Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner BAT-MAN!

Reports of Ken Clarke’s arrest have been greatly exaggerated. On reading the by-line “An activist for campaign group ”New Fathers 4 Justice” has tried to ”arrest” Justice Secretary Ken Clarke at his home.” my spirits were momentarily lifted – a superhero has swooped in, grabbed the unwieldy Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Bill 2011 and hurled it out of our orbit, to drift like so much space junk through the stars.

kapow, courtesy of waytoocrowded on flickr

courtesy of waytoocrowded on flickr

But no. *sighs*

It was just another bloke in an ill-fitting batman suit, lobbing ill-fitting complaints at an apparently ill-tempered “Injustice Secretary” (not a great villainy epithet but it’ll do). Superman came along, and dressed up as a paparazzo (Gotta find work where you can – not much call for flying geeks with a kryptonite allergy in today’s job market).

Ken “the joker” Clarke fought back with a few off the cuff ripostes which easily swotted away the caped crusader’s punchy words: when challenged as to the failure of the press to report the contents of the interim family justice review report, and when criticised for the contents of that report (a report that Mr Clarke had neither commissioned nor written, and which contains the preliminary recommendations of an independent committee which the Government seems set to ignore in any event) the lightning fast Ken stingingly reported that it was “not regarded as newsworthy” and nothing to do with him. Which is in many respects a fair point, even if it does disclose rather more about Ken’s attitude to the Norgrove Committee than he may have intended.

“Fathers have been let down by this Tory-led report and it’s time to take our gloves off, roll up our sleeves and expose this corruption,” a spokesman for New Fathers 4 Justice apparently said. “They promised us a presumption of contact yet we get no real change. Dads are lining up to climb roofs again and cause whatever disruption is necessary to highlight this injustice.”

Bless that Bruce Wayne, you can put some slinky pants on top of his hosiery, but he’s still not the sharpest tool in the box. He’s all over the shop with out Alfred to keep him on track (blame the working time directive – it was his day off).

The Norgrove Review is not a tory-led report and may well not be followed by them, depending on what suits their political ends at the time (it’ll probably be filleted and cherry picked and garnished with chopped mixed metaphors). It was in fact set up by labour in the dying days of the former government. The committee is not due to report finally until later in the year, the subject of complaint is an interim report only. Consultation on the proposals made in it has just closed. It does not suggest a change in the law to include a presumption of contact, although it does recommend some strengthening work to the legislation. Ker-pow? Ker-splat.

I don’t know. Superheroes are a scarce resource in these days of austerity. Gotham have made Batman redundant and Superman has hit hard times, and they’ve come over the pond to scrounge off our luxurious welfare state (Bad timing chaps). But even economic migrant superheroes are a resource to be husbanded carefully, to be targeted wisely. Many of us would like to arrest the progress of Ken Clarke’s Legal Aid reforms; and there is much to criticise in the coalition’s handling of justice issues. This however, was not Batman’s finest hour. Back to the bat cave lads.

NB I have made a point of not watching the 3 minute video that is available for delectation, on the basis that reading the account of the events and being confronted with the various sartorial offences apparent from the still images in The Telegraph was excruciating enough. Do please report below if anything intelligent and / or newsworthy was uttered by any of those present other than the gems noted by The Telegraph.

14 thoughts on “Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner BAT-MAN!

  1. As will be seen on my blog, I have watched the video. I did not suffer too much trauma, although I can’t say I’m any the wiser…

  2. It’s a shame you feel the need to take the easy option and heap scorn on these activists who are trying to campaign for changes in a family law system which is ineffective generally in giving children the right to have family life with both parents.

    Batman was entirely right that Contact Orders are unenforceable and cost relatively huge sums to acquire if lawyers are used.

    Batman was correct that in practice there are not equal rights for parents in the family law courts.

    Batman was right that the Courts need openness and transparency so that standards are raised, false allegations are less likely to occur and practices are vastly improved.

    It was good to see Batman and Ken Clarke QC having a good natured and frank conversation about the ills of the family law system. Both made good points and they ended with a friendly hand shake.

