Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Daily Mail writer branded 'mass murderer' by critics

One of my favourite newspaper tricks is what I like to think of as the 'critics say' gambit, wherein a writer of an ostensibly factual article uses references to unnamed 'critics' to tack on his opinions and turn it into an editorial piece. Although, in the case of DPP rejects Tory plans to give homeowners the right to kill burglars, the prejudices of the writer are so clear that it's more like the vaguely factual bits of the article have been tacked on to righteous sermonising.

The story itself is pretty straightforward. Recently, a man named Munir Hussain was sentenced to 30 months in jail for attacking a burglar who invaded his home and tied up and threatened his family. Hussain, unfortunately, went beyond the law's 'reasonable force' caveat when he and some of his friends chased the criminal down the street, pushed him to the ground and beat him with a cricket bat and other weapons in a sustained attack so violent that the cricket bat broke and the burglar was left with a fractured skull, so badly brain-damaged he couldn't stand trial for his own crimes.

Predictably, the same forces that supported Tony Martin in his infamous case came out in Hussain's support, and the Conservatives, ever keen to toss out populist soundbites that they know are unworkable so they won't have to deal with the consequences do the decent thing, are making noises about changing the law in some way that allows householders more leeway to knock seven shades of shit out of intruders (presumably unreasonable force?).

Anyway, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has come out and rather uncontroversially said he thinks the law is basically fine as it is; it allows for the use of 'reasonable' force, which by definition makes the law, well...quite reasonable. The Tories, the Daily Mail, and this DM writer (Tim Shipman), appear not to agree. See if you can spot any subtle hints as to the writer's opinion in this tentative opening paragraph;
Britain's top prosecutor faced charges he is a 'socialist' yesterday after he flatly rejected Tory plans to give homeowners the right to kill burglars.
In the next couple of paragraphs, Starmer is described as 'controversial' (to whom? Not stated), and 'a former left-wing human rights lawyer' (one rung above 'Islamic paedophile' on the Mail's morality ladder). The article drips with contempt for Starmer, going so far as tell him what he should have said;
But he then went on to dismiss Tory plans to help homeowners out of hand, when he could have stated simply that his job is to uphold whatever laws governments pass.
In reality, what Starmer actually said was;
'The current test works very well. I can't really see the case for a change in the law at this stage.

'I have faith in the current arrangement which is the use of reasonable force. There are many cases, some involving death, where no prosecutions are brought.

'We would only ever bring a prosecution where we thought that the degree of force was unreasonable in such a way that the jury would realistically convict.'
Now to me, that's so staggeringly uncontroversial that it verges on the bland. After a few paragraphs pointing out that Starmer was a bit left-wing as a youth, it tries to crank up the evil socialist-o-meter a bit more by including a bunch of paragraphs about Keir Starmer's namesake, Keir Hardie, the famous socialist from ye olden days. Hmmm. You might think that a writer with the surname SHIPMAN would steer clear of encouraging people to judge others by their given names, but apparently not. Now, please note, I'm not saying that Tim Shipman murders hundreds of old ladies in their sleep. There's absolutely no proof of that. But I'm not not saying it.

The last paragraph is probably my favourite, it's just so wonderfully 'Daily Mail' that it could have come out of a particularly clever Daily Mail outrage-generating machine;
His appointment as Director of Public Prosecutions in July 2008 was seen by critics as among the most blatant attempts by New Labour to pepper the establishment with those who share their ideological commitment to European human rights law, which is blamed for a host of politically-correct rulings.
What critics? They're never quoted. The closest we get to an actual attributable criticism is a BBC interviewer asking him a question about his youth editing left-wing journals. Oh wait, there's this anonymous criticism;
Privately, party officials were furious that Mr Starmer had again been drawn into a public denunciation of their policies. 'He is there to enforce the law,' one said. 'He is not there to make the law.'
...which Starmer would appear to be doing by saying that the current law is fine and just. But going back to that final paragraph, it's just so beautiful I almost want to frame it. Deftly it brings up political correctness, Europe, The Establishment (of left-wing ideologues), and of course that terrible human rights law. I wonder if Shipman spent a minute or so trying to figure out a way to get asylum seekers and Jonathan Ross in there somehow? Perhaps he didn't have time, there are a lot of sick old ladies that need 'help' at this time of year...


  1. This is an absolutely fantastic Mail outrage story. You could frame it and put it in a Daily Mail Museum.

    Excellent stuff as always NSTB.