Socialist Worker

Gun games smear is not just child's play

Issue No. 1843

IS TRUTH at the Rupert Murdoch owned Times Education Supplement (TES) the first casualty of war? That's the question being asked by parents at New River Green nursery in Islington, London.

The nursery was telephoned by the TES to ask if their photographer could come to observe and take photographs of children to illustrate an article about 'superhero play'.

The nursery was also asked if they had seen an increase in war games amongst nursery children, to which staff replied that they had not. The nursery agreed to the photographer taking pictures of superhero play. But when Sheila Harrison, a parent at the nursery, bought the paper she was shocked by what she saw splashed on the front page.

Under the title 'Pupils Get Trigger Happy' was a staged photo of her three year old son in an aggressive stance. He was brandishing a makeshift piece of plastic made to look like a gun. Apart from the fact that both the image and the article are very misleading, Sheila and other parents are against war and have attended the peace demonstrations, some of them with their young children. Her three year old son was one of the many young children on the two million strong march last month.

The TES article claimed that nursery children all over the country were playing war-games in response to the Iraqi crisis, a story 'backed up' by quotes from staff and academics elsewhere.

Parents subsequently discovered that other professionals cited in the article had been quoted out of context. Parents at the nursery are demanding a full public apology from the TES for this misleading article and exploitation of children, and will be taking the matter to the Press Complaints Commission.

AUDREY BAXTER is the chief executive and 'chairman' of the giant soup firm Baxters. One unnamed director, rumoured to be Baxter, picked up a £693,000 salary increase, taking her close to the million pound mark.

Meanwhile, some 1,100 Baxters workers have suffered pay cuts and discovered the firm's pension fund has a £2.6 million shortfall.

Economical with the elderly

CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown decides on the level of the basic state pension, so he should know how much it is. In an interview with the Inside Labour magazine he explains that 'a pensioner at the moment gets £67 a week'.

Wrong, Mr Brown. In fact a single pensioner gets £75.50. Either Brown doesn't really care how much they get or he was hinting at what's to come.

Family ties that don't bind

IS THERE a family rift brewing in the household of right wing, pro-war Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi? Last week his wife, Veronica, said that the Italian anti-war demonstrations 'merit respect. If it weren't for them, there would be a spiritual desert.'

Anti-war voter has Twigged

NEW Labour education minister Stephen Twigg has been indulging in the 'doublespeak' of George Orwell's famous novel 1984. A constituent challenged pro-war Twigg to explain why he refused to take part in public debates over his stance.

'I have taken part in a public debate,' replied Twigg, citing his meeting with the Enfield United Nations Association as proof. The constituent checked with the association and found out that the meeting was private. Twigg's office replied, 'It was a public-private meeting.'

Recession buster bust

A POSSIBLE major scandal surrounding the vast Canary Wharf office development, east London, was barely reported last week. The complex went bust in the early 1990s, but was bailed out by the government. Canary Wharf has since expanded, with a huge array of giant new office blocks.

It attracted huge sums of money from City investors by claiming it had signed 25-year leases with clients occupying office space making it 'recession proof'. Last week it emerged that the leases had get-out clauses allowing companies to bale out of commitments.

Investors were furious. Canary Wharf shares collapsed as a result, slumping by over a third at one point. The prospect of buildings once more standing empty, and the company going bust, looms again.

Poster defies cops

WORKERS at the CH Cash and Carry shop in King's Heath, Birmingham, put up a 'Stop the War on Iraq, freedom for Palestine' poster. But the police told them to take it down. Store manager Aftab Nazir said, 'The policeman accused us of spreading racial hatred.

'He said if we did not take it down he was going to take us to court and even prison.' The staff complained to the police and forced them to retract. The poster is now back up.

Figure it out

23 - THE NUMBER of years it would take someone on average male earnings to repay their student debt under government plans to impose top-up fees. Someone on average female earnings may never be able to repay the debt.

Profits up in smoke

ONE COMPANY in Britain must be very happy with Tony Blair. Fire protection firm Kidde has announced booming profits. Its sales were boosted by £1 million when it won the contract to kit out the army's clapped-out Green Goddess fire engines during the firefighters' dispute.

Last year it won a £10 million deal to supply Iraq with fire trucks and equipment. The Middle East 'is a good market for safety and protection at the moment', purrs Kidde chief executive Michael Harper.

Who says?

'A large part of military action will be stopping people fighting each other.'
Clare Short, international development secretary

'You go in there with both barrels. You let them know they are taking on the US army and you crush them.'
John W Charlton, US colonel to troops in the Gulf

'I won't say they're off limits.'
Tommy Franks, US general admitting the US considers schools, hospitals and mosques in Iraq as legitimate targets

'With its banner of the Prince of Peace in one hand and its loot-basket and its butcher-knife in the other.'
Mark Twain, describing the US's first imperial adventure 100 years ago

'This is a miserable life. We spend our whole life shopping for wars or hiding from bombs.'
Ahmed, an Iraqi in Baghdad

'Mr Blair strikes me as possessing the capacity of the religious maniac to regurgitate any piece of garbage which may be required in the temporary service of some higher cause.'
Alan Watkins, veteran Independent correspondent

'Repressed socially and often someone you cannot trust.'
Graphologist, analyses Tony Blair's handwriting

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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 22 Mar 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1843
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