    These activists are campaigning for their children and millions (3 to 4 million) of others in this country to be able to have a relationship with their fathers.

    1 in 4 children in this country do not have a relationship with their father (1 in 3 in poorer areas). Improvements must be made. There is little or no faith in the family law system and many fathers little or no point in using it. Too many Court Orders flouted, the expense is prohibitive, endemic institutionalised bias within the system etc

    • I’m not heaping scorn on the serious issues you rightly raise on your comment, many of which I share. What I have ridiculed is the method by which campaigners seek to tackle those issues, which detracts from the substantive arguments.

  3. Personally I don’t think these methods detract from the substantive arguments at all. I suspect these serious issues would not get much or any consideration without campaigns such as this.

    More and more fathers are expected (and are expecting) to be involved parents in their children’s lives, whether together or apart. Which means if the systems in place are not able to support this (clearly they are not) then the pressure for substantial change will build.

    The superhero costumes is a tremendous idea as the ridicule these fathers face, means that it is more difficult for the media and others to get away with the angry dads label and to be believed. It also attracts the media and makes it more likely the story will hit the headlines and some of the message will get across in an article.

    Marketing experts have lauded these campaigns over the years as super effective at getting the message out there. Public support for the aims of these fathers is positive overall.

    These campaigners end up having invites to Westminster and in the media (in their lounge suits) where they can put their views across in a more orthodox manner.

    It’s a mistake for commentators to write them off as not too bright when they have business owners, managers (even a few lawyers) and a host of other sharp cookies behind the scenes and amongst them, from what I understand.

  4. Paul Summerfield

    It does not detract it raises the issues, I mean it got you writing about it did’nt it. If you want to do something about it then why dont you knock on Kens door and show us how it should be done, wonderwomen.

    I know you know that we are on the same bent trip as the Cafcass Talks in 2001 where we were to get Set Recommended Contact Times and a Training Manual for Cafcass

    • Point taken – I am talking about it. But people are already talking about father’s rights / equality in the family courts because F4J raised the profile of these issues a number of years ago. F4J, having achieved their objective through their unconventional marketing campaign, and having secured a listening ear, have reverted to the lounge suit approach, which is likely to achieve better results long term.

      I’m not wonderwoman (although I did once leave my bra on the M5 mo-tor-way, but that’s a whole different story*).

      I don’t understand your second paragraph. Slightly before my time I suspect. But I don’t think a mathematical approach to contact or parental rights is generally helpful.

      * Jingle Bells
      Batman smells
      Robin flew away
      Wonderwoman lost her bra on the M5 motorway
      Oh jingle bells….

  5. “I’m not heaping scorn on the serious issues you rightly raise on your comment, many of which I share.”

    You need to read your article again, maybe you do raise some important points, but at the end of the day it is scorn you are dishing out. Which is unjust!

  6. not sure i can go with your point on this loo – i submit it was uncle billy who lost his willy on christmas day. you will be hearing from the m5’s solrs re defamation action soonest.

    • The author of this blog would like to retract the very bad pome appearing in an earlier comment and unhesitatingly apologises for the factually inaccurate statements contained therein. No resemblance to fictional characters was intended.

  7. and uncle billy is still waiting for his apology (not to mention news on where his organ got to, tho i don’t expect you to be able to assist on the latter).

  8. Nick Langford

    I think Chambers is confusing the campaign run by Fathers 4 Justice, which did indeed create enormous publicity from a tiny budget, and the campaign currently being run by New Fathers 4 Justice, which is quite different in character and professionalism and may well be doing more harm than good.

  9. Nick Langford,

    No confusion on my part.

    I don’t know the characters or groups involved.

    However, it is perhaps revealing about you that as a F4J stalwart (if your username is correct) you are sniping from what seems to me an unattractive, destructive jealousy of these chaps ‘New’ F4J, who have hit the headlines again.

    It seems strange for you to dig at the Judean’s People Front http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb_qHP7VaZE rather than at the very least keep your opinions to yourself as a member of the Peoples Front of Judea.

    I suppose competition between your old and perhaps tired group and others, means more protests and more coverage of aims, excellent.

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