BBC admits key programme on Welfare State was biased


1:08 pm - July 30th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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The BBC Trust has ruled that the programme ‘The Future of the Welfare State’, broadcast in October 2011, breached its rules on impartiality and accuracy.

The programme was a key BBC production that was presented by John Humphrys and explored the issue from a partisan view that claimed there was a ‘benefits dependency culture’ and an ‘age of entitlement’.

The BBC Trust considered an appeal brought by Child Poverty Action Group and an unidentified individual complainant – ‘complainant A’.

The Trust concluded:

That the absence of sufficient complementary statistical information to underpin contributors’ accounts, viewers were left unable to reach an informed opinion and the Accuracy guidelines had been breached.”

That, as both issues [the lack of context on the benefits bill and the failure to provide information on the number of job seekers] are central to the viewers’ understanding of the key issues discussed in the programme, and because this was a controversial issue which was also a major matter within the meaning of the Editorial Guidelines, the failure of accuracy had also led to a breach of impartiality.

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:

This programme, like too many media stories, failed the public by swallowing wholesale the evidence-free myth of a ‘dependency culture’ in which unemployment and rising benefit spending is the fault of the unemployed.

The reality needs to be reported that only 3% of welfare expenditure goes on Jobseekers Allowance, and that aside from the direct effects of the recession, social security expenditure on working age benefits has not increased has a proportion of GDP in recent years.

CPAG first submitted its complaint in November 2011 and has been pursuing it through the different stages of the BBC’s complaints process.

They pointed out that:

– the programme didn’t bother with opposing views and relevant factual information, leading to the mischaracterisation of benefit claimants interviewed by John Humphrys as ‘victims of the benefit system’ despite their own focus on problems such as low pay and the high cost of childcare.

– the failure to include any expert voices from the UK with views opposing the government compounded the inaccuracy

– the programme gave the appearance of presenting the personal views of one of its senior news and current affairs presenters, in contravention of guidelines. This was compounded by an article in the Daily Mail with the headline ‘JOHN HUMPHRYS: How our welfare system has created an age of entitlement

The ruling follows the on air apology made to Shanene Thorpe in August 2012 after a hostile interview as part of a Newsnight report on the government’s programme of welfare reforms that falsely described her as making a lifestyle choice to live off the state.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. Trevor Habeshaw

Humphrys is supposed to be a presenter not a commentator. I’m amazed and disappointed that he let himself be drawn so amateurishly into representing appalling evidence-free rubbish as this. By their words we shall (usually) know them. I’m not at all surprised that the ConDem’s are once again found out being economical with the truth when it suits them!

The irony of the BBC accusing others of being in a dependency culture! The sense of entitlement in the upper echelons of Auntie is breathtaking.

3. Man on Clapham Omibus

1. Trevor Habeshaw

It would be nice to believe that about Humphrys but sadly after his disgraceful treatment of Julian Assange he amply demonstrated his willingness to tow the state line and ignore the serious implications of Wikileaks revelations in respect of democratic government. An issue, again ignored by the BBC in respect the Snowdon revelations.
It is therefore, of no surprise that he’s been caught out yet again and it is no surprise that the BBC continues its historic mission of churning out conservative propaganda dressed as news content.

So are they going to make another programme to address the imbalance… lead by CPAG maybe? Otherwise the finding is meaningless, as the Government’s propaganda has been spread already.They can shove any apology where the sun don’t shine as far as I’m concerned

I think the abysmal “Saints & Scroungers” should also be referred.

At first I thought I was Complainant A, but the Trust report says this person was a ‘she’ that just so happened to have made similar complaints to mine.

I abandoned my complaint late in the second stage because I felt I was being constantly stonewalled and dragged out to simply make me give up. After 14 months, it succeeded.

The BBC complaints process is heavily skewed against a complainant and the way they apply their own guidelines seems to allow them to get away with just about anything as long as they can’t be sued.

So is the BBC going rectify their bias by an equal amount air time to the apology? And, how about having similar program on the scroungers in Parliament?

8. Robin Levett

@Man on Clapham Omnibus #2:

It would be nice to believe that about Humphrys but sadly after his disgraceful treatment of Julian Assange…

Why disgraceful?

9. Churm Rincewind

Well I say hooray for the BBC (which is not to excuse the original complaint). What other national broadcaster or newspaper would hold up its hands in a similar fashion and say, yes, we got it wrong?

Hooray for the BBC? It’s taken them 1-year 10-months, and it is only because CPAG has pursued them. Hooray for CPAG more like!

Orgreave took 20 years and was apparently not down to anyone.

Britain’s electorate would be better placed to make informed judgements about our welfare state if the BBC were to make comparisons between social security provisions here and in other affluent EU countries like France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and the rest.

It would also be helpful to compare how much public expenditure was spent on social security as percentages of national GDP so as to assess whether Britain’s welfare support was unduly generous relative to that in peer-group countries.

13. ultimatetroll

This is what happens from pandering to the DM and other beeb bashers.

Surely any objective media assessments of welfare dependency and entitlement ideology would be bound to make comparisons with other affluent European countries to see whether Britain’s popular culture is in any way distinctive? Perhaps we should blame Bismarck, the first chancellor of the German empire, who seems to have pioneered the European Social Market model by launching state pensions and a social insurance scheme for personal healthcare costs in the 1880s.

I saw the programme at the time and was surprised by its one-sided nature. I was also surprise by JH’s one-sided nature. So well done the BBC Trust. I thought I must have been the only one whose blood was boiling.

Not sure what a “benefits dependency culture” is.
I am pretty sure that most readers and commenters of the LC would not like to swap places with the people they bang on about.
Go ahead, keep on kicking the least well off, they do not fight back.
Blame them for all that went wrong, if it makes you feel superior.
When you have people who have nothing much in the first place and you want to take away what little they have, even though it will make no difference to you it is not policy it is spite.
David Cameron, Iain Duncan Smith and all of the tories are guilty of spite.

I’m lifelong socialist why do I have to pay for a Tory broad casting company.

Bob B @12, scroll down to the bar chart on this page: http://www.oecd.org/els/soc/socialexpendituredatabasesocx.htm

Ranked by public social expenditure as percentage of GDP, the UK is 11th with 24.1% – above it, France, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Austria, Italy, Germany, Spain and Portugal.

