Look Left – I dag er vi alle norske

At least 93 people are now known to have been killed in Friday’s terror attacks in Norway; Anders Behring Breivik will appear in court tomorrow charged with the attacks.

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• At least 93 people are now known to have been killed in Friday’s terror attacks in Norway.

The attacks, a car bomb outside government buildings in central Oslo, and a gun attack at a Labour Party youth camp in Utøya, are the worst atrocities carried out in Norway for more than 60 years, the country’s darkest hour since the Second World War.

Far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik will appear in court tomorrow charged with the attacks.

He has admitted the attacks, telling police his massacre was “gruesome but necessary”. He had been planning the attacks for some time, down to the last depraved detail, firing specialist bullets that explode inside the body.

The BBC reports tonight:

“Pictures of him, wearing a wetsuit and carrying an automatic weapon, appeared in a 12-minute anti-Muslim video called Knights Templar 2083, which appeared briefly on YouTube.

“A 1,500-page document written in English and said to be by Mr Breivik – posted under the pseudonym of Andrew Berwick – was also put online hours before the attacks, suggesting they had been years in the planning.

“The document and the video repeatedly refer to multiculturalism and Muslim immigration; the author claims to be a follower of the Knights Templar – a medieval Christian organisation involved in the Crusades, and sometimes revered by white supremacists.

“Police have not speculated on motives for the attack but the bomb in Oslo targeted buildings connected to Norway’s governing Labour Party, and the youth camp on Utoeya island was also run by the party.

“In the document posted online, references were made to targeting ‘cultural Marxists/ multiculturalist traitors’.”

On Left Foot Forward yesterday, Fiona Twycross wrote:

“Like everyone watching the news of the violent events in Norway, I was shocked to see the images from Oslo and Utøya. Even more horrified this morning when the full scale of the attack against the youth camp of the Norweigan Labour Party, Arbeiderpartiet, became apparent…

“I have lived in Norway and studied for a year in Oslo so am particularly shocked at what has happened.

“They are rightly proud of their country and proud – as Jens Stoltenberg their prime minister said yesterday – to say that they want to make the world a better place. Generally less cynical than the British, they have managed to hold that thought and have created a more equal, normally less violent, society.

“I have met more idealists in Norway than here in the UK. I am not always as idealistic as a Norwegian and obviously not all Norwegians are idealistic. But I like the fact idealism exists and that this means people – and countries – can imagine things being fairer and better than they might otherwise be.

“So I want Norway to keep its pride and its idealism. But it is clearly a country that has just lost its sense of security and has seen an atrocity carried out of unimaginable scale…

“Occupied by the Nazis, Norwegians mounted both physical resistance and a psychological war of attrition against their occupiers. One particular form of resistance was for all patriotic Norwegians to wear traditional red knitted hats on a particular day and otherwise go about their business as usual. This might sound funny (and it always makes me smile) but it wound the regime up.

“The psychological battle was won even though the red hats were banned and the war wasn’t over for some time.

“The Norwegian prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, gave a moving speech in the aftermath of the attacks. He said everyone needed to care for each other. Norwegians also need to wear their imaginary red hats and remember that irrespective of what comes their way, it is the psychological battle and not just the physical battle they need to win.

“Then, as well as caring for each other, they will still be strong enough to feel that they can also continue to care for the world.

“I dag er vi alle norske. Today we are all Norwegian.”

• The main story earlier this week, as it has been all month, is the phone hacking scandal, which continues to unfold.

On Tuesday, Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks appeared before the culture, media and sport select committee, at which they were grilled for several hours by MPs, an occasion described by Murdoch Snr. as “the most humble day of my life”.

The hearings, however, were disrupted by an attack on Rupert Murdoch, as described by Left Foot Forward’s Tom Rouse:

“The incident, which occurred towards the end of the hearing, was the work of a lone protestor, who has identified himself on Twitter as Johnny Marbles. Murdoch was struck in the face by a paper plate with shaving foam on it, before his wife retaliated, striking Marbles in the face.

“UkUncut have confirmed Marbles was one of their activists, but deny any knowledge of or involvement with today’s attack. The attack will do nothing to boost the anti-Murdoch cause and if anything is likely to generate unnecessary sympathy towards him.”

