a deepening battle between Parliament and judges:

"The controversy over super-injunctions is just one aspect of what a minister describes as 'an old fashioned power struggle between two estates of the realm' - Parliament and the courts. In February MPs voted in favour of keeping a ban on prisoners voting - in defiance of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The government is also involved in a long-running dispute with the judges over the deportation of foreign prisoners, including terrorists. Around 400 criminals were allowed to stay last year, after appeals. A growing number of prisoners are being granted the right to remain under Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to family life, rather than under Article Three, which protects against torture."

In the Daily Mail Quentin Letts says that the person who made the revelation, John Hemming, was motivated by the possibility of publicity:

"Then Mr Hemming had his moment. 'Mr Speaker,' he said casually, 'with about 75,000 people having named Ryan Giggs it is obviously impractical to imprison them all.' The House took a moment to respond and Mr Hemming was ploughing further into controversy, saying that a newspaper writer, Giles Coren, was facing the threat of imprisonment.
 
"At this point Speaker Bercow intervened, stopping Mr Hemming mid-flow and telling him that he should not flout the protocols of injunction law 'for whatever purpose'. Translation: we all know you're just doing this because you're an appalling self-publicist, Hemming."

Andreas Whittam Smith says in the Independent that the whole affair is not about principles but about the media regaining power from judges implementing the right to privacy in the Human Rights Act:

"So the media naturally turned to a well-tried manoeuvre. They would scrupulously obey the injunction while unofficially leaking its contents far and wide. Their hope is that they will reach a situation, whether by widespread publication overseas, or even in Ireland or Scotland, or by the chancing of arm by editors of small circulation publications, when they will be able to say 'Look, the news is out, what is the point of the injunction? It is unfair.' Nowadays, of course, with the development of the internet, nothing could be easier.
 
"Especially as some MPs have decided that they wish to join forces with the media. They do this because they are always looking for an occasion to let judges know that they make the law, not judges. This is unfair on the judges who can only work with the legislation that Parliament supplies, but tant pis. This is about power when it is not about money."

Lawyer and journalist Clive Anderson says in the Telegraph judges should still decide where the balance between privacy and freedom of speech lies on a case-by-case basis, as long as they do not restrict too much:

"So, as far as possible, let us have a free press - and, as far as possible, let's not involve judges in regulating what is published. Injunctions should be reserved for the most extreme cases, not routine stories of kiss and tell. There are a number of plays that get put on which are a bit ropey or even offensive, but we don't want to give the Lord Chamberlain power to regulate the theatre again.
 
"Oh, and I suppose that we should in our private lives do as few things as possible that we wouldn't want discussed in public... No, that's not going to work."

The Guardian's editorial revels in the "constitutional crisis" between Parliament and courts being provoked by a footballer's love life but asks everyone to calm down:

"The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, brought a measure of calm good sense to the affair by announcing a joint committee to investigate all the issues raised by privacy injunctions. A period in the long grass may be a good idea to allow some sense of perspective to return to the debate."

Daily View: President Obama's European tour

Clare Spencer | 09:52 UK time, Monday, 23 May 2011

President Obama and Michelle Obama boarding their plane to Europe

 

Commentators discuss President Obama's visit to Europe and ask if he is still the most powerful person in the world.

The Independent's editorial says Libya, the Arab spring, Pakistan and the Middle East should be on the agenda but that in reality in the UK one thing will be on British politicians' minds:

"Nothing prompts anxious introspection among the British political classes better than a visit from the world's most powerful leader. Barack Obama will give a speech to both houses of Parliament on Wednesday and already speculation has begun over whether or not the President will use the phrase "special relationship" to describe the United States' partnership with Britain. This is a shame because there are much more important things to talk about with regard to US-British relations... If our leaders do those subjects justice there will be little time for trivial angst about the condition of the special relationship."

In the Daily Mail Peter McKay looks at the deal-making that could go on between Mr Cameron and Mr Obama over forces in Libya, the extradition of British computer hacker Gary McKinnon and human rights issues in Guantanamo Bay and the solitary confinement of Private Manning who is accused of supplying the secret government cables to WikiLeaks. However, in the end McKay says none of these may be discussed:

"Obama doesn't have to give us anything, of course. He knows that merely visiting Britain boosts our Government and head of state, the Queen. Cameron and co can pretend the 'special relationship' still exists. The Crown takes comfort in being honoured by the head of a former colony that chose to fight us for its independence.
 
"The President's state visit here, followed by France, will provide upbeat media coverage at home and valuable video that his re-election team will use to persuade U.S. voters in 2012 that Obama is loved and respected by leaders world-wide.
 
"So it's wham, bam, thank you, ma'am. As always."