19. Daley Gleephart

Front Page: ‘BBC Attacks John Humphrys For Telling The Truth’ – Daily Mail July 31, 2013

20. Man on Clapham Omnibus
21. Man on Clapham Omnibus

16. littleox

Its when your not working and doing the right thing!

I think the right thing might have something to do with banking , owning a pay day loan company or being an advisor to a fag company.

Further to my comment @18, also useful for context is where the money goes: over half on pensioners (including housing and council tax benefits); nearly a fifth on child benefit and tax credits; housing benefit and council tax benefit for working age people just 14%.

http://lartsocial.org/sites/default/files/Welfare%20expenditure%20by%20category.pdf

@18: ukliberty

Many thanks for that illuminating link to OECD data on public social expenditure as a percentage of national GDP.

I’m not surprised at the UK’s relatively low rank. Having looked into this in the past, UK welfare payments tend to be less generous than in many other EU countries – contrary to prevailing mythology in Britain.

Another interesting insight is that the BBC programme made no attempt to research what is a rather obvious comparison to make to assess whether welfare dependency is likely to be a more attractive social option in Britain than in European peer-group countries.

So much for John Humphrys and his personal brand of serious journalism. But then he does have a weak excuse – he isn’t a graduate. There is something to be said after all for an good grounding education in the social sciences as well as for due diligence in researching polemical issues. IMO he is long past his sell by date.

24. Man on Clapham Omnibus

23. Bob B

Humphreys is a symptom not the cause. The fact that Reith was a speech writer for the Conservatives pretty much sums it up!

24 Man on the Clapham omnibus

“Humphreys is a symptom not the cause.”

Due diligence in the research for the BBC’s welfare dependency programme was conspicuously lacking. It is reasonable to have expected JH to have noticed that glaring defect in his usual inquisitorial role. He evidently didn’t. He should be held to account for his failing journalistic standards after the fashion in which he is wont to hold politicians to account in his Today programme interviews. Sauce for the goose . . .

Bob B @23,

I’m not surprised at the UK’s relatively low rank. Having looked into this in the past, UK welfare payments tend to be less generous than in many other EU countries – contrary to prevailing mythology in Britain.

I recently read a discussion (published in 2011) of whether ‘workers rights’ and unions hurt GDP growth.
http://flipchartfairytales.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/are-employment-rights-and-unions-a-drag-on-the-uks-economy/

Contrary to prevailing mythology in Britain, it turns out that the countries with stronger workers rights and unions seem to be better off than the UK. Among those countries, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, also spend more on welfare than the UK.

ukliberty: “Contrary to prevailing mythology in Britain, it turns out that the countries with stronger workers rights and unions seem to be better off than the UK”

Again, I’m not surprised but many factors contribute to economic growth – as well as to “competitiveness” – so there is ample potential for coincidental association and the direction of causation, if any, is debatable. Schumpeter’s “gale of creative destruction” is likely to be associated with faster economic growth.

Productivity per hour worked in Britain is lower than in other G7 peer-group countries:

– Output per hour in the UK was 16 percentage points below the average for the rest of the major industrialised economies in 2011, the widest productivity gap since 1993. On an output per worker basis, UK productivity was 21 percentage points lower than the rest of the G7 in 2011.

– In 2011, UK output per hour grew roughly in line with the average of the rest of the G7, and faster than the US and Germany. UK output per worker was broadly unchanged between 2010 and 2011.

– Since 2007, growth of UK output per hour and output per worker has trailed that of the US, Japan and Canada, but has been broadly similar to that of Germany and Italy. Thus the ‘productivity conundrum’ is not unique to the UK.

– Outside the G7, UK output per hour in 2011 was significantly lower than in the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland, and a little lower than Spain. Since 2007, growth of output per hour has been sluggish in Belgium and the Netherlands, but has recovered sharply in Spain and Ireland.
http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_299752.pdf

Try Robert Barro’s book: Determinants of Economic Growth – A cross-country emoricial study (MIT Press 1996). Btw Barro’s textbook on Macroeconomics (MIT Press, 5th edition 1997) is avowedly non-keynesian.

It would be topical and well as more pertinent for the BBC to do a better researched assessment of the causes of Britain’s relatively low productivity per hour worked.

Due apologies for silly typo:

Try Robert Barro’s book: Determinants of Economic Growth – A cross-country empirical study (MIT Press 1996).

29. gastro george
30. Charlieman

The BBC has always made mistakes. The Times made a hilarious gaffe with the Hitler Diaries; I got a radio station to play _Don’t Believe A Word_ for Hugh Trevor-Roper at the time. All media make mistakes.

But in recent years, BBC is in the shit because it is the BBC: a convenient target for abuse.

I remember when this site, LC, hosted an _I Believe in the BBC_ banner. The banner was a response to the dreadful treatment of Greg Dyke and Andrew Gilligan and the unfortunate David Kelly. At the time, many people believed, more or less, Andrew Gilligan’s story; today, more people believe the ten year old words of Gilligan than at the time. Yeah, Gilligan fucked up presentation, but the fundamental argument was valid.

Lefties have no time nowadays for Gilligan. He is presumed to be a Tory muppet. What a bunch of unmentionables the left has become.


In the 1960s, the BBC employed a slightly dodgy DJ from Yorkshire called Jimmy Savile. He turned out to be more dodgy than anyone expected. Stuart Hall is the most recently revealed BBC perve.

Should it not be expected that a star system which promotes egocentricity delivers sociopaths? Or fucked up people, whatever.

“In the 1960s, the BBC employed a slightly dodgy DJ from Yorkshire called Jimmy Savile.”

Jimmy Savile was much celebrated on his home turf in Yorkshire because of the promotional work he did for charities. But then how long did it take for the abuses of the Catholic priesthood to come to light? In America, billions have been paid out to victims in compensation.

32. Charlieman

@31. Bob B: “Jimmy Savile was much celebrated on his home turf in Yorkshire because of the promotional work he did for charities.”

The bloke is dead and thankfully we do not need to worry much about lawyers.

Unless we name living gangsters, we may keep our socks on.