On the hearings themselves, the committee failed to get Murdoch Snr. to accept responsibility, while allowing Murdoch Jr. to talk, and talk, and talk, his monotone mid-Atlantic management speak boring them into submission – though he may have spoken too much, and talked himself into contempt, more on which later.

Of the cross-examination of Rupert, Sara Ibrahim wrote on Left Foot Forward:

“What happened was very different from what the committee intended. If Rupert Murdoch was keen to offer a mea culpa he did it without accepting any blame. Any good lawyer could have told you this would be his intention.

“Undoubtedly from a public relations point of view, it was better to elect for short term discomfort and admit to being ‘out of touch’ than risk being embroiled in long term legal actions. Whilst it wasn’t palatable to watch Murdoch use his son James as a human shield during the questioning, it was shrewd.

“For those watching with any real interest, it ought to have put paid to the notion that Murdoch was a shrunken version of his former self without real power…

“For any mud to stick to Murdoch Snr. it needs to be established that he knew what was happening or wilfully turned a blind eye. Tom Watson was tactically sound in ensuring Rupert Murdoch had to address his questions head on.

“What Mr Watson didn’t do, however, was to get Murdoch to accept in public he was ultimately in control. Given the facts this should have been doable. It should have been the first point that was put to him. That Mr Watson thought this was the case was evident but Rupert Murdoch needed to concede it.

“Without establishing these key points, for all his eloquence Mr Watson allowed Murdoch Snr. to set out his defence that he wasn’t to blame. Hopefully he will get another chance to question him, and ensure he is not only humbled but accepts responsibility.”

On to Murdoch Jr., and some of his evidence, namely that he was unaware of the nature of the £700,000 hush money payout to Professional Footballers Association chief executive Gordon Taylor, have been contradicted by former News of the World editor Colin Myler and ex-NotW lawyer Tom Crone.

If he is found to misled Parliament, he will be in contempt of Parliament, for which the maximum penalty, as Left Foot Forward reported on Friday, is to be “committed to prison during the life of the Parliament”.

All Left Foot Forward’s recent reports on the phone hacking scandal can be found here.

• On Wednesday, the United Nations officially declared a famine in parts of southern Somalia, the country’s first for 20 years.

Tens of thousands of people have died of malnutrition, with the crisis also hitting parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and even South Sudan. Across the region, more than 11 million people need food assistance. Yet it is a crisis that could have been prevented.

Oxfam’s Katy Wright wrote on Left Foot Forward on Friday:

“A human tragedy is unfolding in East Africa which is inadequately expressed by the figures involved. Twelve million people across the region are affected. ‘Affected’ means they are in dire need of food, clean water and basic sanitation. ‘Affected’ means young children arriving in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya dying because they’re so weak after their journey.

“It means teenage girls walking for two and a half days just to get a few jerry cans of water. And it means camps so full that families of ten live in a shelter a couple of metres wide whilst graves are dug in the midday heat…

“This is not, at its root, an issue of weather. It is an issue of justice and politics and this drought has only come on top of a deeper crisis of poverty and marginalisation…

“Things could have been done to invest in these people so that their lives were not so destroyed by the drought. Pastoralist and agricultural land rights must be resolved, small-scale food producers invested in, and an awareness of the growing need to respond to changing seasons and climate must be built in to all policies…

“The UK has so far led the way in pledging new aid and the collective response in the UK has been strong. But to fill the funding black hole, other rich countries will need to step up and pay up.

“The European response has been surprisingly slow, with donors such as Italy not providing anything new. The French have been strong on words, calling for an Extraordinary G20 meeting on the issue, but have so far failed to back it up with any additional money. Other donors such as Germany and Spain have made initial contributions but they are just not enough.

“That some of this could have been prevented is heart-breaking. But that donors are failing to act now – as the waste of human life is so apparent – is shocking.”

Christian Aid’s Katherine Nightingale, meanwhile, wrote on Left Foot Forward on Friday that Africa needs funds not only now, but to deal with underlying problems:

“Emergency workers’ immediate priority in east Africa is to save lives, with food, water, health care, shelter and sanitation, as well as seeds and tools in some areas, which will help people take advantage of the rains when they do come.

“But we will not have done enough, if we solve the immediate crisis but then walk away when the rains have returned and people again have enough to eat.

