Opinion: what the Guardian isn’t telling you

Mehdi Hasan has a provocative article in the Guardian So what, Nick Clegg, made you forget liberty? It is standard Guardian fare these days: you can’t trust the Lib Dems.

The “delay” in completing the abolition child detention in deportation cases is the focus of his attack.

To be fair, he acknowledges that Labour hardly look good on the issue:

child detention in this country is one of the most obscene and unforgivable legacies of the ultra-authoritarian New Labour years. In 2001 the Blair government made the populist decision to detain children and families who were subject to immigration controls in the same way as single adults. In 2009, under Gordon Brown, an astonishing 1,085 children in total were detained as a result of this policy, with another hundred between April and June of this year. A study by the charity Medical Justice found that two out of three children in detention had experienced a negative impact on their physical health, one in three witnessed violence, and more than half had been psychologically harmed, with symptoms ranging from bedwetting to loss of bowel control and heightened anxiety.

But Hasan reserves his anger for Clegg – because after all six months have passed and detention has not yet been definitively ended.

Any child in detention is a cause for regret. And therefore any reduction in the number in detention is a cause for joy. But Hasan cannot trust his readers with information on the progress that has been made.

Let’s do the maths.

Under Labour over the last parliament 7075 children were locked up in this way. On average they spent 13 days in detention. So an average day under Labour, 50 children were being held in detention by the immigration services.

Since the Coalition announced a review of the policy in June, the number of children detained has fallen to 78 – even before the new policy takes effect. The average period they have spent in detention has (according to the Home Office) fallen to “less than four days”. So the average number of children in detention on any one day has fallen to less than two. That is more than I would like it to be. It will soon be zero. But it is also forty-eight reasons to rejoice in the progress made – every single day.

But don’t just take my word for it. This is how Barnardo’s chief executive Martin Narey reacted to the news: “The end of child detention at Yarl’s Wood is a hugely significant event. Locking up children when they have committed a crime is difficult enough. Incarcerating them simply because they have parents who wish to live here was unnecessary, expensive and more to the point, just plain wrong.

“Supervised accommodation might continue to be used for brief periods as a last resort for those families who reject every reasonable opportunity to leave the UK. That is a small and necessary price to pay for the prize of closing Yarl’s Wood.

“This is a good day for the UK’s reputation as a nation. We have to have an asylum policy, but now we have one which puts the welfare of children much more at its heart.”

So it is a good day for Barnardo’s, a good day for children, – and a bad day for the Guardian. Why doesn’t that surprise me?

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40 Comments

  • You could have also quoted this from the same article that you quote the Banardos Chief Exec;

    Ilona Pinter, a policy adviser at the Children’s Society, said: “We are worried that children will potentially still be detained until May and we are worried about what the new arrangements are, because from what we know about UKBA [UK Border Agency] pilots there are not adequate safeguards in place. The average age of a detained child is five. Will they be able to move freely? Will their parents be locked up? Will it repeat the same problems as before? It is unclear.

    Also, I note that you mention the charity Medical Justice in your article, yet you coud have quoted a Medical Justice spokesperson from the same Guarian article that you got your Banardos quote.

    Emma Ginn, a coordinator for Medical Justice, said: “We’re really disappointed to hear about the continued detention of children despite the medical evidence over the physical and mental damage to children that the Home Office have not disputed. If you accept that detention is a moral outrage then why are they continuing to do it in Tinsley House until May?

    This selective quoting that LibDems are well known for is very transparent.

  • Simon McGrath 20th Dec '10 - 1:36pm

    helpful piece. Lib Dems had better assume any story about us in the Guadian is a lie unless proved otherwise just like we would any story in the Mail.

  • The Guardian is such a great newspaper, they’re now doing personal abuse based on appearance:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/mediamonkeyblog/2010/dec/20/eric-pickles-doctor-who

  • matt
    “I find it extremely distasteful using Mathematics in this way”

    Are you really saying you prefer not to have the facts?