Jimmy Savile ran the DJ and club scene in the north of England according to his desire in the early 1960s. To achieve it, the requirement was thumping good friends.

33. Robin Levett

@Man on Clapham Omnibus #20:

http://johnpilger.com/articles/the-war-on-wikileaks-a-john-pilger-investigation-and-interview-with-julian-assange

This about sums it up.

Pretty weaksauce to describe as disgraceful (and I’ve read the transcript of the interview as well). At what point did Julien Assange rise above the law?

34. Man on Clapham Omnibus

33. Robin Levett

At what point did Julien Assange rise above the law?

It really depends on what you mean by the Law, the idea of agency, legitimacy and above all justice.
On the surface Assange should face a court. But this does assume that the agencies involved are above board and sticking to the Liberal Democratic script.
Anyone looking at the last 20 years will,IMO, recognise the Law is not used in this manner but is instead an instrument of state control. It’s about the powerful getting what they want.
Let us consider this in relation to the UK/US incursion into Iraq and Afghanistan and the after effects.
1 Legal War?
2 Rendition ?
3 Torture?
4 Guantanamo?
5 Mass surveillance ?
6 High jacking a Bolivian plane and Kerry reiterating the US intent to repeat this breach of International law on Venezuelan aircraft?

Let us also consider Bradley Manning who brought us the revelation that retreating US troops opened fired on, and killed, dozens of Iraqi civilians, quite apart from extensive revelations of brutality and torture. Were these not crimes and against the Law? Well, according to the US , apparently not! Bradley Manning, however, is now deemed a criminal for exposing this illegality.

In this context, I would suggest that Assange is quite sensible to stay put, particularly since Sweden has, like the UK, been accomplices to US rendition. It would not be the ‘law he would face; it would in all probability, a continuing exercise of US international lawlessness

As to the substantive issue, ie the fact that States are routinely breaking laws , lying to their electorate, often acting against the interests of their citizens and yet maintaining this masquerade that in some way our institutions are ‘democratic’ is lost. This loss is not accidental and individuals like Humpherys and organisations such as the BBC are complicit in their ideological determination to dumb down and misrepresent the important whilst elevating the trivial.

I would add that this does not just have an international aspect. More parochially, changes to civil law, particularly affecting the poor, have been ideologically buttressed by characterising them as feckless and underserving whilst at the same time the Lawyers who help them are regarded as fat cats. As a result, we now have a growing crisis in domestic violence and contact cases and a deplorable situation in care law where the court virtually rubber stamps the permanent removal of children from their parents.

So risen above the Law? Wrong question and wrong inference IMO.

@17

That’s the consequence of living in a socialist society such as ours. Other people tell us how to spend our money.

Bob B re Comment 25:

“He should be held to account for his failing journalistic standards after the fashion in which he is wont to hold politicians to account in his Today programme interviews. ”

Definitely.

John Humphries should undergo a prolonged process of self-criticism, re education. possibly with struggle sessions, helping him identify his counter-revolutionary tendencies.

The people he interviewed should also be compensated for the damage to their self-esteem due to his unkind recollection that when he was a boy the only workless person in his town was regarded as a wastrel.

Only then should he be allowed to voice an opinion – albeit one which is acceptable to posters here.

37. Man on Clapham Omnibus

36. Kojak

Or alternatively he could present issues in an unbiased fashion. I think that suggestion is probably easier to implement.

“Or alternatively he could present issues in an unbiased fashion.”

I would have thought that comparing the extent of supposed benefit dependency in Britain and the reasons for it with peer-group countries in western Europe is a pretty obvious way of establishing benchmarks to assess whether and how Britain is distinctively different. But that evidently didn’t occur to the researchers for the BBC programme or to John Humphrys (correct spelling).

From the news, I see that Coalition government ministers – notably IDS – have condemned the BBC Trust for a “left-wing bias” in finding the benefits dependency programme biased. Btw neither IDS nor Humphrys are graduates.

We did not criticise John Humphrys, says BBC after welfare row

The BBC has attempted to step back from its criticism of John Humphrys after its ruling on a documentary that the broadcaster made about welfare led to a backlash from Coalition ministers.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/10217666/We-did-not-criticise-John-Humphrys-says-BBC-after-welfare-row.html

38. Bob B
Boris and Dave both have degrees so I dont honestly see that is a recommendation for anything.

Moco

There is a logical difference between ‘necessary’ and ‘sufficient’ conditions. Besides, Boris’s degree is in classics.

Admittedly, Dave has an Oxford PPE degree but then so has my son so I know something about the course options. It didn’t used to be the case but after reforms in the course requirements going back to the (?) 1970s, it is possible to almost entirely specialise in P, P or E. As a consequence, my son dropped anything to do with Politics at the very earliest opportunity.

I suspect Dave dropped most of the Economics content at the earliest opportunity since his comments on Treasury policy options – such as ‘There is no alternative’ – show he has little understanding of macroeconomics.

For a forensic assessment of the issues afflicting Britain’s economy, try for starters that piece in The Economist of 6 July: On a wing and a credit card
http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21580478-britain-growing-againbut-perplexing-and-unsustainable-ways-wing-and-credit-card

In a Reuters news bulletin from yesterday:

“A reading of the country’s manufacturing sector in July was stronger than even the most optimistic forecast in a Reuters poll.

“But the economy remains more than 3 percent smaller than before the financial crisis and is vulnerable to interest rates creeping back up in financial markets, especially as the US economy picks up and exerts pressure on British debt prices.”

All that seems far more important to my way of thinking than the claims being made about welfare dependency.

Btw until I retired, I used to work in the Government Economic Service

40. Bob B

So permanent and ongoing decline then???

41 Moco

“So permanent and ongoing decline then???”

I’m not saying that but note that the speed of Britain’s economic recovery from the financial crisis has been slower than in other G7 countries, except for Italy, and Britain’s GDP is still running at 3pc below its previous peak in 2008Q1. Average living standards, as measured by real disposable incomes, are back at 2003 levels.

This is hardly a wonderful achievement on the part of the policies of the coalition government. For an independent assessment, compare this recent assessment by Sam Brittan in the FT:

Britain let down by its bean-counting politicians

Compare the success of different countries in emerging from the Great Recession.