Gary Younge says in the Guardian that Europe's continued support of President Obama says more about its own weakness than the US president:

"So when he has delivered so little, why do Europeans love him so much? Many of the original reasons still stand. He still isn't George Bush, although how long that negative qualification remains meaningful is a moot point. He also emerged at a moment when European political leadership has been in a particularly parlous state. Europeans don't just love Obama more than Americans do. They love him more than they love the people they have elected themselves. One reason Obama is so popular in Europe is partly because he has emerged at a time when European leadership is in such a parlous state. Less than a third of the Italians and French, respectively, approve of Silvio Berlusconi and Nicolas Sarkozy, only half the Germans find Angela Merkel credible. David Cameron does not fare much better.
 
"Smart, charismatic, telegenic and unencumbered by sleaze Obama still, by comparison, represents the possibility of a popular form of electoral politics led by intelligent and public-spirited citizens as opposed to opportunists, egomaniacs and sleazemongers. It's as though his proven ability to articulate the source and scope of problems has enabled some people to look past his inability to provide a solution for them."

In his Channel 4 News blog Jon Snow looks at the US's changing influence:

"Obama may be forgiven for sparing a thought for how much longer he's likely to be in what once was regarded as the 'most powerful job in the world'. If the reign of the lone superpower had peaked under George Bush, it has continued its slide under Obama. And it is economic power rather, more than diplomatic and military muscle, that is orchestrating the new world order."

David Miliband argues in the Times that the US is no longer seen as all-powerful across the world and President Obama needs to adapt:

"There is much more than the killing of bin Laden that makes this a moment of special complexity and responsibility. The Arab Spring will not just change the Middle East, setting a new legitimacy bar for the exercise of power, but its relationship with the West. Some ruling elites in the Gulf, who see Iran behind every problem, regard our talk about democratic values as naive. Add in the debate within Islam about its own future and you have a heady brew. With the end of a 200-year resource glut, and the shift of economic power from West to East, you have a global system groaning under the pressure of unresolved tensions and problems.
 
"In terms of economics and culture the world has become a smaller place; more integrated and interdependent. But the politics of the global village - international co-operation and shared responsibility - is still fragmented.
 
"There are many consequences of these changes, but one is that the world's time is no longer set according to the US electoral clock. Fatah and Hamas aren't going to wait for November 2012 to play out their agreement to work together. Oil prices are not going to wait for a second Inaugural Address. President Obama has to plot a strategy for governing when others are making history too."

Daily View: Fred Goodwin's love life and public interest

Clare Spencer | 12:02 UK time, Friday, 20 May 2011

Following the partial lifting of an order granting anonymity to ex-Royal Bank of Scotland boss Sir Fred Goodwin related to a "sexual relationship" commentators look at the concept of public interest.

In the Guardian Simon Jenkins says the attempt of the High Court to guard privacy through court injunctions "began to crumble yesterday". He looks at the negative impact for high profile people:

"Being hounded by the British press is one of the most unpleasant experiences short of physical assault. It is the tax that a free society imposes on celebrity. In the case of politicians it is an ordeal which they must undergo as the price of office, indeed they must in some degree anticipate it. Those who go into public life must possess a strain of masochism. When the ordeal is unfair it should be regarded as just one of life's nasty accidents. When it is disproportionate punishment for a mishap, gaffe, peccadillo or insensitive remark, it is crude accountability. The justification is perhaps that it may compensate for more serious offences that pass unpunished. If we cannot nail a minister for wrecking the economy, at least we can get him for adultery."

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming says in the Daily Mail that Sir Fred's injunction against reporting an alleged affair illustrates a worrying trend towards suppressing reports of wrongdoing:

"Do not be fooled into thinking this is merely a debate about the private lives of a few celebrities - they just happen to have taken advantage of the current direction of the courts. This is about something far more fundamental, and relevant to us all - the right to know about wrongdoing in public life.
 
"After all, with even the limited amount of information that has seeped out about Sir Fred, do you not believe we have a right to know exactly what was going on as he presided over a banking disaster which affected us all?"

David Prosser says in the Independent that the public interest defence for publishing details of Sir Fred's love life is clear:

"The direct cost of bailing the bank out two-and-a-half years ago was several hundred pounds for every man, woman and child in Britain. The indirect costs of the financial crisis, in which RBS played a big part, are incalculable. So the public is entitled to a full account of all of the factors that may have contributed to this disaster. It does not seem in the least bit unreasonable to regard the fact that RBS's chief executive might have been engaging in an extra-marital affair in the run-up to the bank's collapse as one of those contributory factors"

Mirroring this view, the Telegraph's editorial argues a free press is a vital check on corruption and sometimes the stories the public are interested in is also in the public interest to know:

"Several years ago, the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, stated that judges 'must not ignore the fact that if newspapers do not publish information which the public are interested in, there will be fewer newspapers published, which will not be in the public interest'. That was a wise observation. The tabloids may hand out rough and ready justice at times, but that is the price to be paid for the free press that has helped to ensure that this country has been, and remains, one of the least corrupt in the world."

