Rotherham Council – Foster Parents UKIP membership – growing scandal

An interesting news story that broke this weekend involved a growing scandal over Rotherham Borough Council’s decision following an ‘anonymous tip-off’  to remove three EU Migrant children from the care of a foster family, a decision apparently made due to the fact that the foster parents are members of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

In light of the facts (Admitted by the council) that the parents are otherwise good foster parents the reasoning behind this decision appears highly questionable, and has in fact drawn universal and fierce criticism from many quarters including members of central government such as Michael Gove, and understandably from the UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

As stated it seems Rotherham Council’s decision was based on the fact that the foster parents concerned are members of the UKIP and that the Council’s Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services, Joyce Thacker appears to believe that UKIP policy on ending the active promotion of the doctrine of multiculturalism in the UK media was a sufficient reason to remove the children concerned from the foster parents on the basis that the placement was not a good cultural match. Note therefore that the decision was not based on the actions of the parents concerned. On their part the parents concerned believe they are accused of affiliation with a ‘racist’ party and if reports are accurate they have indeed been treated particularly shoddily.

Without even having to get too deep into this issue, to me a number of questionable issues and considerations arise on the facts as widely reported in the media.

Firstly it seems to me that just because a person identifies with a political party, this does not necessarily mean that they identify with or practice each and every policy. I personally believe that the majority of voters in the UK probably have no idea of the full policy intentions of any given party. How many for example read through a party’s manifesto before deciding to support them? I would submit that many base their political choices on the public statements (or lack of) of the party concerned as presented by their various personnel through the media rather than conducting detailed research into the party in question.

How many for example were motivated to vote against Labour in 2010 following Gordon Brown’s staggering on mic ‘just a sort of bigoted woman’ faux pas? How many others were influenced by the performance of the party leaders in the various televised debates that took place prior to the election? I would bet there were many who formed their voting intentions purely on such issues without ever actually coming into contact with any substantive policy or manifesto materials.

For my own part I have never really been interested in UKIP because I don’t identify with their stance on the EU or on the European Convention on Human Rights, and have never had any desire to know the detail of their policies to any depth beyond those bald perceptions, and the specific  issue on multiculturalism is therefore news to me (though it is one that I could see being pretty much impossible to implement anyway). However the main identifying broad policy of UKIP as presented in the media and around which I believe many likely base their voting intentions is that of EU withdrawal and of curbing immigration (policies which many in the conservative party probably share by the way).

This is not however something that I believe would automatically mean that any voting individual must also identify with each and every other policy that a party may have. I would go as far as to suggest that actual party membership does also not of itself signal an individuals in depth understanding and support for every policy of their chosen party. In some cases why bother anyway as policy is not something to which any party is legally bound to, as evidenced by often seen policy u-turns and the manifesto pledges that often go down the Thomas Crapper as soon as a party wins.

In addition is the fact that political affiliation of itself is also not set in stone. I know from personal experience and from having observed the political actions of others over the years that party affiliation can be a lifelong or a merely transient issue. Persons may support one party yet shift allegiance to another simply because they prefer the others stance on a particular issue, or they may like myself grow to not identify with any one party. Some may vote for a party on the same basis as supporting a football team, for example merely because their parents did or because it is the accepted norm in their social circles. Voters may also change allegiance in protest against their preferred party’s stance on a particular issue. These are issues which come into play at every election in the UK. Indeed as reported here it seems that the parents concerned were previously labour party supporters.

I do not believe however that there are many who base affiliation on the entirety of a party’s policies, particularly (given the transient nature of politics and politicians in general) when policy is liable to change at a moments notice. Instead I believe the reality is that affiliation is usually strongly identified not with an in-depth knowledge of the minutia of manifesto small print, but on a mix of perception and an appreciation of perhaps some policy considerations mostly gleaned second-hand through the media.

Hell there may even be some who in the past voted UKIP and later Veritas simply because they liked (or fancied) Kilroy.

The point is that with some very limited exception (i.e. if you happen to be a swastika tattooed neo nazi skinhead in knee-length bover boots likely to engage at a moments notice in a bit of the old ultra violence, then fostering is not for you, though an iso cube may well be!) political affiliation like religious belief of itself generally should not be a deciding factor by any local authority in any decision to place or remove children with any particular foster parents as by its very nature political belief is not of itself a truly quantifiable factor. That is even more so when as in this case the parents political affiliation has no discernible effect on the parents ability to provide the right kind of good home for the children concerned that would justify such a council decision.