The clear winner among the Group of Seven rich countries is Canada, where output is 5 per cent above the its previous peak. (But I will not go on about it lest it look as if I am trying to curry favour with Mark Carney, the retiring governor of the Bank of Canada, who takes over at the Bank of England next week).

Next in line is the US, where output is 3 per cent above its previous peak. This is not bad going for a country whose much maligned constitutional arrangements split responsibility for economic policy between the presidency, the Federal Reserve and two Houses of Congress – themselves often divided in their partisan allegiance. Well behind is Germany with just over 1 per cent.

We strike negative territory with France, where output is nearly 1 per cent below its previous peak; and then descend to the UK, where the shortfall is almost 4 per cent. Bottom of the class is Italy, with a fall of nearly 9 per cent. The well known structural problems of that country are confounded by its being locked into the euro, with the escape route of devaluation shut off.
http://www.samuelbrittan.co.uk/text460_p.html

The only reasonable take on Cameron and Osborne is that they either have reading or comprehension challenges. Osborne’s excuse is that he is a history graduate, not an economist.

42. Bob B

Maybe send him a copy of Samuelson .

I suppose what I am wondering is the extent to which an economy can drag behind the rest in a world market before it loses the capacity to catch up.

44. Robin Levett

@Man on Clapham Omnibus #34:

It really depends on what you mean by the Law, the idea of agency, legitimacy and above all justice.

I mean the law that you and I are subject to; whereby if you or I were accused of a crime in another European state, we would be subject to extradition to answer to the accusation.

44. Robin Levett

This works if everyone plays by the rules. But I provided you with a number of examples, which you are liberty to refute, where Machiavellian influences are a work.

The notion of being subject to something in a Liberal democracy must surely involve the legitimacy of those making the rules abiding by the same rules. Since you are a lawyer I suspect you are more qualified than most to know that this really isnt whats going on.

I think if your comment were phased as such

”if you or I were accused of a crime in another European state, we would be subject to’.. potential illegal rendition,torture and life sentence in a US jail…” the issue becomes self evident.

46. Robin Levett

@MOCO #45:

”if you or I were accused of a crime in another European state, we would be subject to’.. potential illegal rendition,torture and life sentence in a US jail…”

Assumes facts not in evidence.

43 Moco

“Maybe send him a copy of Samuelson ”

Better still, Macroeconomics (Pearson, 5th edition) by Olivier Blanchard, currently chief economist at the IMF, or Manfred Gartner: Macroeoconomics (Pearson, 4th edition).

“I suppose what I am wondering is the extent to which an economy can drag behind the rest in a world market before it loses the capacity to catch up.”

Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet secretary, evidently doesn’t share the coalition government’s delusion that all is well with Britain’s economy:

Twenty years to fix economy

Britain is in a “20 year generational battle” to rebalance the economy and return the country to financial health, according to Britain’s most senior civil servant.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10156170/Twenty-years-to-fix-economy.html

Lost GDP is forever lost.

Recap:

The IMF chief economist has told the BBC that Chancellor George Osborne should consider slowing down austerity measures in his March budget.

“We think this would be a good time to take stock,” said Olivier Blanchard, speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme. [24 January 2013]
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21175407

46. Robin Levett

‘Assumes facts not in evidence’

Machiavelli couldnt have put it better!

47. Bob B

Sadly the ’20 years to fix the economy’ sound about as likely as ‘5 years to stop global warming’. I think that particular chestnut was said about 5 years ago.

51. Robin Levett

@MoCO:

If the USA intend to put in an extradition request for Assange, why did they not do it to the UK? Getting him extradited to Sweden has the disadvantage that the Swedes would have to give him the opportunity to leave the country after they dropped their charges; and any such request would have to be approved by the UK as well, since we would have sent him there to be tried for rape and sexual assaults, not to be extradited to a third country.

If the USA intend illegally to snatch Assange, again why not do it from the UK? That way, they only need to “offend” one government, the UK’s, rather than the entire EU (which a misuse of the EAW would do).

Why try to snatch him from Sweden, given the the whole reason Assange was there in the first place was because Sweden has stronger protection for whistleblowers than other European states?

If the charges are trumped up, why try to use two Assange sympathisers (both alleged victims were Wikileaks volunters who got the chance to meet their idol at the conference) to set him up?

Why did they not ensure that the allegations against Assange left no room for Assangeistas to argue (as some have, at inordinate length, on this very blog) that they aren’t even allegations of rape?

Why try to use a left-wing radical feminist prosecutor to pick the prosecution up after it had been dropped by the original prosecutor?

If this has been a conspiracy by the US, it was singularly ill-conceived.

“But the USA….” is not an answer to the question “Why does Assange not answer to the law like everyone else?”

51.
Your trust in the government of the USA is baffling.
"Why try to use a left-wing radical feminist prosecutor to pick the prosecution up after it had been dropped by the original prosecutor?" Surely you don’t mean Ms Ny?
Chief prosecutor Ny along with her lawyer friends e.g. Bordstrom and Borgstrom rewrote the laws on sexual assault and violence in order to ensure a much higher conviction rate. The use a secret courts with a jury replaced by government appointees makes the Swedish system highly questionable regarding fair trials.
Some Swedish officials have confided, off record, that if only 20% of prisoners serving sentences for rape, sexual assault and violence against women partners are innocent they’d be quite happy.
Whilst the Swedish social security system is left wing in principle, their legal system is right wing and authoritarian.
btw: Neither of the women claim to have been raped but that is regarded is irrelevant.

51. Robin Levett

“But the USA….” is not an answer to the question “Why does Assange not answer to the law like everyone else?”

So you say, but I think as indicated you have an understandably parochial view of what you call the law although I am somewhat puzzled as to what you might have being doing around the time of the Iraq war to have retain the confidence of your esteemed profession. To have to have a few goes at working out whether it was legal or not to murder a couple of million people doesnt strikes me as as discipline capable of wide and vague interpretation.
Perhaps having your arm wrenched behind your back by Messrs Straw and Blair gives clarity.I dont the legal take on that!