The Times editorial says Twitter and parliamentary privilege make super-injunctions impractical and judges should adapt:

"If MPs and peers now make a habit of using the privilege of parliamentary sessions to challenge judicial rulings, the super-injunction ceases to be viable. It is to be hoped that this blatant fact will be recognised by Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, who publishes his recommendations for reform this morning...
 
"The judiciary should accept that the super-injunction is both an inappropriate and an impractical way to police the line between things that are in the public interest and things that are of value only to the prurient. Sir Fred cannot demand privacy purely by dint of having worked in the private sector. His character and conduct clearly had a huge impact on his bank, on the financial services industry and on the public purse. He had no business hiding behind a super-injunction and he should not have been aided and abetted by the courts."

Daily View: Furore over 'perp walk'

Clare Spencer | 11:41 UK time, Thursday, 19 May 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

 

The parading of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs by US police has caused a furore in France, which prohibits such pictures. The former IMF chief was given the so-called "perp walk" treatment after being arrested for alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid in New York. It has sparked debate in the US about the regularly used practice.

Reuters' Leigh Jones looks back at the history of the perp walk and what motivates the police to walk suspects past the press in handcuffs:

"Government officials as far back as FBI director Edgar Hoover in the 1920s have used perp walks to bolster public support for prosecutors. Hoover orchestrated photo opportunities for journalists to capture his arrests of mobsters Alvin Karpis and Harry Campbell.
 
"More recently, former U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani elevated both the term - and practice - in the public eye. Giuliani, who later became mayor of New York, knew the public relations value, for prosecutors anyway, of making defendants appear in handcuffs before the media on the way to arraignment."

Law.com analyses the debates about the fairness of the perp walk and said that while some clearly use it for entertainment, it also points out that it can be used to make the public aware of law enforcement efforts.

Ben Yakas jokes in the Gothamist that Americans "love a good perp walk" and asks if perp walks are unfair for defendants, or "just the right amount of schadenfreude".

Frederic Raphael says in the Telegraph that the French think judgement has been made without a trial:

"The press here in France concedes that whether or not DSK is eventually found guilty, the verdict has already been pronounced and the sentence as good as carried out. Did the lady judge in Manhattan yield to self-importance and the prospect of national fame when she denied him bail and insisted that he be paraded in handcuffs?... The truth is that it hardly matters. One moment of alleged madness is headlined as 'an earthquake for the euro, the International Monetary Fund and for the Left'."

In the New Yorker Richard Brody hits back at accusations that the French justice system is fairer than the American one:

"I consider the French system to be, pace Joly, a much more violent judicial system, because the defendant is subjected to judicial authority without mediation, and to direct, and unrefusable, questioning. Also, there's no jury: the defendant is tried by judges unless the accusation is of a major felony. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has recently proposed the generalized trial by jury, and it's proving very controversial...
 
"The reason why the courtroom drama is an American genre and not a French one is that the American trial is inherently a form of theatre; the French courtroom, with its judges questioning the accused, is inherently a display of power, a subjection, an infliction."

In Poynter Al Tompkins says giving a fair trial doesn't mean restricting press coverage:

"There is a way to assure that perp walk video will not come to define a suspect: Allow cameras inside the courtroom. If journalists can capture video of the accused in court, there is no need to chase him down the sidewalk. The courtroom video is likely to show the accused in a better light, the same setting in which a jury would see them."

Slate's Christopher Beam's predicts perp walks are here to stay:

"Despite French objections, perp walks aren't disappearing anytime soon. Police love them. The media love them. And by the time any of the perp-walked suspects are proved innocent, everyone else has moved on."

All, apart from Reuters, who list those who were pictured doing the perp walk and then found not guilty.

Daily View: Military intervention in Libya

Clare Spencer | 10:44 UK time, Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Following the head of the British Armed forces plea to Nato members to intensify bombing in Libya, commentators ask what the British military should do next.

Simon Jenkins suggests in the Telegraph RAF bombing won't persuade Libyan civilians and crime against humanity charges end hope of negotiation and possible exile for the Gaddafis. He says the British need to get out Libya:

"Unless Britain really intends to make Libya another client state like Sierra Leone, it must have an exit strategy that does not depend on Gaddafi's death. The Arab League has vanished. The Americans have all but vanished, along with Russia and China. Even Sarah Palin has deserted the cause, pointing out that America has 'no clear and vital interest at stake'. For a British government to be exposed to the neocon right of Palin takes some doing. Where are the benighted Liberal Democrats in all this?...
 
"Cameron has the NHS, economic recovery and the fate of the coalition to address. The Libyan whizzbangs are no longer on the front page, and the glory of victory is waning. He should not be wasting time playing Beau Geste trying to kill the sadist of the Sahara."

