Saturday, 24 November 2012

Oh, for God’s sake – what colour were the West End stabees and where were they from?

Okay, it’s a minor story – barely worth including on the BBC website. Twenty men are involved in a fight in the West End around 3.20 in the morning. Two of them are subsequently picked up with stab wounds outside Macdonald’s in Regent Street and taken to hospital. One has already been discharged. The police say they’re keeping an open mind “as regards motive” and have appealed for witnesses. (You can read the full story - what there is of it - here.)

But if the police want the public’s help, shouldn’t they give us a few vague hints as to the ethic origins of those involved? Are the stabees white British? East European? Black? Asian? Orthodox Jews? Arabs? Orientals? American tourists? Members of the Synod arguing about women priests? Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree? None of the above?

Another website is reporting that a 27-year old man has been arrested in connection with the incident. Again, there is no mention of ethnicity. I know the BBC bends over backwards to withhold information as to race when it comes to violence on our streets (unless, of course, the victim is black and the attackers white), but I wonder if, in this instance, it’s the police who are deliberately withholding relevant information. If so, why?

Fifty years ago, of course, it wouldn’t have mattered that much: big fight, West End - Soho gangs or mods and rockers. Thirty-five years ago: football hooligans or punks v. teds. Thirty years ago: police v. miners. But now? Could be anyone.

We're all grown-ups. Tell us!

Another thing that’s confusing me. Last night, around 10.30, my wife and I walked back from a theatre in Ealing to the nearest tube station. It took us about ten minutes. At no point were we more than 200 yards away from semi-official-looking guards (at least, we assume they were guards) wearing high-visibility yellow jackets. Only one or two of them were police officers. If we hadn’t been knackered and eager to get home, I might have stopped and asked – in a friendly fashion, of course – who they were. In any case, it was nice to see them there: believe it or not, Ealing’s a jumping burg on Friday nights, and while everyone seemed in a good mood, I could imagine it getting a bit lively come chucking-out time.

So if a West London suburb is awash with readily identifiable enforcers whose role (one presumes) is to deter revellers from vandalising property or beating each other up, why isn’t the same true of the West End in the early hours of a Saturday morning? Last time I was in Central Manhattan the place was crawling with cops – and whenever I returned to my hotel just the other end of the Brooklyn Bridge, there was always a patrol car parked there.

And, yes, I have complained about this before (see "In crime reporting, Race has become a 'damned' fact" here), but it gets my journalistic goat.


  1. Newsnight Exposé25 November 2012 at 17:27

    You may have a point. Here at the centre of journalistic excellence, we always assume that if ethnic origin is not mentioned, it's due to the cowardly management's fear of of taking on the powerful Scots-Norwegian lobby, a sinister and assertive bunch whose reach is long and influence strong in the tightly-knit circle within a circle of unaccountable Demos alumni who really run the country.

  2. Your two latest posts - this one and the Rotherham UKIP incident - when linked to the case of Sgt. Nightingale [the SAS sniper who is currently serving 18-months in the Colchester Glasshouse for his retention of a pistol after a tour of Iraq] reminds me of a poignant sentence in Lord McAlpine's memoir "Once a Jolly Bagman": " Great Britain is the name of a country that once was." That was written in 1997. Given our current political leadership and Criminal Justice System and the virulent growth of PC-scumbaggery the finishing-line is within sight. But there is always hope. Wonderful news from Bombay this morning. And very nearly good news from Twickenham this week-end.

    1. And now Sgt. Nightingale's been released, and Chelsea haven't scored a goal in two games and Cameron's going to try to ignore most of the Leveson recommendations - so it genuinely is turning out to be a pretty decent week!

    2. ....and England has beaten the All Blacks 38-21 and Chelsea has lost to West Ham 1-3 and soon the Leveson debate will be buried and our self-obsessed media will be able to bring us slivers of "proper" news. Yes, all very satisfying.

    3. I've always thought that any one appointing Benitez was taking a huge risk, in that when he is not getting his teams to underperform on the pitch he's busy alienating the press and the few remaining people other than their supporters who don't actively loathe Chelsea and their owner. On a technical point, does chanting "You're just a fat Spanish waiter" to the tune of Guantanamera constitute a hate crime?

    4. Thank you, ex-KCS - I've just spent an hour laughing at football chants on You Tube - time well spent!

      The only thing that has made me laugh more than the "fat Spanish waiter" chant during the past fortninght was the announcement of Benitez's appointment. Priceless! (The papers this morning report that he's hoping that Terry and Lampard dig him out of a hole - and I hear that Roy Hodgson is pinning his hopes on a return to form by Bobby Charlton and Paul Gascoigne.)

  3. DSG: But there is always hope

    Our hope is sorely tested just at the moment.

    We are governed by Whitehall, of course. The notion that we are governed by Westminster is a polite and antiquated myth.

    And Whitehall have gone mad. They have handed the reins to the website designers in the Government Digital Service (GDS), part of the Cabinet Office.

    GDS is following the manifesto written by Martha Lane Fox, according to which the delivery of public services should be "digital by default".

    That means that takes centre stage. It becomes the only way in which the public and the government can communicate. It means that GDS get control of government policy – they are to sweep legal objections aside and "challenge" the policy of other central government departments wherever that policy can't be fitted into the "user experience" GDS decree that the public should have.

    As Martha Lane Fox says:

    It seems to me that the time is now to use the Internet to shift the lead in the design of services from the policy and legal teams to the end users.


    [GDS] SWAT teams ... should be given a remit to support and challenge departments and agencies ... We must give these SWAT teams the necessary support to challenge any policy and legal barriers which stop services being designed around user needs.

    GDS are to have control of not only policy but also news. Also, GDS are in charge of identity assurance for the whole government and the idea is that eight "identity providers" will equip us all with the electronic IDs which will be essential in the whizzy new modernised digital-by-default UK.

    GDS are gradually working their way through the departments of state. With the more or less informed agreement of Francis Maude (Cabinet Office minister), Sir Jeremy Heywood (Cabinet Secretary) and Sir Bob Kerslake (Head of the home civil service).

    I wouldn't normally bother to mention a mere Constitutional revolution taking place under the noses of our supposed political leaders, the lunatics taking over the asylum, blah blah, but I happen to know that you are an expert in defence matters and it seems apposite to mention that the next central government department which GDS are taking over (policy, news, user experience, identity) is the MOD.

    Here's hoping.

  4. A propose, GDS have just this minute published Changes to the strategy, which includes this jovial and chatty aside:

    The biggest thing we’ve done is create the Magna Charta. Using JavaScript, Tim and I, turned some of the publication’s tabular data into bar charts.

    Do you think we should tell someone?

    1. I wouldn't bother - I'm sure it'll end up on the front page of The Sun before too long. Anyway, the thought that MoD civil servants will soon be in possession of data in bar chart form will certain ly help me sleep more soundly at night. The Iranians must be quaking in their boots.