    Well I do.

  • Id just add that comparing child detention between last and current parliament is misleading since net immigration dropped substantially as the economic downturn took place

  • Hmm. We campaigned on this a great deal in Bedford. I am glad to see a timetable in place for it to end with May next year being the latest. And it might be helpful to point out that there are currently no children in Yarl’s Wood by now.

    @jayu – Yes, it could always be quicker; I agree. Having said that, the first quote you reference goes some way to answering the second. The reason it cannot be done overnight, is because the above questions “where will they go, will their parents be with them” have yet to be answered in detail.

    In fact, your first quote seems to be from someone who has not yet read Clegg’s speech in full which reads: “They’ll be somewhere the family can stay together. Somewhere they will have everything they need. Somewhere their privacy will be respected. And, crucially, somewhere the family, and especially the children, will have the opportunity to come and go where that is appropriate.” Unlike Yarl’s Wood was…

    @Peter – good article, it has surprised me that – rather than criticise the Daily Express headline ‘Now its even easier to claim asylum’ etc… – some have sought to criticise the Liberal Democrats. Clegg’s speech is very clear, both about the reason for the slight delay, and the outcome once it is closed: http://www.libdems.org.uk/speeches_detail.aspx?title=Nick_Clegg_confirms_end_to_child_detention_%28full_speech%29&pPK=d73b587e-f837-4b16-b7d5-a14b1bfa8a9b

  • @adamv – possibly true, but the levels were proportionally still far lower to my knowledge, and it will be ended by law rather than allowed to continue. So quite a difference.

  • @Simon Shaw

    Selective facts only produce half truths.

  • I also read this piece in the Grauniad Peter. However, any article from a senior political writer in The Statesman is likely to be somewhat anti-Lib Dem. Read many pieces in the Guardian, and they are quite amazingly pro – LD leadership lines. Many much more so than I would be, say. For instance, today’s editorial totally dismissing McCluskey (Gen Sec designate of UNITE)’s views on the economy as more or less worthless. Many of us in (and I am sure, formerly in) the Lib Dems would take a lot of note of anti – cuts views of the economy. I note it has become almost de rigeur among those who sometimes unquestioningly support our leadership to condemn the Guardian 9and often The Indy) as “anti – Liberal Democrat”. I hope that view doesn’t apply to you, Peter.

  • Isn’t about time you guys stopped simply sneering at The Guardian and considered why the one paper that supported you in the election now seems to be against you?

  • ….somewhere the family, and especially the children, will have the opportunity to come and go where that is appropriate….

    It just sounds more and more like a re-branding exercise. So, some official will deem whether it is appropriate to grant a family freedom of movement? And this is what we are supposed to celebrate?

  • Witter all you want about numbers at least it us ending.
    Whilst I would have like to see it end instantly there are nuances to every situation that need addressing.
    I wonder how some people and the papers would reacted if the doors would have been flung open wide in and uncontrolled way without catering for the small amount of complex circumstances in a reasonable fashion.
    I don’t think any Labour heirearchy or Labour leaning papers should have the cheek to criticise movement forward with Labourd non-efforts on record.

  • @jayu – the whole speech is far better, the privacy is important, in Yarl’s Wood there was none, the ability to move freely I assume means eg being able to go to school and whilst he says ‘where appropriate’ I think you are giving an un-generous reading of that. It is certainly starkly different to what was done before. A commitment to access to lawyers and medical professionals also makes a stark break with some of the practice previously observed.

    Just to check, do you disagree with the Express headline, and do you welcome the fact that there are no children locked up in Yarl’s Wood?

  • I don’t think I have ever agreed with an Express headline, and yes I do welcome fact that there are no children locked up in Yarl’s Wood, whilst bemoaning the fact that child detention still exists in other institutions .

  • I am totally opposed in principle to children being held in custody because of the ‘sins’ of their parents.

    However, we have to be totally realistic about why their parents are in secure accommodation and it’s almost always because they have no wish to voluntarily leave the UK and would do anything in their power to remain even if that was illegal.