Conversely in the Telegraph Con Coughlin asks for strong political leadership on the military campaign in Libya:

"Sir David [head of the British Armed Forces] wants Nato warplanes to bomb the perimeter fence around Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli, a step which is not allowed under the current rules of engagement on the spurious grounds that the fence does not constitute a threat to Libya's civilian population. But Sir David argues that if it were removed, this would demonstrate the regime's vulnerability to ordinary Libyans, as well as affording rebels the opportunity to overthrow Gaddafi themselves.
 
"Another idea under active consideration is to cripple the dictator's main oil refinery at Zawiyah, which supplies the regime's energy needs. If the lights went out all over Tripoli, even Gaddafi might finally concede that his time was up. There's still a chance we can win in Libya, but we need strong and effective leadership if we are to do so. Then, at long last, we can celebrate a rare success in a British military campaign."

The Daily Mail's editorial says the British can't afford continued involvement:

"Will Britain be tempted to deploy troops on the ground? Do we have the resources to meet our existing commitments? As we report today, the MoD has already had to borrow a spy plane from the Americans to use over Libya because ours were axed last year.
 
"The further we sink into the quagmire, the more expensive this conflict will become and the more stretched our Armed Forces will be."

Kailash Chand argues in Tribune that intervention in Libya is just the next stage of the "war on terror":

"The 'war on terror' is far from over. Rather, it is moving into a new era. The military intervention in Libya and the continuing war in Afghanistan show how little the West and the US in particular have learned. State terrorism and fundamentalist terrorism feed off one another. Unless the US changes its strategy of using military intervention of questionable legality to assert its interests, terrorism will not be eradicated. Rather, more terrorists will be created."

The appeal to boost military intervention in Libya comes at the same time as Defence Secretary Liam Fox's is reportedly asking for a reduction in the ring-fenced amount of British tax money going to aid.

This is picked up by Alice Thompson in the Times who says when there are finite resources, money could be freed up elsewhere to pay for the Libya conflict:

"One day taxpayers waiting for hip operations and special-needs school places will turn on DfID. Only by letting it share Whitehall's pain can its future be safeguarded. The Prime Minister should take away a quarter of its budget and let other departments bid for it. Mr Fox could argue that the Armed Forces need it to win hearts and minds in Libya, the BBC should argue that DfID should pay for the World Service, which looks likely to lose 630 staff and 30 million listeners."

Daily View: The Queen's visit to Ireland

Clare Spencer | 11:35 UK time, Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Commentators discuss the Queen’s visit to the Republic of Ireland. She is the first British monarch to visit since it became a republic.

In the Telegraph, Mary Kenny calls the visit an “extraordinary moment of reconciliation”:

“Because the relationship between Ireland and the British monarchy is so underpinned by all the psychological complexities of love-hate, attitudes to a visiting monarch have often been inconsistent. When Queen Victoria's first visit to Ireland was announced in 1849, Irish nationalists made two contradictory complaints: one was that they disliked the Queen of England, and the second was, why hadn't she visited Ireland sooner? Throughout the centuries this dualism is evident in many Irish texts: rebellion against what was sometimes called, in Irish ballads, "Mother England", and at the same time, the laments of the neglected child that the parent has ignored his plight, or abandoned care.
 
“And many such laments were justified. The black-and-white version of Anglo-Irish history - Britain the Oppressor, Ireland the Victim - can be parodic and even exasperating. But many Englishmen today do feel a certain degree of guilt about Britain's (mainly England's) historic treatment of Ireland.”

Susie Rushton says in the Independent, that state visits are “just not worth the bother”:

“Peaceful protests are planned but security forces aren't taking any chances, so the monarch will travel in a mile-long convoy. Dublin is reportedly "in lockdown", and only a hand-picked few will get anywhere near the Queen. The Irish could be forgiven for wondering whether a million-pound anti-terrorist operation is really what their financially ailing state should be paying for right now.
 
“We are told that state visits by foreign leaders are a cause for great excitement. In fact, these visits really only involve senior politicians, their protection officers - and thousands of police. Not much TV footage is ever recorded - the odd speech, a brief moment of greeting - and most of the action happens behind closed palace doors. It is a court occasion, in the old-fashioned sense. The Irish tourist board is thrilled but will citizens here and in Ireland really be a-buzz at this festival of photo ops?”

In the Irish Independent Martina Devlin says that the Queen has had a polarising effect not only “in the community”, but specifically in her family:

“My mother, a southerner, was fascinated by the queen; in her eyes, she had all the allure of Hollywood, with the mystique of majesty for good measure. My father, a northerner, regarded the queen as a symbol of Britain's ongoing occupation of Ireland.
 
“He had nothing against her personally - in fact, he allowed that she was a sound judge of horseflesh - but she was the figurehead of an establishment which reduced him to a second-class citizen in his own country.”