And yet this is precisely the legal environment that Assange inhabits.Where states can and do bend the law on a routine basis acting often against the interests of their own populations as well as other states and persons.
The US, UK and Sweden have all been caught out in the act of rendition.
Added to this,some in the US administration have called for Assange to be assasinated.

Perhaps you might tell me what the Law says about rendition , torture or keeping people locked up for decades because to release them would also be to release details of their treatment which no secret court could ultimately keep secret. This is an important clarification if you are to continue with your current line of argument.

As to you list of facts in defence of why Assange should go to sweden I would say that sure some are provable some are conjectural and some are debatable but put in the same position as Assange anyone who really wasnt stupid would be running as fast as he tried to do. The stakes of playing by someone elses rules are just to high.

47. Bob B

I am surprised you are an endorsee of someone from the IMF.
I thought one of their tricks was to routinely recommend/enforce the cutting of state expenditure and the selling of national assets.

55. Charlieman

@51. Robin Levett: “If this has been a conspiracy by the US, it was singularly ill-conceived.”

Take a deep breath, Robin. Formerly, you argued against the Assangeistas from a legal position, ignoring conspiracy bonkersness.

Legality is the most worthy position in this debate, in which you made great points.

Also, you forgot to mention the normality, on occasions banality, of Assange’s ‘prosecution’. Events may appear strange at times from a UK perspective, but everything has been done according to Swedish legal and police codes.

Assange was granted bail on the basis of personal guarantees which he decided to breech. Swedish police did not place a port block on Assange’s migration because they believed he was a man who would keep his word. Assange can only be prosecuted, by Swedish definition, following an interview at which prosecution is announced. Interview is normally conducted face to face, in Sweden.

The decision of a junior prosecutor may be over ruled by a senior one. This issue bothers Assange defenders who fail to understand that the role of senior people, in any job, is to determine what is to be done.

All of that stuff is normal for Sweden. Standard Swedish legal process.

Subsequently, a UK judge, viewed by journalists from across the world, published a judgement and associated evidence. Against Assange. This much upset Assangeistas, that normal justice can not suffice for an extraordinary man like Julian.

Extraordinary judicial processes are demanded by supporters for Assange. Convoluted logic leads some people to extraordinary places.

Normal. Standard. Assange. Let’s keep those three words in our heads.

55. Charlieman

gloriously missed the point

55.
"everything has been done according to Swedish legal and police codes." There are several examples of where the case deviates dramatically from what is standard.
"Swedish police did not place a port block on Assange’s migration because they believed he was a man who would keep his word." Assange was given permission to leave Sweden.
"The decision of a junior prosecutor may be over ruled by a senior one." The case went to court and was thrown out.
There is more information here: http://ferrada-noli.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/karl-rove-sweden-and-eight-major.html (from Naomi Wolf) and at other numerous sources.

54 Moco: “I am surprised you are an endorsee of someone from the IMF.”

I’am an endorsee of Olivier Blanchard, who was the Robert Solow Professor of Economics at the MIT before he became chief economist at the IMF in 2008.

An earlier edition of Blanchard’s widely used text on macroeconomics, which focused on European economies and institutions, carries a prominent endorsement on its front cover by Charles Bean, deputy governor of the Bank of England and previously chief economist at the Bank. Before that, Bean was a prof at the LSE.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Macroeconomics-European-Perspective-MyEconLab-Access/dp/0273763113

I think we can take it that Blanchard and Bean both know their stuff about macroeconomics.

Interestingly this thread has ggloriously followed in the footsteps of the Humphrys interview.
By focusing on the Lasange allegations the substantive issue was lost . Personally I would have liked a full discussion of the issues raised by wikileaks as I would like the BBC to talk about Snowdons relvelations which are totally ignored.
Whilst we are about it when do we get to read Chilcott

I still maintain that the rule of law can only be exercised by states that dont break their own laws. It is the basis of legitimacy which is why no-one arguing for Lasange to take the plunge wouldever submit themselves willingly to a trial in Russia for example.

The downside is when states do indulge in torture etc there is less and less to discriminate them from the badguys and this is in no-ones interest.

60. Charlieman

@57. Ceiliog: “There is more [dis]information here: http://ferrada-noli.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/karl-rove-sweden-and-eight-major.html

Let’s look at the words.

“1) POLICE NEVER PURSUE COMPLAINTS IN WHICH THERE IS NO INDICATION OF
LACK OF CONSENT.”

I reckon that you will find a sexual violence case in every EU country (and every month?) where the survivor lived and the police pursued it, beyond the survivor’s immediate wishes. It is a normal instinct for coppers to pursue a case.

“2) POLICE DO NOT ALLOW TWO WOMEN REPORT AN ACCUSATION ABOUT ONE
MAN TOGETHER.”

Nobody can control whether two women attend a police station simultaneously.

“3) PROSECUTORS NEVER LET TWO ALLEGED VICTIMS HAVE THE SAME
LAWYER.”

Dunno about this one in Swedish law. Logically, it is an argument that could go on forever.

“4) POLICE NEVER EVER TAKE TESTIMONY FROM FORMER BOYFRIENDS.”

I’ll skip the argument on basis of its profound implausibility.

“5) A LAWYER NEVER TYPICALLY TAKES ON TWO ALLEGED RAPE VICTIMS OF THE SAME MAN AS CLIENTS.”

That is the same point as 3.

“6) A RAPE VICTIM NEVER USES A CORPORATE ATTORNEY.”

The last time that I was face to face with a copper (for electoral spending incompetence), my lawyer was an expert barrister in domestic violence. She was a friend of a friend, and I have never properly thanked her. She acted as my immediate protector, not the lawyer to ultimately defend me.

She’d have found a pro bono for me, had silliness been pursued further. If over expenditure of £1.25 in a local government by-election screwed me, I would have had A CORPORATE ATTORNEY in defence.

“7) A RAPE VICTIM IS NEVER ENCOURAGED TO MAKE ANY KIND OF CONTACT WITH HER ASSAILANT

AND SHE MAY NEVER USE POLICE TO COMPEL HER ALLEGED ASSAILANT TO TAKE MEDICAL TESTS.”

The first part of this argument is about whether one or two Swedish women met or corresponded with Assange following alleged abuse. I cannot comment or conclude, because I do not know.

