Miliband: gaffe or ploy?

Friendly fire caught on video, the police state plus booing Brown

Many bloggers have put their views of tabloid journalism aside this week to recognise the superb work done by Tom Newton Dunn, defence editor at the Sun, by getting hold of a video so crucial to the inquest of the British soldier Matty Hull.Roy Greenslade said: “It was some leak and I foresee awards galore for the reporter in the coming year.”

But Donal Blaney thought: “The video has already now begun to be used by anti-war activists in Britain and elsewhere to fan the already dangerous flames of anti-Americanism.”

What also caught the attention of bloggers was a statement by Dr Mohammad Naseem who says Britain is moving towards a police state. This came after the release of two of the men arrested last week under the Terrorism Act in Birmingham.

At Leninology there is certainly agreement with Dr Naseem expressed again by Abu Bakr on Newsnight. But Rob Newman suggests this should be put in perspective because it is “offensive to people all over the world living in fear of their governments.” Does he have a point?

Liberal Review draws attention to, Dr Sumaya Alyusuf, the principal of King Fahad Academy, an Islamic school in London which was accused this week of teaching religious hatred.

A comment left on the blog asked: “Why should an otherwise useful text book be withdrawn on the basis of one chapter that is not used in the classroom?”

Schools Minister, Jim Knight, has ordered an inquiry to assess if the school promotes tolerance and harmony as it is legally required to do.

Ellee Seymour saw the importance of the debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday on the Freedom of Information Act. She says: “The Act has, in effect, been a victim of its own success - the government has had enough.”

An accurate analysis came from Martin Rosenbaum who raised a crucial point many are missing. Any defence of the Government’s proposal to charge people for the man hours needed to find a piece of information under the FOI Act does not address the larger issue.

The proposal to also include charging for time spent considering the exemptions and consulting others, is much more controversial and widely criticised than the suggestion to incorporate reading time.

Keeping you updated on all the latest FOI news is blogger, Steve Wood.

And I leave you with some news from the Environment Minister, David Miliband. On Question Time he said: "I bet in a year's time people will be calling for Tony Blair to come back and people will be booing Gordon Brown."

Caroline Hunt thinks it wasn't a 'gaffe' at all but: "an excusable slip to put the idea into people's brains that they should keep Blair for as long as possible." Sometimes people simply analyse too much. Or perhaps I should say not enough.

Adam Haigh studies on the postgraduate journalism diploma at Cardiff University. Last year he lived in Honduras and worked freelance for the newspaper, Honduras This Week.
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Could Labour lose the Oldham by-election?

Sources warn defeat is not unthinkable but the party's ground campaign believe they will hold on. 

As shadow cabinet members argue in public over Labour's position on Syria and John McDonnell defends his Mao moment, it has been easy to forget that the party next week faces its first election test since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. On paper, Oldham West and Royton should be a straightforward win. Michael Meacher, whose death last month triggered the by-election, held the seat with a majority of 14,738 just seven months ago. The party opted for an early pre-Christmas poll, giving second-placed Ukip less time to gain momentum, and selected the respected Oldham council leader Jim McMahon as its candidate. 

But in recent weeks Labour sources have become ever more anxious. Shadow cabinet members returning from campaigning report that Corbyn has gone down "very badly" with voters, with his original comments on shoot-to-kill particularly toxic. Most MPs expect the party's majority to lie within the 1,000-2,000 range. But one insider told me that the party's majority would likely fall into the hundreds ("I'd be thrilled with 2,000") and warned that defeat was far from unthinkable. The fear is that low turnout and defections to Ukip could allow the Farageists to sneak a win. MPs are further troubled by the likelihood that the contest will take place on the same day as the Syria vote (Thursday), which will badly divide Labour. 

The party's ground campaign, however, "aren't in panic mode", I'm told, with data showing them on course to hold the seat with a sharply reduced majority. As Tim noted in his recent report from the seat, unlike Heywood and Middleton, where Ukip finished just 617 votes behind Labour in a 2014 by-election, Oldham has a significant Asian population (accounting for 26.5 per cent of the total), which is largely hostile to Ukip and likely to remain loyal to Labour. 

Expectations are now so low that a win alone will be celebrated. But expect Corbyn's opponents to point out that working class Ukip voters were among the groups the Labour leader was supposed to attract. They are likely to credit McMahon with the victory and argue that the party held the seat in spite of Corbyn, rather than because of him. Ukip have sought to turn the contest into a referendum on the Labour leader's patriotism but McMahon replied: "My grandfather served in the army, my father and my partner’s fathers were in the Territorial Army. I raised money to restore my local cenotaph. On 18 December I will be going with pride to London to collect my OBE from the Queen and bring it back to Oldham as a local boy done good. If they want to pick a fight on patriotism, bring it on."  "If we had any other candidate we'd have been in enormous trouble," one shadow minister concluded. 

Of Corbyn, who cancelled a visit to the seat today, one source said: "I don't think Jeremy himself spends any time thinking about it, he doesn't think that electoral outcomes at this stage touch him somehow."  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.