Leading Article: This is the month of August, after all

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The Independent Online
YESTERDAY the Sun newspaper bestowed one of its immortal epithets on the Independent. We are The Paper That Has No Shame, because we argued in this column two days ago that Winston Silcott was entitled by law to the compensation paid to him for wrongful imprisonment, however offensive that may be to public opinion. As slogans go there is something to be said for it. It may not have quite the ring of Famed For Its Knitting (the old Woman's Weekly), or The Paper That Supports Our Boys (the Sun itself during the Falklands war), but it certainly steals a march on the old Mirror tag - Forward With Britain, a direction with which Britain is not overly familiar. So fair enough and fair do's: broadsheet newspapers can be snooty enough about tabloids, after all, and this is the month of August.

Less fair, we felt in our prickly way, was the rather personal charge that wherever the editor of the Independent lived, 'it certainly isn't in the real world'. Oh dear, the real world again. Where does it exist? Or rather, where can the unreal world be found? The answer to both questions is usually from the mouths and the keyboard fingers of people who have run out of argument, even if they had one in the first place. Geographically and traditionally the unreal world has been said to exist: (a) south of Watford; (b) particularly in Hampstead, though North London generally will do at a push; (c) among folk who drink claret. The real world - nasty, brutish but certainly not short - is almost everywhere else. Weybridge, Devon, Upper and Lower Slaughter, the offices of the Sun and the Adam Smith Institute, all as real as real can be. The unfairly stereotyped taxi driver has a detailed working knowledge of its plains of ignorance, its mountains of prejudice, its plantations of human nature, its wide estuaries of common sense.

And the real world of the Silcott case? Simply that a Conservative Home Secretary decided that the law must be upheld, however distasteful that may be to many people, and that an eminent QC set an amount of compensation under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act passed by a Conservative government. You can argue about that, but the real world need not get its foot in the door. It is too much with us already, awesomely so in a place like Rwanda: no compensation thereabouts.