On the second point, it is not the role of police officers to act as STD control officers. But in most places, there is a generic complaint about negligent sexual conduct which disregards safety of others.

“8) POLICE ANDS PROSECUTORS PRETTY MUCH NEVER LEAK POLICE TRANSCRIPTS DURING AN ACTIVE INVESTIGATION BECAUSE THEY FACE PUNISHMENT FOR DOING SO.”

Why do these people SHOUT? And why do they shout at us about their tosserness?

Pardon me but the original thread topic was bias on the part of the BBC in its programme on the Welfare State.

I made the point early on that a presentation on Benefits Dependency in Britain should have compared the benefits in peer-group countries in western Europe as well as the public spending on the benefits as percentages of national GDP so as to assess whether Britain was distinctively different.

The failure to make these obvious comparisons show that the BBC programme was poorly researched. John Humphrys, the presenter, ought to have noticed this.

60.
1. The two women went to a police station after they had visited a newspaper and whoever they spoke to at the newspaper apparently told them to speak to a police officer and demand that Assange submit a sample of semen.
2. The two women were interviewed together in a police interview room.
3. No idea.
4. I presume that in this case, the police did contact.
5. Standard in case one prosecution fails.
6. In your personal case you were friends with the barrister before there was any accusation of wrong doing.
7. I have no idea about contact after any allegation. See point 1 about test for STD.
8. Under Swedish law, a person who is alleged to have committed a sexual offence must remain anonymous. Details of transcripts were apparently leaked to an American media company.

I have heard many impolite comments about Ms Klein but “tosser” has not been one until now.

It is true that Assange has been treated differently from an ordinary person. In my opinion, it is highly unlikely that the Swedish police and Sweden’s Chief Prosecutor would have acted in the way that they did if the person was virtually unknown and with no political profile.

60.
Btw: Newspapers SHOUT their tosserness every day so, maybe, you should complain to them.

“Swedish police did not place a port block on Assange’s migration because they believed he was a man who would keep his word.” Assange was given permission to leave Sweden.

In fact it was merely confirmed that there was no legal constraint on him at that time should he want to leave the country. It’s a subtle difference.

“The decision of a junior prosecutor may be over ruled by a senior one.” The case went to court and was thrown out.

Which case, what court? The Stockholm District Court granted a domestic detention order in absentia. Assange appealed to the Svea Court of Appeal against the order – the court dismissed his appeal, said there is probable cause. The EAW was issued. Assange appealed to the Supreme Court of Sweden – the court didn’t grant him leave to appeal, the Svea decision stood. English District Court said Assange must be extradited. Assange appealed to the High Court. The High Court upheld the extradition. Assange appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the extradition.

8. Under Swedish law, a person who is alleged to have committed a sexual offence must remain anonymous. Details of transcripts were apparently leaked to an American media company.

Leaked by who?

Interestingly this thread has ggloriously followed in the footsteps of the Humphrys interview.
By focusing on the Lasange allegations the substantive issue was lost .

Well, you derailed the thread at 3 when you mentioned Lasange (sic).

66. Charlieman

@63. Ceiliog: “Btw: Newspapers SHOUT their tosserness every day so, maybe, you should complain to them.”

Thanks, Ceiliog. How is your name pronounced?

I ask the question openly.

67. Charlieman

Hello again, ukliberty. And thanks for the awkward questions.

65. ukliberty

Not so. I merely highlighted the importance of the Wikileaks revelations as opposed to considering what Assange may or may not have done in his private life. And true to form what has been largely discussed is Assange’s private life. It may be human nature to focus on this but I would nonetheless maintain that issues of democracy and state legitimacy are worth looking particularly in the light of recurring revelations.
I would have thought that a site like ‘Liberal Conspiracy’ would have lapped up the chance but like the rest of the media, except for the Guardian, it is strangely quiet electing instead to focus on luvvy trivia.

Rest assured there are no dead children called MOCO!

60. Charlieman

But getting back to the substantives isse. What do you think about the content of Wikileaks/Snowdon’s disclosures and the implications for Liberal democracy etc?
That’s what the BBC and others,including this site, like to ignore.
When it comes down to it, the message is important not the messenger.

70. Robin Levett

@MOCO #53:

I am somewhat puzzled as to what you might have being doing around the time of the Iraq war to have retain the confidence of your esteemed profession. To have to have a few goes at working out whether it was legal or not to murder a couple of million people doesnt strikes me as as discipline capable of wide and vague interpretation.

I am on record as taking the view that the Iraq war was launched illegally, and that the Attorney-General was wrong: https://groups.google.com/d/msg/talk.origins/GgYZwxLBSb0/nH-VrnBDOvMJ
from which I withdraw not an iota.

But that is very far from believing that the US would be sufficiently disrespectful of the law and plain stupid as to try to snatch Assange from Sweden.

Perhaps you might tell me what the Law says about rendition , torture or keeping people locked up for decades because to release them would also be to release details of their treatment which no secret court could ultimately keep secret. This is an important clarification if you are to continue with your current line of argument.

In most relevant places, each activity is on the far side of legality. So what? If you are going to argue that Assange is above the law because there is a credible threat that the USA will do nasty things to him (and though you may deny it, that is what you are actually arging), you have to establish the credible threat; not just argue “But the USA…”.

There is nothing in the history of Assange’s troubles with Sweden that comes close to establishing any such threat; there is certainly nothing that looks like they have been cooked up by the USA in order to get him to Sweden to snatch him.

64.
I remember seeing what looked to me like a courtroom where Assange and his lawyers appeared. My understanding was that the case was dismissed only for it to be re-opened by Sweden’s Chief Prosecutor. Can you enlighten me as to what actually happened?
I have no knowledge of how a USA media company obtained details.

66.
Thank you for your interest. Ceiliog (pronounced khi lee ogg) is Welsh for Rooster.

MOCO @68, I don’t understand your comment about dead children.

I would nonetheless maintain that issues of democracy and state legitimacy are worth looking particularly in the light of recurring revelations.

Your contribution must be short-ish (ideally around 500 words), concise, related to the news agenda (unless pitched as a think-piece) and must not have been said already on a previous post on LC.