“This disaster is not simply the result of the region’s worst drought in 60 years – it is the drought combined with other underlying problems which should be tackled. They include extreme poverty, the violent conflict in Somalia and the increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather in the region, which may be the result of climate change.

“Other fundamental challenges are the growing phenomenon of land-grabs – often by foreign investors – which are eroding people’s access to land for food. Governments’ discrimination against the region’s millions of pastoralists, who survive by moving their animals in search of pasture and water, is yet another important part of the picture.”

Please, please, please donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee East Africa Crisis Appeal here.

Progressive of the week:

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, who spoke out this week against the coalition’s £18 billion welfare cuts. His intervention follows that of the head of the Church of England, Dr Rowan Williams, who last month spoke out against the coalition’s cuts.

In a letter to work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, reports (£) Thursday’s Times, Rev. Nichols is said to have written:

“As you know, some estimates that have already appeared in the media suggest 40,000 families may be rendered homeless. If this were indeed the case it would surely be a perverse result of policies aimed at reducing dependency of the ‘benefits culture’, since emergency support would immediately need to be put in place.

“In some areas of Westminster, it is being suggested that one in six children may have to move home (and probably move school), while in Maida Vale the effects may force up to 43 per cent of households to move. We fear that the cost of this may be felt most by vulnerable families, whose support networks may rapidly disappear in the process.”

In an editorial in the New Statesman, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams had warned that the coalition government was committing the country to “radical, long-term policies for which no one voted”.

Regressive of the week:

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman, who this week announced a trial of the free shooting of badgers, a patently inhumane method of tackling tuberculosis in cattle has not been tested anywhere. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) estimate up to 90,000 badgers could be culled over the four-year period.

As shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh wrote on Left Foot Forward on Wednesday:

“The costs to farmers will exceed the benefits and could even spread bovine TB in the short term as badgers move out of culling areas. So there is no scientific basis for the cull and it may not be effective and could make matters worse…

“There are also public order concerns with a badger cull. The government’s Impact Assessment (pdf) estimates the extra police needed to deal with protesters against the cull will cost £200,000 a year. Defra will take on this extra cost even though the department has been cut by 30 per cent. It is likely that armed police will be required to police any protests as the people carrying out the cull will be carrying guns…

“With the forests sell-off, her inept handling of wild animals in circuses and now an ill thought-out badger cull she has shot herself in the foot not once but three times. A hat trick unmatched by any other minister.”

The incompetence of Spelman and the sheer unpleasantness of the policy aside, as Mary Creagh said, there is no scientific basis for the culling, a point James Dixon, of the League Against Cruel Sports, expanded on on Left Foot Forward on Thursday:

“The final report (pdf) of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) which oversaw the original Randomised Badger Cull Trial (RBCT) study states: ‘The reductions in cattle TB incidence achieved by repeated badger culling were not sustained in the long term after culling ended and did not offset the financial costs of culling.’

Lord Krebs, who was the architect of the original RBCT, says culling will be futile and on the Today programme said the government had ignored the scientific advice.

“Sir David Attenborough, meanwhile, says culling could make bovine TB in badgers much worse: ‘Survivors will carry the disease into areas that have hitherto been unaffected. There’s good scientific research available to show that culling badgers can make things worse and not better.’

“So, scientists do not agree that culling will reduce bovine TB.

“What is more shocking than trying to paint a picture of scientific uniformity on an issue everyone knows is hotly disputed, however, is that even the scientist whose research is cited by Ms Spelman as the basis of the government pressing ahead with the cull does not agree with the government’s conclusions…

“There is a twin tragedy about to unfold. We will see thousands of badgers culled and the farming community falsely reassured because the government wants to be seen to be doing something about the very real issue of bovine TB.

“This policy is not science-led in the slightest; some scientists say it will make things worse and others say the benefits are disproportionate to the cost, a cost which the govt has asked farmers to bear entirely.”

Evidence of the week:

IPPR’s report (pdf) on the lessons Britain should learn from the US green jobs market, which reveals it could be far harder to achieve energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne’s pledge of 250,000 ‘green jobs’ than the government expects.

Report author Clare McNeil wrote today on Left Foot Forward:

“When standing in 2008, President Obama pledged to create five million green jobs over 10 years. Once in power he dedicated one eighth of Stimulus Act investment – around $90 billion – to building a clean economy.