    So let’s go back to Clegg’s speec h where he states that in future: ‘“They’ll be somewhere the family can stay together. Somewhere they will have everything they need. Somewhere their privacy will be respected. And, crucially, somewhere the family, and especially the children, will have the opportunity to come and go where that is appropriate.”

    Someone mentioned that the avaerage age of children detained is 5 and obviously a child of that age cannot be allowed to come and go on their own. So how ‘secure’ will the new accommodation units be and just how will the family have the opportunity to come and go where that is appropriate.

    Like so much of the legislative changes – long on spin and very very short on detail. I hope I will be pleasantly surprised on this one but I’m afraid I will have to reserve judgement as I feel we possibly could end up with the reality of ‘detention’ under another name.

    Just listening on the news about the further cuts in uni funding and it appears that the extra 10,000 promised uni places are only for this year and next year and then being totally cancelled which is a serious blow to broadening inclusion.

    But what is really fascinating is that the figure used by the government for tuition fee level is £7.4K and yest we have still to be told what the definition of ‘exceptional circumstances’ is that allows fees above £6K to be charged.

  • I took Paul Burstow’s advice (stop reading The Guardian) years ago. It is the house-journal of our public sector, where producer interest rules supreme.

  • @PW
    “I took Paul Burstow’s advice (stop reading The Guardian) years ago. It is the house-journal of our public sector, where producer interest rules supreme.”

    Trouble is Lib Dems now appear to read the Daily Mail. They certainly are going along with this paper’s politics. Attack every vulnerable group you can. The Guardian seems to have’ seen the light’, too late.

  • @Anne, remember Labour were going to make savage cuts too:
    http://m.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/mar/25/alistair-darling-cut-deeper-margaret-thatcher?cat=politics&type=article

    Also remember that The Guardian is far less widely read than all national dailies bar The Independent.

  • @Anne – Please avoid too much hyperbole, Lib Dems are not reading the mail, and clearly this policy does not target the most vulnerable. Your suggestion that Lib Dems ‘attack every vulnerable group [they] can’ is just offensive and false.

  • @Peter Welch

    You are doing the exact same thing that you accuse Hasan of. The article I was referring to was not Hasan’s article but this one:-

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/dec/16/charities-accuse-nick-clegg-of-rebranding-detention

  • @ Anne You’re just trying to wind us up really. Funny, but doesn’t really move the debate along.

    @ Steve Cooke: Hasan has a formula that goes like this. Labour did something terrible. Lib Dems haven’t yet completely stamped it out. Therefore people should vote Labour. We should point it out.

    @ PW: Yes indeed.

    @ jayu: I’m providing balance. And the Narey quote is in my post.

  • Niklas – thanks, very good point.

    Geoffrey – thanks. Some very good points.

  • Well done Peter – a good article and good responses to the comment-crusaders.

  • @PW
    @Anne, remember Labour were going to make savage cuts too:

    What has that got to do with what Lib Dems are party to? I despise Labour and their attacks on the sick and disabled amongst many other things including importantly, the Iraq war. Why do you always have to bring everything round to Labour all the time instead of defending yourselves with playground politics? He did it too Miss!!
    @Henry
    So Housing Benefit cuts, ESA ‘reform’ and removal of DLA which wil put many poor, sick and disabled into poverty not attacking vulnerable groups then? I have not seen any defence of the sick and disabled from Lib Dems only back patting of the Tories. Would you have supported Labour on this s well in opposition?
    @ Peter Welch.
    No I am not trying to wind you up but wake you up.

  • @Anne – I took issue with your claim that all the policies are targeting all the vulnerable people. So at no point did I suggest no single policy targeted the vulnerable. That is a mis-understanding of my point and a deeply unfair reading of what I was saying.

    There is plenty to criticise in this coalition (just ask Vince :-)) but at the moment, the only constructive proposals and the most interesting political debate is between coalition partners.