The Irish examiner’s editorial urges against any protests during the visit:

“Irrespective of anybody’s feelings about the monarchy we should respect the choice of the British people to retain their own symbols of governance, just as we expect others to respect the form we have chosen. Nobody is suggesting that the queen’s visit means that we should change our system. Surely we have the confidence and maturity to appreciate this. Any suggestion to the contrary is not just an insult to the British queen, but an insult to the Irish people.”

In the Times Roy Hattersley says that even though he is an anti monarchist he applauds the Queen’s visit:

“She is going there as a living proclamation that goodwill has broken out. There would be no visit if old wounds were not beginning to heal. Bloody Sunday and Omagh may be neither forgotten nor forgiven, but like the other atrocities - on both sides of the border - they are passing into history along with the potato famine and the Battle of the Boyne. The usually irritating flummery of a royal visit is an ideal way to show that Britain wants to look forward, not back.
 
“Republicans like me need to remember that our objection is to the principle of monarchy, not what monarchs - and their families - do. For, sometimes, they do rather well.”

The Irish Times' editorial says the visit shows a degree of normal relations between neighbours:

“It took many decades and a great deal of pain for the relationship to be placed on the footing of equality and respect that is essential to true friendship. No one is seeking to forget that struggle and the Queen’s visit to the Garden of Remembrance is a poignant recognition on the British side of its legitimacy. Just as Ireland has had to rid itself of knee-jerk anti-Britishness, Britain has had to drop its deeply ingrained habit of superiority.”

Daily View: What now for Greece's debt?

Clare Spencer | 09:09 UK time, Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Commentators discuss talk of a new rescue package for debt-laden Greece.

In the Financial Times Martin Wolf thinks he has worked out the mentality that led to loan defaults in the eurozone:

"A story is told of a man sentenced by his king to death. The latter tells him that he can keep his life if he teaches the monarch's horse to talk within a year. The condemned man agrees. Asked why he did so, he answers that anything might happen: the king might die; he might die; and the horse might learn to talk.
 
"This has been the eurozone's approach to the fiscal crises that have engulfed Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and threaten other member states. Policymakers have decided to play for time in the hope that the countries in difficulty will restore their creditworthiness. So far, this effort has failed: the cost of borrowing has risen, not fallen. In the case of Greece, the first of the countries to receive help, the chances of renewed access to private lending on terms that the country can afford are negligible. But postponing the day of reckoning will not make the Greek predicament better: on the contrary, it will merely make the debt restructuring more painful when it comes."

The Guardian's editorial predicts, in a depressed tone, that the EU will continue along the same lines with Greece and instead of restructuring their loans will "muddle through" with more loans they may default on:

"The way to sort out a country's economic problems is typically not to give it a whacking great loan at a high price and expect it to pay it back by making huge spending cuts. That does not allow for the country to make extra money (through growth that leads to higher tax revenues). Only Tony Soprano would call this an economic policy. Certainly financial markets do not rate it much - which is why they are continuing to talk about the possibility of Athens defaulting on its debt. Those infamous credit-rating agencies don't think the plan amounts to much either, which is why they keep downgrading Greece's sovereign debt. Yet this is precisely what the single-currency club is doing to Greece - and Ireland and Portugal."

Michael Shuman explains in Time why Greece's debt crisis is significant globally:

"Simply, Greece might become a perpetual burden on the wealthier euro zone governments. That's not good for anyone. Politically, it would be extremely difficult for elected leaders in Berlin and elsewhere to continue to justify shovelling more and more money to save Greece. And with Greece's fate continually uncertain, investors would remain nervous about other weak euro zone nations as well, keeping debt crises alive across the periphery.
 
So what's the solution? In more than a year of covering the euro debt crisis, I don't recall speaking to anyone involved in European finance or economics who believed Greece could avoid a debt restructuring."

Hamish McRae says in the Independent that the original bail-out didn't work and instead of "playing the blame game" he gives some suggested solutions:

"That has not happened. Indeed, things have gone backwards, with 10-year borrowing yields at more than 15 per cent, more than double the level of a year ago. Now you can play the blame game if you want to, but that does not help. I am not saying it does not matter who is right and who is wrong; that would be absurd. But the plain fact is that the original bailout has failed, leaving two broad options. One is for the other eurozone countries to lend Greece more money and hope that in another couple of years there will be enough growth in the economy to stop the debts rising and for there to be some hope the country can gradually start to repay. The other is to agree that the debts cannot ever be repaid at their face value and for Greece to repay, say, only 50 cents in every euro. The first would be a refinancing; the second a default. "

Chairman of the True Finn Party in Finland Tomi Soini is sceptical in the Wall Street Journal about who actually benefits from bail-outs:

"The recipient states did not want such 'help,' not this way. The natural option for them was to admit insolvency and let failed private lenders, wherever they were based, eat their losses.
 