Before you send it in or write it, unless it’s already on your blog, send the editor a short pitch (from one line to one paragraph) by using the Contact page.
We’ll get back in touch.

73. Robin Levett

@MOCO #68:

I merely highlighted the importance of the Wikileaks revelations as opposed to considering what Assange may or may not have done in his private life. And true to form what has been largely discussed is Assange’s private life. It may be human nature to focus on this but I would nonetheless maintain that issues of democracy and state legitimacy are worth looking particularly in the light of recurring revelations.

You chose to focus on what you considered was “disgraceful” treatment by Humphreys of Assange. The disgraceful treatment seemed to be asking him whether he should be obeying the law and returning to Sweden. The interview arose because Assange, having been accused of rape, cranked up the publicity machine himself to smear both the UK and Swedish legal aystems to try to avoid returning to Sweden to face the accusations.

The revelations of prosecution papers, for example, were of copies that had been in his lawyer’s possession.

74. Robin Levett

@Ceiliog #52:

Chief prosecutor Ny along with her lawyer friends e.g. Bordstrom and Borgstrom rewrote the laws on sexual assault and violence in order to ensure a much higher conviction rate.

Cite? The current Swedish law on rape is broadly similar to that in England & Wales – but the penalties are much lower. the maximum in Sweden is 10 years for a gross rape; in E&W the maximum is life imprisonment.

The use a secret courts

No; they use a court sitting in private.

with a jury replaced by government appointees

Or, less pejoratively, judges. The Swedish system by and large uses a banch of judges of whom one, the chair, is professional and two are lay. Like a hybrid between the two forms of E&W magistrates courts.

makes the Swedish system highly questionable regarding fair trials.

Nope; their system has been upheld at ECHR level. Read the E&W judgments on Assange’s case.

Some Swedish officials have confided, off record, that if only 20% of prisoners serving sentences for rape, sexual assault and violence against women partners are innocent they’d be quite happy.

If it’s off the record, how do you know? And if you do know, where from?

Whilst the Swedish social security system is left wing in principle, their legal system is right wing and authoritarian.

On what basis do you make that assertion.

In any event, the claim was that the individuals – both Ny and the alleged victims – were politically left-wing, and hence more likely to sympathise with Assange than the USA; and that is made out. The victims were both Wikileaks volunteers and at least one is a Social Democrat; and Ny is also a Social Democrat.

btw Neither of the women claim to have been raped but that is regarded is irrelevant.

That is simply untrue. Both claim that Assaneg ahd sexual intercourse with them in circumstances to which they did not consent. One because she believes that Assange, following her consent to sex on the express condition that he used a condom, broke the condom; the other because, having had consensual sex the previous night (with the same condition imposed) with a condom, he then penetrated her without a condom while she was asleep. Both those cases are cases of rape both in E&W and in Sweden. Whether he is guilty of rape depends on whether the cases are proved – but until he goes back to Sweden, we’ll never know.

70. Robin Levett

‘But that is very far from believing that the US would be sufficiently disrespectful of the law and plain stupid as to try to snatch Assange from Sweden’

So hijacking a presidential plane to check for Snowdon isnt respectful of International law is it? Er and if they did take Assange from Sweden why would that be ‘stupid’ and what would be the ramifications exactly. Might Australia declare war perhaps? Maybe the UK might stop sending everyones phone records to the US!

‘In most relevant places, each activity is on the far side of legality’

That piece of legal bollockspeak at least tells me you have a sense of humour although I hope the significance is not lost upon you. If the law is that sufficiently maleable then pretty much anyone can interpret the law as they wish. Indeed you have already pointed out your opposition to the Iraq war which was presumably ‘on the far side of legality’. But if you want it that way I am sure Assange will be very grateful . Its not like he ran away; he’s just on the ‘far side of legality’!

More examples of ‘legal relativity’ for you to comment on!

The rendition of Sami al-Saadi and his pregnant wife taped to a board. A bit of harmless fun on an M16 away day?

The authorisation of a multi million pound pay out to men from the UK who were held in Guantanamo Bay avoiding their evidence of alleged collusion with the US emerging in open court. A mere misunderstanding between friends. You know these electrical appliances can get so out of hand sometimes!

As to establishing a credible threat I do not have to do any such thing. In any event if Assange was using the legal latitude you have afforded to the criminal activities of the US and others he clearly enjoyed wide justification for his action and the reasons behind it.

The original post was about the role of the BBC in quenching important issues of spying and state secrecy and malfeasance. Just for the record, have you any concern about this or is the significance of Assange only related to who he allegedly knobbed in Sweden?

72. ukliberty

how have these names been used in the past! Now you can go spotting.

70. Robin Levett

errata

it was Abdul Hakim Belhaj (yet another one)whose pregnant
wife was taped to board.

78. Robin Levett

@Ceiliog #71 (I hope I’ve pronoucnced your name correctly):

64.
I remember seeing what looked to me like a courtroom where Assange and his lawyers appeared. My understanding was that the case was dismissed only for it to be re-opened by Sweden’s Chief Prosecutor. Can you enlighten me as to what actually happened?

ukliberty did so in the post to which you are replying

Ceiliog,

I remember seeing what looked to me like a courtroom where Assange and his lawyers appeared. My understanding was that the case was dismissed only for it to be re-opened by Sweden’s Chief Prosecutor. Can you enlighten me as to what actually happened?

In late August 2010 a duty prosecutor ordered Assange’s arrest for rape and molestation. A prosecutor senior to the first terminated the investigation into the alleged rape (note, not the alleged molestation). The women’s lawyer requested a review of that decision. The Director of Public Prosecution decided to resume the investigation into the alleged rape. On or about 27 September 2010 Assange left Sweden.

I do not know what courtroom appearance you refer to. To my knowledge he has not appeared in any Swedish court, at least not with regard to the four allegations – his legal team argued his case in his absence. He appeared at the extradition hearing in the UK, he appeared at the High Court appeal, I don’t know if he appeared at the Supreme Court.

The case against him was not dismissed by any court. Each of the six courts found against him.

