Robert Hampton

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October 2013

8th October 2013

I read the news today… Oh boy
Posted by at 8.09pm | In the News, Politics | 1 response

The Daily Mail last week it launched a vicious attack on Ed Miliband’s father. Based on one diary entry, which Ralph Miliband made when he was 17, it described him as “THE MAN WHO HATED BRITAIN”. A pretty nasty smear on a man who is not here to defend himself. The claim was also quite dubious, given that Miliband Senior served in the Navy during World War II.

Ed Miliband, unsurprisingly, came out fighting in defence of his father. He demanded the right to reply, only for the Daily Mail to publish his defence of his father alongside a reprint of the original article and a defiant editorial insisting that they were right.

The Mail may have miscalculated. It is drawing criticism from all sides, including from David Cameron and top headmasters. Also, a paper which printed headlines like “Hurrah for the Blackshirts!” in the 1930s should have perhaps been a bit more careful about digging up other people’s dirt from 75 years ago (see Roy Greenslade’s piece in the Guardian for more on this). Alastair Campbell’s rant against the paper on Newsnight is sure to become a viral internet hit. Whatever you think of Campbell (and I don’t think very much of him), his description of the Mail as “the worst of British values masquerading as the best” resonates.

Miliband emerges from this row with his reputation enhanced, while an opinion poll reveals that a majority of people think the paper is in the wrong, and 57% of the Mail’s own readers believe the paper’s editor should apologise.

Paul Dacre himself has kept a low profile during this row. The Media Blog points out that the Mail is usually quick to demand that heads roll at the BBC or Channel 4 when they broadcast something offensive, however it does not extend that standard to its own editor.

Compounding the offence, sister publication The Mail on Sunday is in hot water after it sent undercover reporters to the funeral of Miliband’s uncle – apparently to try and get some juicy gossip. At least that paper apologised.

It’s easy to put this down to the rough and tumble of politics – the Labour party is ahead in the polls, and the Mail want to discredit the party’s leader by any means possible. There’s a good debate to be had about the merits of Labour’s policies… so let’s have that debate, rather than cheap character assassination.

There’s also a wider issue here: how many other people has the Mail attacked, and how many of them, unlike Miliband, have no platform of their own with which to fight back?

Amidst all this, it’s great news that the Government has rejected plans for a new press self-regulation body – PressBoF – which would have meant the newspapers continuing to, as the Hacked Off campaign puts it, “mark their own homework”. The newspaper groups are opposed to the proposed press regulator backed by Royal Charter. They say it would lead to politicians meddling, and an end to the free press.

It’s a difficult balancing act, but self-regulation has been a failure. From the Hillsborough fans to Christopher Jeffries to Milly Dowler to Ralph Miliband, the papers have shown time and time again that they cannot be trusted to police themselves.

21st October 2013

Bus Pain

A great piece on the great SevenStreets blog, about Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson’s boneheaded decision to scrap bus lanes:

Liverpool is making it just that little bit more difficult for us to use public transport – at a time when study after study shows bus lanes to be a catalyst for urban regeneration, we’re shoving things into reverse…

Read the whole thing, which makes the case for buses (and public transport in general) very well.

My own observations: some of the bus lanes seemed a bit illogical and poorly signed (the one along Lime Street between the Adelphi Hotel and the station always seemed to catch drivers out), but most of them did seem to work to help buses beat congestion. Getting rid of all of them en masse, without any proper study or consultation, is madness. It’s quiet this week due to it being half term, but I dread to think what will happen next week.

I’m more thankful than ever that I live near a Merseyrail station.

29th October 2013

8ers gonna 8

The Apple v Microsoft rivalry, always simmering away in the background, exploded last week. Apple CEO Tim Cook made a thinly-veiled attack on Microsoft while unveiling Apple’s new products last Tuesday:

Our competition is different. They’re confused. They chased after netbooks. Now they’re trying to make PCs into tablets and tablets into PCs.

You don’t need to have Alan Turing’s code-breaking skills to work out that this was a reference to Windows 8. Just like every other Star Trek film is a dud, so Windows XP (OK, at least by the time Service Pack 3 came around) was followed by Vista (aargh!), then 7 (a decent OS which I genuinely like) and now 8 (oh dear).

The newest version of Microsoft’s OS was slated from all sides, firstly for chucking out the familiar Start Menu (a key part of the user interface since 1995) in favour of a new design, and secondly for seemingly being designed for use with touch screens, with keyboard and mouse navigation almost an afterthought.

Until recently, my only exposure to Windows 8 has been through helping to set up a couple of laptops for people in work. It was an intensely frustrating experience. The Desktop was still there, along with all the traditional Windows features (Control Panel, Explorer, Task Manager), but having to go through the Start screen to access them seemed so much more cumbersome than before. The real low point came when I had to Google how to shut down the PC. Turns out you have to hover the cursor at the bottom right of the screen, click Settings in the Charms bar, then Power, then Shut down.

The “Shut down” option being hidden under “Settings” gives some idea of just how illogical Windows 8 felt. I consider myself an expert computer user, but Windows 8 will make you feel like Nan using a computer for the first time. It was certainly enough to finally push me into switching to a Mac – I reasoned that, if I was going to have to relearn a whole new OS, it might as well be one that makes sense.

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