"That was not to be. Ireland was forced to take the money. The same happened to Portugal.
 
"Why did the Brussels-Frankfurt extortion racket force these countries to accept the money along with 'recovery' plans that would inevitably fail? Because they needed to please the tax-guzzling banks, which might otherwise refuse to turn up at the next Spanish, Belgian, Italian or even French bond auction."

In the Times Anatole Kaletsky explains why he thinks restructuring the debt is not going to happen:

"Why do Europe's politicians and central bankers refuse even to think about debt restructuring and instead continue to lend money to Greece, Ireland and Portugal that simply goes to repay their private creditors?
 
"Apart from the fear of triggering a Lehman-style banking meltdown - a threat that could easily be averted by creating a pan-European financial guarantee fund much smaller than the bailouts now under way - Europe's central bankers have a vested interest in spreading terror about the very idea of restructuring. The ECB itself is now by far the biggest holder of Greek, Irish and Portuguese bonds and would suffer enormous losses if their value were reduced. In addition to the €80 billion that it owns outright, the bank holds more than €500 billion of these toxic bonds as collateral against its loans to Irish, Greek and Portuguese banks. Since most of these banks would become insolvent in a big debt restructuring, the ECB would be left with hundreds of billions of euros of bust government bonds. With total capital of only 11 billion euros, the ECB itself would be bankrupt unless European governments provided a huge bailout."

Green Room

Post categories:

Mark Kinver | 23:56 UK time, Tuesday, 10 May 2011

This edition of Green Room looks at why environmentalists will not be sending a card to the coalition government on its first anniversary. It also brings you news on how the latest eco-app for your smart phone can help some of you get closer to nature.

As we approach the first anniversary of David Cameron pledging to make the coalition the "greenest government ever", there have been some grumblings within the environmental movement.

David Cameron (Image: Reuters)

Some groups are asking if Mr Cameron has left his green credentials behind

For example, Friends of the Earth UK published a report assessing how the Conservative and Lib Dem political partnership was progressing on the green front.

It assessed 77 government policies and "found little or no progress in more than three quarters of them".

The author was Jonathon Porritt, former chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission (which, incidentally, has been scrapped by the coalition).

In his blog, Mr Porritt said writing the report was a "disheartening process", adding that greens had little to applaud as the first anniversary approached.

However, he did offer a glimmer of hope:

"There is of course a long way still to go, assuming that the Coalition does not fall apart. The hope must be that the more progressive elements in the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats will use this first year anniversary to take stock of why they hcave made so little progress to date - and what needs to happen now to retrieve the situation."

Another group feeling the pressure of green angst is the biofuels industry.

Once viewed as a green saviour of the transport fuel sector, the alternative fuel source has found most of its environmentally minded chums becoming increasingly critical, questioning its carbon neutrality, and the industry's role in deforestation and risk to food security.

One of the latest offerings comes from a group of EU-based green NGOs operating under the banner of "Stop Bad Biofuels".

They have released a cartoon that tells (very young viewers, it has to be assumed) why Jane's love of sunflowers is misguided and has a bigger impact than just stopping Peter growing his beloved potatoes.

No new message or science, and it is hardly In the Night Garden, but offers an insight into how efforts to get across policy positions are evolving.

For the grown ups, the journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy contains an article that attempts to offer a olive branch in the ongoing row.

Author Joyce Tait from the University of Edinburgh calls for an global ethical standard for the industry, backed up with a certification scheme.

Professor Tait observed:

"Biofuels are one of the only renewable alternatives we have for transport fuels such as petrol and diesel, but current policies and targets that encourage their uptake have backfired badly. The rapid expansion of biofuels production in the developing world has led to problems such as deforestation and the displacement of indigenous people. We want a more sophisticated strategy that considers the wider consequences of biofuel production."

Finally, if you are in the northern hemisphere and planning to get a little closer to nature over the summer, then an app for your smartphone called Leafsnap could help your stroll become a little more informed.

Developed by US scientists, the app uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves.

Before you get too excited, so far it only features trees from two US cities (Washington DC and New York). However plans are afoot for the app to cover the entire US.

If you are elsewhere, such as Europe, watch this space... or take a book.

Daily View: Super-injunctions spark privacy debate

Clare Spencer | 09:54 UK time, Tuesday, 10 May 2011

In the midst of speculation about celebrities super-injunctions commentators discuss the right to privacy.