However, even if political affiliation and the issue of multiculturalism are relevant issues capable of justifying a decision such as this, then surely Joyce Thacker’s decision should have been made on the basis of whether the parents themselves were actively against multiculturalism, and were likely to act under such belief in a way that would be likely to harm the children, not simply on the bald fact that the political party they support may have a policy that the decision maker happens to disagree with. The fact that in this case the parents concerned had chosen to foster children from an EU migrant background and to all intents and purposes appear to have sought to provide a good stable home for them strongly suggests otherwise.

It appears however as per Ms Thacker’s statement to the BBC in which she admits that her decision was influenced by UKIP policy, and not apparently on a consideration of the actions of the parents themselves or whether they themselves actually identified with it. In fact from media reports which may or may not be accurate, it appears that following an anonymous tip off the decision was made out of the blue without consultation with the parents themselves or any further investigation as to whether their political affiliation did in fact compromise their ability to foster the particular children involved. I also have to question the integrity of the so-called anonymous tipster, what exactly was their motivation in this?

Thacker claims that the decision was made after taking legal advice. It would of course help to know what this advice was as it does seem incredible that the Council would have been advised to proceed as they have, much less proceed on such advice given the fact that from the get go the decision just feels entirely wrong to begin with. Why also would the council have concerns about the long-term future of the children concerned when their placement with the parents in question was an emergency temporary placement which surely would not have been in the long-term? Also if political affiliation is such a crucial deciding factor in like cases then surely it should be part of the authorities legal duty to actually determine the political allegiance of the parents concerned before placement? Not so according to their web application system for prospective foster parents which makes absolutely no mention of political affiliation of the prospective carer. In fact the closest it gets is asking about ethnic background.

In addition are councils really likely to take advice which on the facts immediately raises questions of whether they have complied with their duty as a local authority in accordance with Human Rights law and the possibility of judicial review? For example under the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) which incorporates the articles of the European Convention on Human rights there is the possibility that Article 8 on the right to respect for private and family life, Article 11 on the right to freedom of assembly and ‘association’, Article 14 on the prohibition of discrimination regarding a convention right and Article 1 of protocol 12 on the general prohibition of discrimination against legal rights on grounds of political or other opinion may all be engaged regarding the Council’s decision.

Was any consideration given to this?

The problem now however it is difficult to determine what remedy would be available were any claim under the HRA successful as the children have already been removed, and the placing was an emergency fostering of likely short duration anyhow. The only damage appears hurt to the parents and possible damage to reputation suggesting compensation and a possible declaration that the Council decision is incompatible with convention rights, although I would argue that given the fact that the fostering placement was temporary and of undetermined duration this alone renders even the provision of compensation questionable as the children could have been moved at any time anyway. Of paramount concern in any case would be the welfare of the children, and it seems unlikely that they would be placed back with the parents concerned as such toing and froing would ultimately not be in their best interests having been moved already.

The Council as a public authority is also amenable to judicial review, and the decision itself is likely justiciable given that it was made in relation to the exercise of a clearly public function under statutory powers. Whether it falls within the heads of illegality, irrationality or procedural impropriety or would be granted leave for review requires further information to determine, although there is room to argue on the facts at least that it appears the parents may not have been given a fair hearing. However the same potential question of remedy remains, what would such claim achieve other than to highlight by declaration a fault in the Council’s decision-making process if successful?

The decision certainly couldn’t be quashed as again the welfare of the children is paramount so there is no question of them being returned to the parents rendering such remedy unavailable. Again compensation is questionable given that there is nothing in reality to be compensated other than hurt feelings. In the meantime substantial amounts of court time and money would have been spent on achieving very little, if anything.

As such the possibility of any legal claim appears slim, and at best if the Council are in the wrong which other than media and political fury has not yet been established, the appropriate remedy would seem to be at least a public apology to the parents, an acceptance of the current trial by media and political fury over the decision, and the provision of safeguards to ensure that such decisions cannot be made under such circumstances in future. There have been calls for resignations of the officials concerned, and I have to say that this would be appropriate if they were indeed in the wrong over this.

There may also be more immediate political repercussions over the decision. This entire affair could even open the door for UKIP to increase their standing in the upcoming Rotherham by-election next week as considered by Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph.

While there is no suggestion here that the decision was made for political reasons (which considering the potential own goal that such a thought process would lead to given current reaction seems unlikely) without further clarification on the grounds of removal Rotherham Councils decision is left appearing publicly political in nature and must therefore be addressed urgently by their raising of suitable justification for the decision, at least in order to restore public confidence in their actions as a local authority.

March for a future that works

20th October 2012

12.45 p.m. Finally made it into London, currently sitting on tube heading into St Pauls. The march has started, updates later once we get there. Oh and if my spelling or punctuation is more off than usual, its because I am typing and uploading this as we walk on the iPad.

