HYSTERIA GREETED the arrest of seven people after the toxin ricin was found in a north London flat. Newspapers howled about 'poison factories' run by asylum seekers bent on mass destruction.
Not one paper gave the slightest consideration to the thought that those arrested might be innocent, at least until proven guilty. Yet six Algerians arrested last November and accused of being Al Qaida terrorists plotting mass murder on London's tube were finally charged just with passport violation offences.
The solicitor for one of these Algerians attacked the press coverage of that case, saying that the 'tidal wave of prejudicial coverage was unprecedented'. The government's draconian anti-terrorist legislation also means people can be locked up simply for belonging to left wing organisations abroad.
So six people arrested on terrorism charges in London in December turned out to be supporters, five Turkish and one English, of a left wing Turkish group. It was a similar atmosphere of hysteria and witch-hunting that in the 1970s led to innocent people like the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four being locked up for years for terrorist crimes they had nothing to do with.
The price of a witch-hunt?
READERS MAY make a connection between the following facts: (1) The Sangatte refugee centre near Calais was closed last month by the French government after huge pressure from the British government and a relentless campaign by British tabloid newspapers.
(2) There has been a surge in the number of Iraqi and Afghan refugees living homeless on the streets of the French capital, Paris, since the Sangatte closure. Four homeless people froze to death last week on the streets of Paris.
Power cuts on the horizon
THE MARKET in electricity generation created through privatisation could lead to power cuts as early as next year, according to a new report. Nera, an economic consultancy, found that power companies are planning to close power stations to cut costs and reduce capacity.
But the chaos of the market means that too many power stations are likely to close as each company tries to push up electricity prices by reducing supply. Privatisation of electricity supply in California led to severe power shortages and cuts there a couple of years ago after several years of overcapacity.
Rewarded for failure
THE AMEY construction company has so failed to maintain the railway in the Reading area that it lost the £50 million contract to Network Rail, the successor to Railtrack, this week.
The government, meanwhile, is pressing ahead with its PPP privatisation plan to hand over the maintenance of London's tube to private companies...including Amey.