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FRONT LINE FIRST-MAYORAL MANIA

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Following 11 September, domestic stories are competing for relatively little space in the nation's media. ...
Following 11 September, domestic stories are competing for relatively little space in the nation's media.

Many which do survive are given a little New York spin. Take last month's mayoral referendums. The nation was hardly gripped by mayoral mania but, aside from a calamitous hat-trick of child protection failures, the confused message from the ballots was the big local government talking point.

In The Guardian Lord Hattersley argued if the mayoral camp could not win a resounding 'yes' vote now it never would. After all, the past seven weeks, he argued, have seen a charismatic New York mayor win rave reviews for his response to unspeakable horror.

The former Labour deputy leader accused the government of pushing the system purely to end Old Labour's hold on one-party states, describing the prime minister as 'the first leader in history to gerrymander votes in order to guarantee the defeat of his own party'. Ministers had sought to taint councillors with the corruption tag, a fate deserved 'by one in a thousand'.

But the newspapers agreed the mayoral push is under something of a cloud. The Financial Times reported a split between secretary of state Stephen Byers and local government minister Nick Raynsford.

Mr Byers reportedly told Tribune that 13 years as a 'traditional' councillor on North Tyneside MBC had not done him any harm. As the media frenzy over his refusal to sack special adviser Jo Moore swirls on, some would question what it did for his political judgment in a crisis. That particular fiasco centred on the timing of an arcane announcement on councillors' allowances.

But the war that dare not speak its name and the terrorism which sparked it are never far away. In The Guardian, Naomi Klein suggested the bioterrorists have been aided by 'holes in the US public infrastructure'.

She points to weaknesses created by under-resourcing of the health system, the water supply and food inspection.

Why, she asks, has so little been done to prepare for a threat acknowledged for decades? Like

the arch-polemicist she is, Ms Klein answers her own question: 'The

reason is simple: preparing for biological warfare would have required a ceasefire in an older, less dramatic war - the one against the public sphere.'

Chris Mahony

Carol Grant is on holiday

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