74.
If Ny, Bordstrom, Borgstrom and woman ‘A’ are left wing, I dread to think what the centrists in Sweden are like.

79.
Thank you. The scene that I saw on my computer monitor was in Sweden. Maybe the news item was misreported.

81. Robin Levett

@Ceiliog #80:

If Ny, Bordstrom, Borgstrom and woman ‘A’ are left wing, I dread to think what the centrists in Sweden are like.

Well, the party applies the principle of “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs”, is the achitect of the most successful and equal welfare state in Western Europe (funded from progressive taxation), supports human rights, supports and protects Wikileaks (as do the victims personally), doesn’t invade other countries… Rather far to the left of the modern Labour party in this country, don’t you think?

82. Robin Levett

@81:

Sorry; replace “victims” with “alleged victims”.

81.
Do you mean to the left of New Labour’s opinions about extraordinary rendition?
How left wing does someone have to be in order to get kicked out of Cuba?

85. Churm Rincewind

There’s only one question here. Should the the BBC seek, within each programme, to reflect a consensus view, or should it reflect a diversity of views across a range of programmes in such a way that a consensus emerges?

If the latter, an approach which I would support, then there will always be individual programmes which are deemed unfair by some. So what?

Like the Law the term left can encompassing a host of varieties

http://www.hrw.org/news/2006/11/09/sweden-violated-torture-ban-cia-rendition

84.
That was when Thomas Bordstrom, of Bordstrom and Borgstrom, was Sweden’s Justice Minister.
http://professorsblogg.com/2012/07/07/bodstrom-borgstrom-very-very-much-upset-about-ecuadors-foreign-minister-patino-assange-asylum-case/

88. Robin Levett

@MOCO #75:

So hijacking a presidential plane to check for Snowdon isnt respectful of International law is it?

When did the USA do that? Could you give me a cite? Or are you referring to the French, Spanish, Italians and Portuguese not giving permission to the Bolivians to route a state flight through their airspace? International law does not give any state the right to overfly the territory of any other state.

So: unfriendly, yes – illegal, no.

Er and if they did take Assange from Sweden why would that be ‘stupid’ and what would be the ramifications exactly. Might Australia declare war perhaps? Maybe the UK might stop sending everyones phone records to the US!

Forget Australia; but the EU is a larger economy and trading bloc than the USA. Even if individual politicians might be bought and paid for, that doesn’t go for the electorates to which they have to answer.

As to establishing a credible threat I do not have to do any such thing. In any event if Assange was using the legal latitude you have afforded to the criminal activities of the US and others he clearly enjoyed wide justification for his action and the reasons behind it.

Of course you do; you are defending Assange’s right to disregard the law.

And let’s inject a note of reality into this dicsussion. Wikileaks is what matters, not Assange’s personal fate and failings such as they might be. Wikileaks is what gets up the USA’s nose. Wikileaks is hosted on Swedish servers. The Swedes have taken no action to prevent that. Thnink about the implications of that for a moment.

89. Robin Levett

@Ceiliog #8£:

Do you mean to the left of New Labour’s opinions about extraordinary rendition?

Did you read my comment? It’s difficult to be to the right of Nulab’s views on extraordinary rendition. And?

How left wing does someone have to be in order to get kicked out of Cuba?

Just left-wing enough to support Wikileaks as a volunteer and hero-worship Assange enough to invite him into her bed. Are you going to go the full “counterpunch”?

89.
"Are you going to go the full “counterpunch”?"
I’ll wait whilst you entertain us with Matrix-style bullet dodging.

88. Robin Levett

‘Of course you do; you are defending Assange’s right to disregard the law’

No I am saying I understand it. I dont think anyone or any state should disregard the law otherwise there is anarchy and its only terrorists and criminals that gain.As it is, advanced demorcacies are behaving appallingly so we can draw our own conclusions as to the ramifications down the line.

The obvious outcome will be if states break laws then bad faith dictates that citizens will also break some laws justifiably.

As for wikileaks I couldn’t agree more and it was because of this that I originally castigated the BBC over the cover up as I do Snowdon etc.

Closing down the servers would be a stupid move IMO.

92. Robin Levett

@Cailiog #90:

I’ll wait whilst you entertain us with Matrix-style bullet dodging.

You have to actually send bullets downrange before I can dodge them. “But she got thrown out of Cuba” is just as content free an argument as “But the USA…”. Join some dots.

The fact still remains that both alleged victims were Wikileaks volunteers; one was the political secretary of the group which invited Assange.

92.
I’m not sending or firing any bullets.
You’re in a distorted virtual reality and caught by crossfire. If you try hard, you’ll notice that the imagery is fake and you are in a green room with unidentified people pulling ropes that are attached to you.

94. Robin Levett

@Ceiliog #93:

Then perhaps, if you don’t like me pursuing your metaphor, you could explain what being thrown out of Cuba has to do with being left or right wing. You may have a point – but I’m profoundly unconvinced by conspiracy theory arguments made without reference to fact.

94.
When you used the word ‘counterpunch’ I assumed that you knew about the link.
http://my.firedoglake.com/kirkmurphy/2010/12/04/assanges-chief-accuser-has-her-own-history-with-us-funded-anti-castro-groups-one-of-which-has-cia-ties/

Why some people who see the term ‘ultra-feminist’ think that the person referred to is left wing?

96. Robin Levett

@Ceiliog #95:

When you used the word ‘counterpunch’ I assumed that you knew about the link.
http://my.firedoglake.com/kirkmurphy/2010/12/04/assanges-chief-accuser-has-her-own-history-with-us-funded-anti-castro-groups-one-of-which-has-cia-ties/

Oh, I knew about the “link”; that was why I asked whether you were actually going to raise it. Have a very close look at the strength of the “associations” alleged. Take the first one: she’s written some anti-Castro articles that were published in a publication that is “linked” to an organisation whose leader (Montaner) a Sr Rodriguez thinks may have some CIA contacts because he found some information that Rodriguez couldn’t find on Google.

Defend that.

Why some people who see the term ‘ultra-feminist’ think that the person referred to is left wing?

No idea. If you look above, however, you’ll find that I don’t. I point to the victims’ membership of the Swediish Social Democratic party, and her history of support for Wikileaks as a volunteer and as political secretary of the group which invited Assange to Sweden.

96.
I was not aware of the link until I did an internet search on Monday using ‘counterpunch’ as one of terms.


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