Alastair Campbell is a very clever man. As Tony Blair’s ‘spin doctor’ in the run-up to the Iraq War, he was – and still is for that matter – one of a rare breed of professionals capable of convincing anyone that a cesspit smells of roses!
Spin is a true art. Its definition is open to interpretation, but I have always regarded it as manipulation: sift through given facts, pick out the ones that suit your cause/argument, emphasise them – and play down the rest. Bingo! You suddenly find you have ‘spun’ a pretty plausible case to back your cause or argument. I don’t think I need to elaborate further.
So, where does the Iraq Inquiry finds itself this week? Oh yes, asking Campbell loads of questions about the contents of a so-called ‘dodgy dossier’ regarding Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons programme – those fabled ‘weapons of mass distruction’ that never were.
Would this country still have gone to war alongside our ‘best buddies’ from across the Atlantic without this dossier; was the ‘evidence’ it contained deliberately ‘sexed up’ as has been alleged; is Campbell engaged in an ‘old pals act’ with Tony Blair (aka ‘our Tone’), before the former premier is grilled – not literally, but we live in hope – by Sir John Chilcot; will anyone ever face war crime charges over the conflict, deemed illegal by some 80 per cent of the UK population?
And more importantly: Will we ever find out the truth?
One thing for certain is that the silver-tongued Campbell categorically denies putting any spin on the Iraq weapons dossier, pointing out that the man who signed off the discredited file in September 2002 was none other than Sir John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
But hang on a moment. What’s all this about Campbell’s diaries which apparently show he bombarded Sir John with suggestions on how to ‘improve’ said dossier?
Erm, sorry, but something doesn’t quite add up here, does it? I mean, assuming a dossier on something as important as Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme has been truthfully compiled using facts gathered from reliable intelligence sources, how can you possibly ‘improve’ on that?
This inquiry is all questions, questions, questions – and not many useful answers. Mind you, I know a man who’s just champing at the bit to reveal all – as long as it shows him in a good light, that is. In fact, I’m sure that ‘our Tone’ can’t wait for his big day out at the inquiry – and I expect he knows that we can’t wait either!
Ever wondered what life is (or, in some cases, was) like for patients – Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, Moors Murderer Ian Brady plus gangsters Ronnie Kray and Charles Bronson to name but a few – inside Broadmoor, the high security psychiatric hospital near Crowthorne in Berkshire?
If the answer is yes, then your luck could be in. And you won’t have to pretend to be a dangerous ‘head case’ to spend a night or two there, either.
For it has been widely reported that West London Mental NHS Trust wants to sell the 360 acre site occupied by the Grade ll listed Victorian buildings, to fund a new £43 million 266-bed hospital it plans to build nearby (projected opening 2016) – leaving the way clear for Broadmoor to take on a new role. And depending on planning consent, one of these could be as a hotel.
Furthermore, the establishment – which opened as a lunatic asylum in 1863 – already has a multi-million pound gym and swimming pool for its patients who live a life of luxury at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of £600 per day.
Six hundred quid a day? Blimey, that’s daylight robbery! Hopefully, if this hotel transformation ever happens – and according to a West London Mental NHS Trust spokesman it is only one of the options available – the daily tariff will take a considerable nosedive!
I can just imagine the blurb, advertising breaks: lie back and relax in the luxurious Dungeon Suite at Broadmoor Towers, enjoy a drink at the bar behind bars before adjourning to the massive communal dining hall for a sumptuous dinner chosen from the a la carte menu! Magic – captivating, even (but I reckon slopping out time first thing in the morning could be absolute murder)!
Advanced bookings, anyone?
Pssst! Wanna earn mega-bucks? Then head for Birmingham and work for the city council, where one electrician took home a whopping annual pay packet of £124,000, including bonuses and overtime – more than some Government ministers!
Details of his pay was revealed by the council in documents for 2006/7, which also showed that 58 other employees – including binmen, gardeners and gravediggers – received bonuses of up to £20,000 each.
Now other council employees – namely women cleaners, care workers and lollipop ladies – are up in arms. They insist they should have been included in the bonus scheme and are actively seeking compensation.
And furious city taxpayers and campaign groups point out that manual labourers working for the council – Britain’s largest local authority – could soon become millionaires.
“These are mind-boggling sums. Refuse workers in Birmingham are getting paid more than many solicitors and social workers,” said lawyer Stefan Cross, who is fighting a case against the council over its pay policies.
Other revelations from the documents – originally for a Birmingham industrial tribunal to illustrate how council workers were able to inflate pay with bonuses, allowances and overtime – included a refuse lorry driver on £50,917 including £24,000 in bonuses and performance-related payments), binmen earning up to £46,000 per annum and a traffic light repairman who took home the princely sum of £81,940.
Gordon Bennett, I think we’ve all missed our vocations!
Put police officers in the middle of crime hotspots to deter criminals. Now there’s a novel idea if ever there was one!
Erm, isn’t that basically the whole idea of policing, anyway. The saying “prevention is better than cure” tends to leap out at you, doesn’t it?
Anyway, this strategy is apparently going to be adopted for a 12-month study of Greater Manchester areas renowned for high violent crime rates, and will be monitored by boffins at Cambridge University.
Instead of officers covering long distances during a shift, the plan is for them to spend periods stationed in an area of 100ft radius where there is a history of crime – a method (dubbed micro-policing) that experiment leader Cambridge criminologist Professor Lawrence Sherman says cut crime in Minneapolis, USA, hotspots by two thirds in the 1980s.
“For the first time we are saying ‘go to this street corner and stay there for twelve and a half minutes’. It has never been obvious that policing needs to be that local,” he said in an interview. Interesting, eh? But I’m not sure how it actually works after the twelve and a half minutes expires!
Anyway, all I can do is wish the Greater Manchester Police good luck – and advise all you northern crims to abandon your wayward lives. If not, you’re in for a tricky 12 months with police officers round every corner (for twelve and a half minutes, anyway)!
Evenin’ all – and have a great weekend, whatever you get up to!