“Of this at least $5.5bn spent was invested in buildings retrofit programmes specifically and $20bn more widely on energy efficiency. Public works style programmes in home insulation and energy efficiency retrofitting were to provide hundreds of thousands of ‘shovel-ready’ jobs to put Americans back to work…

“The stimulus funding has saved many jobs in the construction sector that would otherwise have been lost, but the ‘green army’ in every community has not materialised… The UK government’s Green Deal home insulation scheme hopes to avoid this through its ‘golden rule’, where payments for work will not cost any more than the savings they achieve.

“But if Mr Huhne wants to see a 250,000-strong green army in the UK, the lesson is clear: you won’t get jobs or policy success without the right combination of smart policy design and healthy market conditions.”

Ed Jacobs’s Week Outside Westminster:


Scottish Labour sought to heap pressure on first minister Alex Salmond and the SNP over their links to News International, with the publication of 25 questions for them to answer.

Labour’s business manager at Holyrood Paul Martin said:

“Throughout the entire phone hacking scandal Alex Salmond has ditched his usual megaphone diplomacy and has been uncharacteristically silent. Alex Salmond has desperately attempted to come across as whiter than white by keeping schtum and resorting to his default position of blaming Westminster.

“He would clearly rather we all ignored the fact that he personally met with James Murdoch, wined and dined the editor of the Scottish News of the World and provided free articles and advertising to News International newspapers worth thousands of pounds.”

Rather than addressing the questions in turn, a spokesman for the first minister simply sought to brush the issue aside, branding Labour’s case as “embarrassing nonsense”, before pointing out the first minister had called on Rebekah Brooks to step down early in the scandal.

Meanwhile, as a dramatic and memorable week comes to a close, Tom Peterkin has an amusing series of sketches on the key moments in the Scotsman.

On Rupert Murdoch’s appearance in front of the culture, media and sport select committee he wrote:

“So, this was the ruthless alpha male who has struck fear into prime ministers – a frail octogenarian, hesitant in speech, who struggled to answer the most basic questions about his own company.

“As he appeared before MPs, it was difficult to understand quite how this slight and stumbling Australian has managed to wield such influence over our political leaders.

“Just like the Wizard of Oz at the end of the Yellow Brick Road, the great media mogul of Aus cut a rather pathetic figure as he failed to offer an adequate explanation for the great scandal that has engulfed his organisation.”

Picking up on David Cameron’s argument on Wednesday that he had not held any “inappropriate” conversations over the BSkyB bid, Peterkin said:

“When it came to Mr Cameron’s chumminess with Rebekah Brooks, the prime minister deflected awkward questions by referring to the ‘sleepover’ that Sarah Brown had hosted for Brooks’s 40th birthday party.

“‘I have never held a slumber party or seen her [Brooks] in her pyjamas,’ Mr Cameron said. Mercifully, mention of the ‘flame-haired temptress’ dressed for bed was as about as risqué as it got when Mr Cameron was grilled about his meetings with News International executives.

“But that did not stop the Prime Minister having his own ‘Clinton moment’. In common with Bill Clinton’s non-denial denial that he ‘did not have sexual relations with that woman’, Cameron fudged his answer.”

While in a comment piece, the Herald Scotland concluded:

“David Cameron managed only one bite of the lowly dish and left a number of questions hanging.”

As the week ended, the toll on the Conservatives in Scotland was clear for all to see as polling by Reuters/IpsosMORI saw the Conservatives languishing on 6%, with 39% supporting the SNP and 35% Labour.

Northern Ireland:

It emerged  that Alex Marunchak was working as a Ukrainian translator for Scotland Yard between 1980 and 2000 while at the same time being Ireland Editor of the News of the World.

The Belfast Telegraph reported:

“A former Dublin-based News of the World journalist was carrying out potentially sensitive work for Scotland Yard while employed by the paper, it was disclosed last night.

“Channel 4 News reported that Alex Marunchak – who was the newpaper’s Ireland editor – had been employed by the Metropolitan Police (MPS) as a Ukrainian language interpreter with access to highly sensitive police information.

“In a statement, Scotland Yard confirmed he had been on the Met’s list of interpreters between 1980 and 2000. It acknowledged that his employment ‘may cause concern’, adding that some professions may be ‘incompatible’ with such a sensitive job. It said the Met’s language services were now looking into the matter.

