Richard Ingrams' Week: Supporters of these killer birds are sadly misguided

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Only a week or so after the death of the two hen harriers in Norfolk, there has been more trouble on the kite front this time in Scotland. Three kites have been found dead at the Argaty Red Kite Project at Stirling with a high level of toxin in their system.

Experts say that the birds must have been poisoned, and once again, at considerable expense, the bird police have been called in to investigate.

The death of the Scottish kites follows hard on the similar fate, reported in this paper, of a poisoned kite, one of 30 that had been introduced into Ireland. It looks as if some Scots may be as keen as the Irish to keep their country kite-free.

Whenever I refer, as I have done in the past, to the growing menace of the kites (which are now to be found in large numbers over most of England), their defenders will come out and claim that they are what one Independent correspondent called "an integral part of the eco-system". So too on this occasion Ms Lynn Bowser, who runs the Argaty Project and who has won an award from the Scottish Tourist Board, claims in defence of the kites that they eat "only dead animals such as crows and rabbits".

It would be nice to believe in this friendly, useful bird of prey but Ms Bowser's description does not accord with the facts. The reason that the kites died out in this country is that farmers rightly regarded the birds as a threat to their poultry and even their land and therefore shot them. Kites will also attack smaller birds like magpies and ducklings. The only reason they want them in Scotland and Ireland is because foolish people think they look nice and fit in with the scenery. But the time may soon come when we will have to start the shooting again.

Gordon needs to stop saying sorry

As soon as the row over donations broke, Gordon Brown admitted that what had been done was "unlawful". This was a great mistake on his part. But you can understand why he said it. He wanted to show that things were going to be done differently from the Blair way.

The same thing happened when it was revealed that HM Customs had mislaid the personal details of millions of people claiming child benefit. The government, in the person of Alistair Darling, confessed immediately that something had gone horribly wrong and actually apologised.

They meant well, Brown and Darling. And one understands their good intentions. But the response, especially from the media, has not been as appreciative as they might have hoped. So in future we may have to see a return to the Blair method of coping with a crisis. And the first lesson to learn is that you don't give the game away right at the beginning by admitting that what happened was unlawful.

You might go so far as to say that grave charges, serious allegations, etc have been made. And then you announce the setting up of an inquiry, perhaps under a respected and thoroughly impartial figure like Lord Hutton, to look in to those self same serious allegations.

In the meantime when faced with awkward questions from opposition parties you reply that it would be quite improper to comment while the official inquiry is continuing. Ideally this should take several months, giving everyone time to forget about whatever it was.

And even in the unlikely event that the respected figure eventually finds against you, you will reply that throughout you "acted in good faith". This should be enough to let you off the hook and enable you and everyone else to "move on".

* Ten years after Paul Foot named Robert Napper in Private Eye he is to appear in court next week charged with the Wimbledon Common murder.

And the Daily Mail celebrates the news with what its headline calls, "a disturbing admission" by the man originally and wrongly accused of the murder of Rachel Nickell Colin Stagg.

But anyone hoping that Stagg might now be admitting that he was guilty all along would have been disappointed by what followed. All the disturbing admission amounted to is that he never had a girlfriend until he was jailed for Rachel's murder. But since the Daily Mail had been describing Stagg as a "loner" for several years, would anyone be all that disturbed?

The Mail, however, is reluctant to abandon their suspicions of Stagg. Interviewed by the paper this week, he refuses to admit feeling sorry for the murder victim. "I don't feel anything about Rachel Nickell," he was quoted as saying. "She doesn't mean anything to me." This very honest and understandable answer is described as "bizarre", while his suggestions that his wrongful arrest had helped to strengthen his character is considered "perverse".

The implication is that Stagg, if not any more a loner, is a heartless weirdo with bizarre and perverse inclinations. After all, as the Mail reminds us, at the time of the murder "there was no shortage of people willing to believe he was capable of the most heinous crime".

One possible explanation that they were being told as much continually by the Daily Mail even after Stagg had been released is not advanced. After all, if the paper admitted that, then that would be a truly disturbing admission.