    In addition, if it would help, whilst some coalition policy does target the vulnerable (well there are some Conservatives there), there is also a tangible Lib Dem influence in the state pension increase (triple-locked to guarantee an increase) to help the vulnerable older people, there is the lifting of the tax-band which certainly helps the poorest and most vulnerable earners, and there is the tripling of the child element of the child tax credit.

    To link to some bad decisions, then blame the Lib Dems, without taking into account the good things is unfair. It is exactly what Peter was critising the Guardian for in the above story, as well as not being wholly relevant to the context of this particular Lib Dem Voice article.

  • @ Henry
    I repeat, what have the Lib Dems done to defend the attacks on the sick and disabled? Answer – nothing because you have bought into the Daily Mail politics of ‘scroungers’. I expect it from the Tories (and Labour) which is why I blame the Lib Dems who took my vote promising ‘new politics’. There is no help for us and we are in despair.

  • Anne
    I would agree that a lot of disabled people are worried about the checks benefit claims. But where do you see Liberal Democrats describing Disabled people as scroungers? I can’t think of any such instance.

    Liberal Democrat ministers have been involved in some significant moves to help disabled people and their family . Paul Burstow has worked to make £400 million available to provide a week’s respite care to carers who work over 50 hours a week. Sarah Teather also announced an £800 million investment in short break provision for disabled children and their families.

  • @Twitterer
    “I would agree that a lot of disabled people are worried about the checks benefit claims. But where do you see Liberal Democrats describing Disabled people as scroungers? I can’t think of any such instance.”

    Going along whole heartedly with the Tories who ‘believe’ this and talk about people on benefits as if all were fraudsters. Not questioning the new more draconian work capability assessment which will throw many sick and disabled on to a non existent job market where there is no chance of finding employment, Clegg, Cable and Alexander patting Osborne on the back. The withdrawal of DLA. in 2013 to be replaced by PIP (what a joke). nothing from Lib Dems on this and absolutely nothing at all on the plight of the sick and disabled and their villification. Matt has mentioned others By ‘turning a blind eye’ Lib Dems are complicit and will be guilty of helping to destroy the Welfare State.

  • @Twitterer

    Short breaks are fine but what happens when we are unable to afford food and heating?

  • Peter Welch 21st Dec '10 - 8:35pm

    @ Anne Thanks – I think your standpoint is much clearer now. This is an issue that concerns me because I have friends and colleagues who are affected by the increased checks. The govt is at the consultation stage on PIP and I can’t pretend that I am conversant with the detail. But the initiatives quoted show that Lib Dems have continued to work for disabled people. And you haven’t given any examples of Lib Dems using the “scrounger” language. Good thing too!

  • Niklas Smith –

    1) On EU migration. Don’t forget that the whole EU opens to the A8 countries in 2011, some I believe have opened up their labour markets sooner. The amount of EU migration to the UK was always very likely to drop, regardless of that the government did because of wider changes in the EU.

    2) ‘The children who get detained in our shameful excuse for an asylum system are the children of asylum seekers, not EU economic migrants or foreign students. I haven’t seen any figures suggesting that asylum applications follow the economic cycle.’

    Hold on a minute. Think how many children cross the UK border every year using any of the legal routes. Those that are detained are those about whom there is a resonable level of suspicion. The jackboot imagery that surrounds this forgets that this is not a case of detaining every child at the border. I’m not sure that the idea that every family that turns up at the border gets a free pass is pragmatic asylum policy, however bad a taste it leaves in the mouth.

  • @Dara – ‘I’m not sure that the idea that every family that turns up at the border gets a free pass is pragmatic asylum policy, however bad a taste it leaves in the mouth.’

    a) That isn’t what is suggested.

    b) And your references to jackboot imagery in the wider post are appropriate given the 5am or earlier raids on homes with children as young as 10 being ordered to pack their mother’s bags in 15 minutes.

    c) And there is a clear distinction between asylum and immigration.

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