“Since the records system became electronic in 1996, we know that he undertook work as a Ukrainian language interpreter on one occasion in 1997 and six in 1999, as well as two translation assignments, totalling around 27 hours of work. It is likely he undertook work prior to 1996 as well, the statement said.”

Meanwhile, it emerged that developments in Northern Ireland had led the police to begin investigations into claims private investigators working for News International were involved in computer hacking.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, the paper’s Investigations Editor, Jason Lewis, explained:

“A police investigation is taking place into claims private investigators working for News International were involved in computer hacking. The investigation is being carried out by detectives from Scotland Yard’s Specialist Crime Directorate. It is separate from the phone hacking investigation.

“The team of officers from Operation Tuleta are looking at the activities of individuals who were paid by News International, including a firm of private detectives offering ‘ethical hacking’.

“Officers are understood to be collecting evidence about the activities of a former Army intelligence officer who is said to have offered hacking services to the journalists.

“The probe was prompted by allegations that Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein MP, was a British spy. They first surfaced in Irish newspapers five years ago and were vehemently denied by Republicans.”

Writing for his blog, BBC Northern Ireland’s Political Editor Mark Devenport sought to look forward to where now for press regulation and what it might mean for Northern Ireland.

He argued:

“Broadcasting is not a devolved matter, and Ofcom has a regional office which earlier this year took the first and deputy first minister to task for the content of a radio advertisement promoting the Hillsborough deal on the devolution of justice.

“If Lord Justice Leveson does decide to recommend the statutory regulation of newspapers and other print media, then he will also have to clarify whether that power should, like broadcasting, be reserved. What role, if any, should Stormont play?

“In Northern Ireland we live in a market where there’s a high degree of penetration from media based in another jurisdiction. In Dublin, the Press Council of Ireland follows a similar self-regulatory framework to the current UK Press Complaints Commission.

“If government regulation is introduced in the UK, there will be a marked difference between the regimes on either side of the border.”


Responding to the prime minister’s statement on phone hacking on Wednesday, Welsh Labour MPs had a series of pointed comments and questions to make.

Former Home Office minister and current member of the home affairs select committee, Alun Michael MP, argued:

“As police minister, my experience of briefings from the police was that they did not give one any operational information, but they did tell one things that one needed to know. Senior police officers in the Metropolitan police would understand that perfectly. That is exactly what they were offering the prime minister.

“As a minister, I would have been livid if officials had been keeping information from me. Did the prime minister want to be kept in the dark or is he angry with his chief of staff?”

While Ann Clwyd MP asked:

“Since the prime minister obviously cannot smell a rat when he has one in his midst, will he tell us whether he has any other dodgy characters in No. 10 that we should beware of?”

And concluding that Mr Cameron’s biggest threat remained his own backbenchers, David Williamson, political editor of the Western Mail, wrote:

“David enjoys offering racing tips but if he wishes to enjoy a healthy night’s sleep he should stay away from the bookies. One well-known high street player is offering odds of 5/1 that the prime minister will be the next MP to leave the Cabinet.

“Yes, he is under extreme pressure over the discussions he may have had with News International about the future of BSkyB, and his relationship with former News of the World editor Andy Coulson is an albatross so heavy a less broad-shouldered PM might crumple. But to suggest to people that there is just as great a chance that Mr Cameron will be ousted from Downing Street as there is that Baroness Warsi will be dropped from the Cabinet seems extraordinary, if not hysterical.

“In contrast, Nick Clegg, who has had to face the humiliation of the lost AV vote is at 33/1.The same bookmaker is offering odds of 2/1 that David Cameron will be replaced as Conservative leader before the next general election. Such pessimism about his prospects will not cheer him up, but what might send a chill down his spine is the knowledge it would be his own party which drops any guillotine.”

Elsewhere, it emerged that Torfaen based internet radio station, Able Radio, a voluntary station aimed at giving a voice to those with disabilities, has offered Rebekah Brooks a voluntary position.

Programme coordinator Malcolm John said:

“She is currently without a job or purpose in life – so she might like to give time, on a voluntary basis, to work alongside the volunteers here. Her contact list would be invaluable, as you would agree.”

However, he was forced to concede:

“I think certainly from the reaction over the last 24 hours we are alarmed at how unpopular this lady is. In fact I don’t think we have had any favourable comments. We would perhaps revisit it before agreeing anything.”

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