2.30 pm well we missed the start but thanks to the tube we managed to catch up at Trafalgar square, now marching up pall mall. Lots of chanting ‘down with the Tories’ bands, drummers etc. heading toward Hyde park. Oh and lots of whistles blowing and people making air raid noises. Very lively, no trouble.

Now marching past Starbucks at Piccadilly, shouts of ‘Starbucks pay your taxes’ also just heard on a tannoy that there are over 200,000 in the march, with 15,000 marching in Belfast. Getting loads of great photos.

Just passed the Ritz. Its closed today funnily enough

Couple of pictures:

20121020-031208 PM.jpg

20121020-031246 PM.jpg

3.15 pm Seems its not all about the Tories after all, although just heard someone shout ‘if it walks like a Tory, if it talks like a Tory, its a liberal democrat’ so cross party condemnation throughout, with a sense of Humour!

Just passed Hyde Park corner, on way round to the park.

Just entering the park now, lot of people here, drums, music. Heading up to the meeting area to see talks.

Decided to give the talks a miss, seems they went ahead before the march was finished so no point. Besides Ed Miliband apparently turned up to talk, so don’t think we really missed much. Crowd dispersing now. All in all an interesting day. Not sure if it will make much of a difference, politicians, especially those in power now are not really known for taking notice of the public other than at election time, so no doubt it will be ignored. There are a lot of marchers calling for general strikes to follow the march. Whether this will happen is anyone’s guess just now, but if this event has done anything today it is to show that many many people are desperately unhappy with current government policy, and if any of the news outlets try to play it down as being only a few thousand in attendance, then they are lying. There may be hundreds not tens of thousands here today.

Might head off now to have a wander round town before heading home.

22.55 p.m. well after a quick whizz bang down Oxford Street, something to eat and a quick spin round Westminster we got home. Heres a couple of shaky videos taken by yours truly of today’s events. We were straggling behind a bit having taken a break so the crowd seems a bit thin, but there were many thousands of people already having passed by the time we got there.

Oh and it seems that not all lawyers consider themselves money grabbing capitalists judging by this banner below:

And lastly, the aftermath of the Rally. A single lonely figure carrying a red flag walks past

Afterword: been hearing that Ed Miliband didn’t get the warmest of welcomes, but then that’s what happens when you try to shake your money maker and hijack someone else’s parade. while the Tories may not have any answers and the Lib Cons are probably down the toilet, I am not sure I trust Labour either. In fact as I have said here before, I don’t trust any parties in Politics. Not sure I trust in most of the sloganeering I saw today either mind, but I can agree with the sympathies in having seen the effects of Government cutbacks on the vulnerable.

Anyhow its time for bed and closedown, so…….

Heres a testcard :D

Goodnight.

London Mayoral Race – Media narrowing the race through biased coverage? Shenanigans!

Some Shenanigans!

I am not from London although a large part of my family is including my Father. Nonetheless the concept of the election of a Mayor is one that I am unfamiliar with and not convinced of the necessity for as it is after all merely another layer of expensive red tape. Nonetheless, London has a Mayor and currently the race for election is on.

To the casual observer however, it would appear at the moment that the race for office is a two horse race between the Conservative and incumbent candidate Bullingdon sorry Boris Johnson* and the Notorious ‘Red’ (or is that ‘crying’) Ken Livingston* with some fringe activities by the Liberal Tories, sorry Lie’beral Democraps sorry Liable demoscratch, SORRY! (Bloody Keyboard!) the ‘Liberal Democrats’ (finally, you know Paddy pantsdowns party) (er. do they still exist? is there life on Mars?) and a few other more well known ‘parties’.

Some would argue that both of the Labour and Tory candidates have had their day (including myself) and should step aside in favour of some fresh blood and a more positive fresh direction in office rather than playing politics as they always do, as this week has seen with some pretty rubbish squabbling over who pays tax for what. the fact that some candidates have reduced the debate to one of who pays more tax is pretty pathetic, not to mention being bereft of policy.

Not so according to the BBC, Sky and various other media outlets however who have recently been accused in The Guardian of excluding non major party candidates from televised and other media events, including specifically the sole independent candidate Siobhan Benita who has not been invited to take part in live televised debates or hustings, and has otherwise been sidelined in coverage in favour of the major party figures, which in my mind presents an entirely false image to the electorate who may not even be aware that other candidates are taking part (though I have to say that I have no problem with the British Nazi sorry ‘National’ Party candidate being suppressed! Launched into and lost in space would be more fitting or a meeting with ‘Handy’ John Prescott down a dark alley).