In the Independent Geoffrey Robertson QC explains privacy laws have “gone badly wrong”:

“In a judgment banning pictures of Princess Caroline of Monaco taken in a public place, the European Court laid down an incoherent definition of privacy as protecting ‘a zone of interaction of a person with others, even in a public context, to ensure the development of the personality of each individual in his relations with other human beings’. Now part of UK law, this psycho-babble has become the basis for protecting the ‘personality development’ of celebrities threatened by ‘kiss and sell’ stories from discarded lovers as well, it is said, as stories of some public import. British judges now insist that the right of free speech be ‘balanced’ against the right to privacy when deciding whether to suppress a news story. This involves a subjective value judgement. Very often the impact on children of a father’s sexually-incontinent behaviour and a dislike of tabloid sensationalism will weigh in the judicial mind more heavily than the rights of the kisser to tell or the public to know.
 
“And in such cases, where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, it is logical for the judge to stop the public from knowing anything: if they are told: ‘Mr X has obtained an injunction’, they will assume the worst about his indiscretions. His privacy will be violated in the public imagination. Hence the secret court super-injunction, which gags all reference to the plaintiff and to the proceedings.”

Professor and Head of Journalism at London’s City University George Brock writes In The Times that new privacy laws should be used to restore meaning to an “abused” idea:

“I’d lean the law towards assuming that disclosure should only be prevented for a very strong reason. But journalists would only enjoy that presumption in their favour if they could demonstrate that a disclosure would be in the public interest. Celebrity news of the kind that is nowadays routine would rarely get that protection if taken to court.
 
“What’s interesting to me - and everyone else - isn’t automatically in the public interest. That short phrase has been corrupted by red-top papers for their own self-serving ends in a ferociously competitive market. We need a law that restores that much abused idea to its true sense.”

Media lawyer David Allen Green argues in the New Statesman that the revelations are not in the public interest:

“One basis of a civilized and liberal society is that information that only concerns the private lives of those involved should remain privy to them, unless there is a public interest to the contrary. Everyone needs a private space, even celebrities and politicians.”

He goes on to say the reason why these stories are so popular is because the The background to all this is that the word “super-injunction” now has a “special and exciting quality”:

“This is strange as, in one important way, ‘super-injunctions’ do not really exist. What the High Court can offer are injunctions: court orders directed at parties so as to prevent certain specified courses of action. A ‘superinjunction’ is just a normal injunction but with strict terms, and it is not an entirely new legal creature. Strict injunctions are as old as the equitable jurisdiction of the High Court.
 
“Not even in colloquial terms is there an agreed description of what is a ‘super-injunction’. The best practical definition is that it is an injunction, the terms of which mean that disclosure to a third party that the injunction even exists would itself be a breach of the injunction.”

Channel 4 News’s Jon Snow says in his blog that the element of hypocrisy is what makes the public so interested in super-injunctions:

“Ultimately as the host of Popbitch said on Channel 4 News last night, the biggest trigger to journalistic interest in this stuff is hypocrisy - where the individual invites OK, or HELLO magazines into their lives and gives an account at complete odds with the real lives they lead.
 
“One clue - never talk about your private life to a media entity (online or old-media) that specialises in exposure, whether or not you have something to hide. It almost always ends in tears.”

The Daily Mail’s Stephen Glover believes that unless Parliament debates the issue - and, in particular, unless the Convention of Human Rights is replaced by a British Bill of Rights, super-injunctions are unlikely to go away:

“The super-injunction has been seized upon by judges interpreting Article Eight of the Human Rights Convention, which upholds the right to privacy, in favour of plaintiffs and against newspapers.
 
“Without this Convention, foolishly incorporated into our law by the last Labour government, there would be no super-injunctions because there would be no such privacy cases. Whatever proposals Lord Neuberger and his committee may come up with, the root of the problem lies with the privacy law that judges are introducing on the basis of Article Eight.”

Read the rest of this entry

Daily View: What next after the AV no vote?

news | 08:21 UK time, Saturday, 7 May 2011

Commentators consider the fallout from the UK's decision not to replace the first-past-the-post voting system with the alternative voting system, as well as the results of local and national assembly elections:

Stephen Glover, writing in the Daily Mail, says the Liberal Democrats were the biggest losers:

"In Thursday's English local elections the Lib Dems produced their worst performance for more than 20 years. In Scotland, something of a traditional stronghold, they have been routed, winning a much smaller percentage of the vote than even the Tories, and helping to pave the way for the Nationalists' triumph. And on the AV referendum Mr Clegg's party has suffered a humiliating defeat. It was the prospect of electoral reform, eventually leading to proportional representation, which convinced the Lib Dem leadership that they should sign up to the Coalition. Now those hopes have been dashed, and the cause which Mr Clegg and his colleagues have virtually lived for has crumbled into dust."

In the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland argues that the poor performance by the Lib Dems in the local elections and the rejection of AV were a "repudiation of Clegg". He believes this highlights the power dynamics within the coalition:

"Lib Dems now understand exactly why the Tories were so eager to make that "comprehensive and generous offer" a year ago this weekend. It was not so much a power-sharing arrangement as a blame-taking one: the Lib Dems' role is to be the Conservatives' human shield and on Thursday they played the part perfectly. They took the heat while the Tories remained unscathed, their share of the vote unchanged since 2010, with even some council gains in England. For the senior partner, coalition is working out very nicely."

