Monday, 28 March 2011

Silence on regime change

THE BBC’s reporting of events in Libya, already outrageously slanted, hit new depths of journalism tonight. The other media are nearly as bad.
The military action by America, the UK and France, from bases in Italy, was sanctioned by the United Nations on the understanding that it was to be confined to protecting Libyan citizens from attack and slaughter by the forces of dictator, Colonel Gaddafi.
They were specifically told that they were not to aspire to regime change.
This was very lucidly and eloquently explained by Penrith and Border MP, Rory Stewart, on Question Time last Thursday, when the unconventional Conservative MP warned of mission creep, as the Americans call it.
So what has happened? After bombing forces loyal to Gaddafi as they were said to be about to attack the rebels’ base city of Benghazi, the allies have been laying a trail of destruction across the North East coastline of Libya, clearing the way for the rebels to follow.
This is an obvious and blatant contravention of the UN resolution. It is not protecting Libya’s people from attack. It is giving the rebels clear military support.
That is interference in a civil war. Earlier today the Russians, who were so sceptical about the UN vote they abstained, pointed out this deception.
But what do the British media do? They ignore the Russian comments and blithely continue reporting the allied action without any analysis.
This evening the BBC and national newspaper web-sites were still lauding the “untrained” rebels for defeating Libya’s professional army, as they closed in on Colonel Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte.
Upbeat jingoistic language, like “the rebels have made lightning advances west from their stronghold in Benghazi”, litter the news channels.
But it is obvious that Gaddafi’s loyal troops dare not fight back, otherwise they will be bombed out of existence by the missiles from warships and aeroplanes. Some of the eye-witness reportage, notably in the Independent on Sunday, showed just how brutal and horrific these attacks on Gaddafi’s soldiers had been.
If this is not engineering regime change, I don’t know what is.
This issue ought to be right up there at the top of the BBC’s news agenda, not ignored as it was on the main news bulletins.
The public may support David Cameron’s decision to send troops and machines of war to Libya , but opinion polls would suggest the opposite.
It was not comforting to realise that he was only now starting to make contact with these rebels and find out what sort of people they are and what their aims are.
It is not the media’s job to decide what is right or wrong. But it is their job to highlight inconsistencies between what the Government says is the policy it supports and the reality on the ground. That is why licence fee payers pay for reporters to travel to these foreign trouble spots.
For reporters and camera crews to meekly follow the military line without putting it in political context is a betrayal of their profession.

Friday, 18 March 2011

County name in a pickle

CAN there be a more ridiculous demonstration of the nonsense surrounding the non-county of Cumbria than today’s ruling that Cumberland sausage has been granted Protected Geographical Indication status under European law.
It says that Cumberland sausage has been successful in its bid to be made only in Cumbria.
Why? Cumberland means the traditional county North and West of Orton Scar.
Cumberland doesn’t mean Cumbria, which was an administrative county invented in 1974. It doesn’t include Westmorland, Lancashire North of the Sands or those bits of Yorkshire North Riding, like Sedbergh, that were nicked, to make Cumbria.
The Cumberland Sausage now ranks alongside the likes of Champagne, Parma ham and Greek feta cheese in having Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status under EU law. Other protected UK food and drink products include Cornish clotted cream and Stilton cheese.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the move would guarantee its heritage and be a major boost for Cumbria's butchers.
To display the PGI mark, the sausage must be produced, processed and prepared in Cumbria and have a meat content of at least 80%. Recipes vary from butcher to butcher, but must include seasoning and be sold in a long coil.
That may be good news for the customer, but it has nothing to do with geographical origin.
If any proof was needed, it comes in the distinctive shape of Peter Gott, of the Cumberland Sausage Association, who said: "This is a great milestone for the county and a well deserved place in England's food history for a truly sensational, diverse food product."
Peter of course is Westmorland through and through, with his farm near Endmoor south of Kendal.
Food minister Jim Paice carried on the confusion when he said: "We're justly proud of British food and I'm delighted to welcome traditional Cumberland sausage as the first of our many fine sausages to win protected status.
"This should be a significant boost to Cumbrian producers, who will now be able to prove that their product is the real thing."
He obviously cannot tell Cumberland from Cumbria, either.
Westmorland Sausages are just as good, if slightly different from, Cumberland Sausages. But today’s ruling makes no mention of them.
Now if someone wants to use a recipe for Cumbrian sausages, then they could be said to come from Cumbria. But Cumberland Sausages can’t come from Westmorland, Lancashire or Yorkshire.