Deborah Orr: Hero today, villain tomorrow

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The Independent Online

Poor Garri Holness. First he has his leg blown off, the traumatised victim of the kind of hellish attack that will remain, for most of us, merely a nightmarish vision. Now he has been divested of his heroism as well, for it has been revealed that many years ago he was one of a gang of young men convicted of a grave and terrible sexual assault.

Since 11 September 2001 it has been the custom to refer to all of the victims of terrorism as "innocent". Holness may have served his time. But it turns out now that he is officially non-innocent.

He came to prominence as the leader of a campaign to gain more compensation for the victims of the London bombings. It was this prominence that eventually led to the uncovering of his ghastly past. Now, under a penalty system applied to offenders who are offered payouts, he will have his money cut by £8,250. For good measure, the man formerly decreed a celebrity survivor has been told he isn't wanted at the switching on ceremony for the Streatham Christmas lights after all.

Meanwhile, a documentary about Mohammad Sidique Khan, the Edgware Road bomber and suspected 7 July ringleader, revealed that - setting aside for a moment the grotesque atrocity he committed - no one had a bad word to say about him. In fact, there appears to be only one way of making sense of his crime. The presumption must be that his extremity was connected to the very innocence of his own open embrace of Western values. When exposed to graphically bitter truths about some of the behaviour that the West prefers to characterise as heroic, he flipped.

Khan is no longer able to answer for his crimes. But his widow, Hasina Patel, is living in a safe house, where she miscarried their second child. Her mother, Farida Patel, is with her as well, driven out of her home by resentment and intrusion. The retired teacher had been honoured last year by the Queen for her fundraising work. One of her other grandsons, in turn, has been taunted in the street on account of his family's connection to Khan.

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner engaged in an understandable struggle to work out how his force deals with homeland terror, this week delivered a Dimbleby lecture that gave us the observation that society is now "very complicated". The story of these two men who sat so plangently in a Tube carriage together, illustrates that there is still a massive yearning to impose simplicity on our very complicated society. There is still a strong collective - or at least mainstream - desire to see our own selves as innocent and those who threaten our idyll as guilty. But such a view, in reality, is simple enough to be simple-minded.

Think again on state pensions

More manufactured controversy strikes, as the press springs into action bemoaning the Government's failure to address the pensions crisis. For years it has been obvious that there were only three harsh choices available to any government.

The first was to raise the pension age, the second to raise the pension size and the third was to somehow get it through to more people that they really have to save for their retirement. It's no surprise, then, that the Government appears to be going for a combination of the three. The real scandal is that it is doing all this without any reference to the reality of people's working lives.

I hope to God that someone will still employ me when I'm 67. It doesn't seem that old to me at all - in fact, I'm looking forward to having a high old time at a friend's 60th birthday party this very evening. But the reason for this may be that the people making policy have jobs like mine - indoors, lots of reading, some discussion, a bit of writing, a meeting or two, a phone call, plenty of job satisfaction.

But for a person working outdoors - say in the building trade, heaving heavy stuff, out in all weathers - the idea of working on and on really is a sort of cruel and unusual punishment. The idea of work as physically punishing, as something that the knees and the hips and the hands can after a time no longer sustain, doesn't seem to figure in the brave new world of pensions at all. Provision must be made.

Fabulous Kate back in fashion

Blimey! It already seems like for ever ago that Kate Moss was in rehab and therefore not constantly available to grace the front pages of all the newspapers that I weirdly imagined a short while back were saying she was finished (while busily trying to do the finishing).

Now, even those guys first off the bandwagon when it appeared to be losing its wheels are climbing on again. Kate's back in the glossies where she belongs, plugging Coco Mademoiselle and Burberry trenchcoats. And she's back everywhere else as well, her lovely little face as next-door-but-fabulous as ever.

So what was the "scandal" all about then? And what have those who appointed themselves to expose Ms Moss as an inadequate "role model" achieved? Absolutely nothing, except a further canonisation of heavenly Kate. Oh, and, of course, an indelible message to those young people our moral guardians were so terribly concerned about in the first place. When you're caught out with a huge drug habit, you can easily be back on top of things, only better, in a month. Well done, Daily Mirror. You're quite a campaigning family paper.

Please tell us that was a joke...

The critical mauling Little Britain got after the start of its third series was predictable. Journalists like to be the first to spot something on the way up, and also on the way down. But I do know that this is not a programme that can be judged on one episode. Part of Little Britain's charm has in the past been its hit-and-miss edginess, and the way it careens merrily from hilarious to embarrassing.

In the hiatus between the last series and the start of the new one, a mythology of the show had grown up, a mythology in which every character is genius and every sketch comedy heaven. But actually, it always had duff bits - the hotel owner with his fey recipe needing "a thing called butter" being one, and the mad person behaving like a mad person in the asylum being another.

Likewise, it's always been a bit autistic - not exactly politically incorrect but seemingly unaware that human beings of any type might have feelings to hurt. It's from here, surely, that the show procures its ability to shock. Or so I like to think. Except that one critic abhorring Little Britain's reliance on easy targets cites the damning evidence that in an interview, David Walliams claimed that Little Britain "celebrates difference".

Wow. Just like the diversity officer at the town hall then? Little Britain indeed. Walliams, please tell me that was a joke. You're too rich to be a minor civil servant.

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