New Statesman blogger David Allen Green suggests a strategy through which the Liberal Democrats can begin their recovery:

"The Liberal Democrats in the coalition need to emphasise differences with the Conservatives. Clegg should ration his appearances alongside Cameron. One realises it is perhaps not practical politics for the Liberal Democrats to go into opposition and offer their support on a vote-by-vote basis (though there is no constitutional or legal reason why they cannot); but it is crucial that the party develops a ministerial reputation separate from that of the Conservatives."

The Sun's Trevor Kavanagh argues that "Nick Clegg's thrashing" is likely to mark "the beginning of the end" for the coalition:

"The voters' message is that the Lib Dems are catastrophically damaged and perhaps finished as a political force. They must now cling to their detested Tory partners for dear life - or risk obliteration in a general election."

And, in its Bagehot Notebook, the Economist suggests that David Cameron may have won the AV referendum "too well", meaning that he "risks being handcuffed to a political corpse" in the form of Mr Clegg. It says the prime minister has "ordered his people to go easy on the gloating, and give Mr Clegg the space and room to defend himself":

It would be pretty ironic if an AV landslide forces the Conservatives to make concessions to Mr Clegg when a narrower win would have allowed the Tories to be tough on their junior partner.

Daily View: What vote results could mean

Clare Spencer | 10:20 UK time, Friday, 6 May 2011

As we wait for the result of the AV referendum, commentators ponder the significance of the local and national assembly elections results coming through.

 

The Guardian's editorial gives the Liberal Democrats some advice for difficult times:

"The councillors newly elected this morning have won themselves a miserable job - meting out the very harshest of those coalitional cuts that are coming so dangerously thick and fast. No local politician of any stripe is going to do everything they might like to for their population in this fix, and especially not since Britain's fiscal centralism blocks every theoretical escape. But when retrenchment is in train, it is more important than ever that town halls are run by people prepared to risk middle-class wrath to protect services for same poor people. After being dealt a horrendous hand in last year's election and binding themselves in with the Conservatives, the urgent question for the Lib Dems now is how they can now persuade electors they stand for something distinctive."

Mary Dejevsky suggests in the Independent that Nick Clegg's "plight" is undeserved and because of "fickle" supporters:

"The timing of the referendum to coincide with local and regional elections also had a malign effect - although not in the way that was most feared. The problem was less that voters did not give the referendum the time of day than that they seem to have treated it as a referendum on the coalition rather than the electoral system. Although there was cross-party campaigning, the arguments quickly strayed into party political territory.
 
"In the end, voters will have to judge whether the likely demise of electoral reform condemns Nick Clegg and the whole of the Liberal Democrats' venture into coalition."

Julian Astle says in the Telegraph that, irrespective of the referendum's result, David Cameron and Nick Clegg's inability to agree on AV has been damaging to both parties:

"When Cameron decided to move against Clegg to appease his own party, however, he didn't just weaken his deputy - he weakened himself. The in-fighting of recent weeks, and the suspicion it has engendered, will ensure it is the 'told-you-so' coalition-sceptics in both parties who emerge the stronger. Clegg remains hopeful that some good could yet come of it; that having spent much of the past year building up coalition credibility rather than protecting his party's identity, he can now spend more time talking up Lib Dem achievements. The danger is that both sides come to view coalition politics as a zero-sum game, believing that what is good for one partner must be bad for the other - a destructive mindset that can only benefit the Labour Party."

Philip Collins says in the Times that voters should question their suspicions that politicians lied in the referendum campaigns:

"Even in a debate as fatuous as the one we have endured over the alternative vote (AV), the charge of lying should largely be withheld. The dubious claims on offer have either been calls of judgement or stories where only time will tell. I think the claim that AV would be good for the BNP is an invitation for the funny farm but I accept that people might be daft enough to think it true. It's hardly likely, either, that AV would have made MPs work harder but I don't suppose we will ever know for certain one way or the other..
 
"This is the exacting standard that we have to apply with political truth. As with the law on insider dealing, the perpetrator has to know at the time that what they are saying is not true."

Looking at the Scottish Assembly elections, Alan Cochrane argues in the Telegraph that wins in Scotland for the SNP are a serious threat to the United Kingdom staying united:

"Salmond has said he will hold a referendum on breaking up the United Kingdom towards the end of his new five-year term. However, he will now be under tremendous pressure from his party's fundamentalist wing to declare that this win is a mandate for an immediate vote on independence. And there will be others in his party who will insist that this victory is cause enough to begin negotiations at once on taking Scotland out of the Union."

More from this blog...

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.