Classic was Jimmy Savile’s use of the cloak of authority and kindness. Savile’s celebrity allowed him to acquire this authority. As we consider the regulation of the media and the legal right to privacy it is worth reflecting on how the Savile scandal happened. It happened because the aura of Sir Jimmy’s celebrity protected him from scrutiny by the press.

Daniel Finkelstein on celeb power and the Jimmy Savile child abuse scandal. Read more

Three years ago mephedrone was a legal high; sold as plant food. Possibly dangerous, it was a public health issue. Now illegal, it’s a criminal issue, too; a new challenging problem recast as part of an old intractable one. Who gained?

Remove criminality from drug-taking and treat the issue as one of public health instead: it’s the only way, says Hugo Rifkind. Read more

Alex Salmond would not be the first politician to find his defining political objective defeated in a poll for which he had long campaigned. Nick Clegg was humiliated on AV, having insisted on putting the question of electoral reform to the nation. Although politicians are trying to match the speed of Twitter and blogs with more instant “democracy”, the tactic seems to have a tendency to backfire. According to a study of referendums worldwide, voters almost always reject change: if the campaign starts with opinion evenly balanced, the status quo wins in 80 per cent of cases.

Scotland has its yes-or-no vote on independence set for 2014 but the Scottish First Minister should remember the lesson of the 2011 referendum on the alternative vote, says Rachel Sylvester. Read more

In no area of public policy but drug-taking is there such a mismatch between political expectation and public reality. Roughly one third of adult Britons have used controlled drugs at some point in their lives, nearly 1 in 10 in the past year. Many of these have used Class A drugs, risking up to seven years in prison for possession and life for supplying. People who wouldn’t dream of committing armed robbery or grievous bodily harm are carrying out offences that potentially carry similar sentences. This level of disregard for the law should be a powerful signal to politicians that the present approach is not respected.

As a major report is published recommending the decriminalisation of drugs, Colin Blakemore, Professor of Neuroscience and Philosophy at the University of London, suggests that politicians need to take a step back and look at the scientific evidence. Read more

The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good healthcare, lack of freedom, lack of respect for human lives and, finally, the many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people.

And these dictators’ atrocities against their own citizens “are far worse than all the full-scale Arab-Israeli wars,” says Abdulateef al-Mulhim, a former commodore of the Saudi Navy. Read more

Some 53 per cent of households in Britain are now receiving more in benefits than they pay in taxes. Most of us receive some kind of handout that we are determined to keep. We justify it by saying we pay extortionate taxes but are we morally superior to the jobless teenager who gets pregnant to escape an abusive step-parent? These benefits are infantilising, not just for those who have been on welfare for three generations, but all of us.

If the Tories cut £10bn from welfare they must take benefits from the middle classes too, says Alice Thomson. Read more

Public morality in Britain today lurches between the liberal and puritanical, seemingly at random. The public is shocked and disgusted by the abuse of teenagers, and scarcely less so when a 15-year-old girl runs away with her teacher. Yet it’s not even a decade since girls just a few months older than Megan Stammers could be found posing naked in national newspapers.

Even when set against a backdrop of soaring godlessness and collapsing social institutions, our morality has reached a conclusion that is “palpably right”, writes Hugo Rifkind

This Rothko attacker is a pathetic wimp. They should film him being given a good thrashing outside Tate Modern, call it a ‘conceptual video’ and enter it for the Turner Prize.

So says David Lee, editor of arts magazine The Jackdaw, of the “barely sane ‘artist’ of no discernible ability” who scrawled graffiti on Mark Rothko’s painting at the Tate Modern. In May, a Rothko sold for $90 million (£53 million) in New York

The only thing bailouts achieve is to take the problem away from the banks and place it squarely on taxpayers’ shoulders. As in any market economy, the only viable solution is the freedom to fail.

Timo Soini, chairman of the Finns Party, has a blast against the bureaucrats in Brussels


Jimmy Savile was a “good man”, sexual assault on minors is a “bad thing”, and therefore the girls alone in the dressing room must have meant something else than illegal sex. We tend towards such binary thinking, which may be one reason why we continually hear phrases like “he wasn’t the suicidal type” of a suicide, or “he was a gentle boy” of a murderer.

David Aaronovitch examines the Jimmy Savile child abuse allegations

Each iteration of the “War on Terror” has depended on secrecy for success. As long as the strategy remained under wraps, the politicians were able to pretend that they were “doing something” about terrorism. Thus it will be with drones. The US advertises that it is the most effective of weapons against terrorism. Perhaps, instead, we will learn that it provokes far more extremism than it eliminates.

Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, is setting out on an expedition to discover how drone strikes are affecting the 800,000-strong population of Waziristan, Pakistan

Now is the age of the geek. The leader of the free world, indeed, is a geek. Don’t be fooled by the supposed love of basketball and hip-hop; never forget that Barack Obama wears a vest and keeps his BlackBerry in a belt holster.

For this reason, Hugo Rifkind thinks that Ed Miliband, “a proud and open geek”, might just have a chance of winning the next election

Consider what a brittle, sexualised, youth-worshipping culture we live in, and how we have made a world in which these qualities rate very highly. Western women of all ages are constantly hammered with the message that high status is chiefly achieved by beauty, slimness, glossy hair, fashionable edge and ‘hotness’. So it can be quite hard for a slightly weary, less-than-pristine woman of maternal years to defy a dewy, flawless, supercool young thing.

But adults do know best, says Libby Purves, and they need to do far more to protect young teenage girls from those who might abuse them

Britain had 27,000 road deaths in the past decade, and the vulnerable — older people and children — are most at risk. There is one easy way to address this: 20mph speed limits everywhere that people live, work or shop. The odds are that if as a pedestrian or cyclist you are hit by a vehicle at 20mph you live. At 30mph you die.

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, who lost her mother in a car accident, thinks a small sacrifice in journey time will save thousands of lives

Myth: The EU stops hardworking Britons working longer hours than feckless continentals. Fact: The average Pole works 40.5 hours a week. The average Spaniard 38.1. The average for all the EU is 37.2. The average for the UK? 36.2.

Radek Sikorski, the Foreign Minister of Poland, dispels seven myths about the European Union

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