In my own opinion if I were voting in this or any election I would like to actually know who all of the candidates are. In this case, there are actually only 7 candidates as detailed here, including those mentioned above. Hardly a huge unmanageable number to deal with in a live debate setting. Yet the BBC claims to be acting in the interests of the electorate (which I doubt is really something they should be doing anyway short of giving unbiased and full news coverage) Indeed a number of quotes from the recent Guardian article pretty much sum up how ridiculous the BBC position is becoming.

The BBC maintains that its guidelines only require it to give airtime to candidates from parties with a track record in a previous relevant election, or with clear evidence of support in the polls……

According to Ric Bailey the BBC’s chief advisor of politics has stated that the BBC’s “way of providing election coverage is the result of a long-standing system in the UK – not just the BBC – which has established that it is in the broader interests of the electorate that not all candidates have to be treated identically. You are right, of course, that licence fee payers should be able to have access to all candidates – but with ‘due weight’……

then….

“Due weight must be given to the coverage of major parties during the election period. Broadcasters must also consider giving appropriate coverage to other parties and independent candidates with significant views and perspectives.”

Now I have to say how dare the BBC or indeed any other media broadcaster with a duty to present the news in an unbiased and complete manner presume (behind whatever ‘guidelines’, ‘conventions’, ‘traditions’ or other brouhaha) to decide which candidates get coverage and what the electorate gets to know about them. These passages and statements clearly demonstrate and perpetuates a number of typically human and media failings in politics, including;

  1. The idea that something is right just because we have been doing it for a long time, and
  2. That the electorate need to be guided to the right candidate by a media organisation who claim to be ‘protecting their interests’, and
  3. The fallacious idea that the media for some reason see themselves as having some kind of duty or right to influence an election, for example the infamous and patently scandalous ‘It’s the Sun Wot Won It‘ nonsense from 1992.

This is in essence political discrimination at its worst which is robbing the London mayoral electorate of their democratic right to make their mind up in an informed manner. The BBC as far as I am concerned are little more today than a runaway train of a publicly funded broadcaster badly in need of either being stripped back to little more than a news flash once a day or of being cut loose from the public purse to earn its living privately rather than being foisted upon the public at great and unavoidable taxed expense (It is a no brainer though, which do you privatise: (a) The NHS or (b) the BBC? Auntie gets it every time, or at least she should!).

No. As far as I am concerned, for this election to be fair, all candidates must be heard. The election should not simply be restricted to a race between two or three individuals simply because they have a major party backing, and the BBC and other broadcasters engaging in this election manipulation should be stopped from doing so or told forthwith to withdraw all coverage of all candidates.

The BBC should be ashamed. As a taxpayer funded organisation, they have absolutely no business whatsoever in purposely or inadvertently by their actions influencing a democratic election due to their compromised position of being funded just now by way of a conservative government. One could say they are hardly a neutral body. Nor do Sky or any other media outlets who have been guilty of the same thing. The people of London deserve to make their choice in a properly informed manner, and this in my mind requires that if one candidate is given a media platform, then all other candidates must also have the same platform, or not at all for any. This goes not just for the Mayoral race, but for any election, particularly general elections for example in 2010 where we had to face the ridiculous site of major three party leaders squabbling (and telling lots and lots of pure and simple lies as seen below) on live television while the dozens of other parties got not a look in.

Of course there are large parts of the population who may well just vote labour, Tory or god forbid BNP anyway without need of watching any of these docu-dramas. Nonetheless there are also a lot of people who may not have made up their minds yet, and they deserve more than simply being exposed only to the candidate whom the BBC or Sky give the greater coverage to.

Democracy?

Not in this country, so grab a broom its Shenanigans!

*Boris Johnson former member of:  Bullingdon Club: the same outrageous, destructive and socially exclusive creepy ‘dining’ club from whence came our Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne, and to which Tory Treasurer Michael Farmer paid for the admittance of his own son. One member in cabinet would be fine. Two members, a Mayor and further links? Is this Government representative of Britain? I think not!

*about whom the less said the better particularly with regards to his opinions on tax avoiders while allegedly avoiding tax himself as well as his extensive list of other controversies including racism, cronyism, Venezuelan oil etc, and just this week, the CROCODILE TEARS fake campaign video scandal where actors pretended to be ‘ordinary londoners’ backing Ken gushed over him and why he should be re-elected while Ken sat and cried upon allegedly seeing it for the first time, having allegedly seen it the night before according to The Daily Mail (I know, not very authoritative, but then…. neither is Ken Livingstone).  

Mike Farrell-Deveau

In Absentia…