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From the Molehill

Spinning passports, nuclear non-news, and wishful thinking

The Home Office's spin doctors must be feeling pleased with themselves, given the way so much of the media fell for a lot of absolute nonsense just recently.

The government announced how many fraudulent passport applications had been found last year, and went on to say how many more-allegedly 10,000-hadn't been spotted. But there's no way at all for anyone to know how many false applications got through: by definition, they are unknown.

So what's going on? Well, this “revelation” was linked to an announcement of the launch of new interview centres around the country, which applicants for passports will have to visit. But there's no reason to believe that many false applications would be found by this vastly expensive system of 69 passport offices that wouldn't be spotted by rigorous application of the existing checks.

Nevertheless, lots of news bulletins swallowed the official line, referring to these offices as though they were a response to the fraud figures. The reverse is the case. The imaginary figures for undetected passport fraud were plucked out of the air precisely as a response to the need to justify the new centres. These offices, in reality, are set to become Britain's new Population Registration Centres (to give them a more honest name), as part of the government's ID card scheme.

Not so fast

On 23 February, there was an obsequious government announcement about how they'd love Britain to host some of the US's “Star Wars” bases.

On the London demo the next day, people discovering anti-Star Wars stickers on the Yorkshire CND stall in Trafalgar Square marvelled at how efficient they were to get propaganda produced overnight.

Similarly, a customer in Housmans, the PN bookshop, was surprised to see a whole shelf of titles about Star Wars in the shop's peace section.

What peace activists ought to have remembered, even if the media didn't, is that we've already had Star Wars-related bases (and a lively campaign against them) in this country for many years.

The Fylingdales radar station and the Menwith Hill communications centre, both in Yorkshire, have long been part of the US system.

Coded criticism?

You know what it's like at demos, not really bothering to listen to the speakers unless something really special grabs your attention. Well, during one of the speeches at that Trafalgar Square event, a Mole-ish ear was caught by one speaker-old Labour backbencher Bob Waring-making a disparaging reference to something to do with the infamous Big Brother television series.

For one extraordinary moment, this seemed to be a criticism of that poster-boy of (parts of) the anti-war movement, and indeed an earlier speaker at the rally, a certain G Galloway.

It turned out, in fact, to be a reference to Tony Blair spending time meeting BB celebs, though he wouldn't meet families of soldiers killed in the Iraq war.

But maybe we really were meant to pick up another implication too; some at least in the Square were pleased to think so.

Topics: Star Wars