Monday, 30 May 2011

Geoff Thompson Trappist

Who is he? Good question. He is the Vice President Trappist member of FIFA from Chesterfield, England. He sits among the nest of vipers aka the FIFA Executive Committee. While all the turmoil and corruption claim and counter-claim fly hither and yon; while the leadership of the organisation descends into factional infighting; while it goes deeper and deeper into the mire what exactly has our representative said or done? 
He broke the news to the England 2018 Bid team of the humiliating first round exit with just one vote despite promises of 6. He has endorsed Blatter’s bid to stay in charge. 
Er....that’s it. 
The Executive Committee currently has 22 members - two of whom are temporarily suspended, two suspended and allegations are on the table about a further 6. That makes a total of 10. Those are the known allegations. Dig deep into FIFA ‘s past and many more emerge. The silence from Thompson on all of this has been deafening. He steps down from his UEFA position in June. His position as a FIFA executive member seems secure until the next World Cup. 

Or is it? Why should we put up with a Trappist stooge when men of proven probity and courage are required to clean up the cesspit that is FIFA?

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Barcelona are a different class

Watching the fluidity of movement and interpassing between the players of Barcelona showed up just how much of a gap there is between the best club side in Europe and the rest. They play football in a different way to everyone else. Their strength is bewildering passing and movement which leaves the opposition chasing shadows. What is also remarkable is their ability to regain possession by hunting in packs and closing down the options for the player with the ball. They appear to have at least two more players on the pitch. 

Bill Nicholson’s double winning Spurs team in the ’60’s introduced the pass and move concept into the English game. Commentators at the time said they looked like they had an extra player. Barcelona have taken that idea to a much higher level. The whole club, from their youngest junior teams to their elite squad play the same way. Training is all about possession and finding the right pass. Lots of 2 v 1 and 3 v 2 until they achieve this almost telepathic understanding with each other. The moments where a pass is misplaced are remarkable for their scarcity.

Jose Mourinho devised a very negative defensive tactic to stifle them last year. It was effective but horrible. It is also high risk because Barcelona are so good they will make chances and if they score early in the game, the plan is scuppered.

Barcelona FC is also owned by 190000 fans unlike Premiership clubs owned by dodgy businessmen, human rights abusers, money launderers and oligarchs. Here’s hoping they set an example both on and off the field.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

FIFA: Fit for F-All

Can it get any worse? Deeply corrupt, complacent and arrogant, FIFA continue to demonstrate just cause why they should be abolished or replaced. The ruling body is rotten to the core. At the last count ten of the twenty-two delegates are under investigation for bribery and corruption. Those are the ones we know about. Blatter has run the organisation as though it were his own personal fiefdom. He grants favours to sycophants and those who oppose him are swiftly removed. All the money flowing into FIFA from sponsors and television contracts disappears into a black hole. All it takes for evil to flourish is that good men do nothing. 
At what point will the spineless wonders known as the FA organise a revolt. It will be difficult but not impossible to create a breakaway outfit. It could run on transparent and competent lines. Sponsors who currently hold their noses while lavishing huge sums into FIFA’s coffers would jump ship. FIFA would wither and die. It would not be mourned.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Balls to due process

“Why is it impossible to listen to Ed Balls without wanting to give him a good smack? Listening to his interview with John Humphries on the Today programme this morning was a reminder why New Labour and its political class became so despised.” Talking Balls 13/7/2010 
Listening to him again tonight was just as unpleasant. Following the guidance of the almighty Alistair Campbell, to ‘get your retaliation in first,’ Balls launched himself onto the media blusteringly justifying his actions when he was Minister of State for Children. 
The media storm over the death of Baby P in Haringay revealed just what a shallow, thoughtless bully Balls is. Bowing to media pressure and in a frantic rush to deflect attention from himself and the governments inadequacies he seized on the ruse of tyrants throughout the ages - get a scapegoat and hang them out to dry. 
One of the duties of a Minister of the Crown is to uphold the rule of law. That means due process should be observed. We do not live in a banana republic where a tyrant can make the law suit whatever his needs happen to be at any given time. We have due process. It is a strength - not a weakness. It means that a defendant or accused has the right to know the case against them and has the opportunity to put their case. Sharon Shoesmith was not given that opportunity. Balls undermined the rule of law for his own slimy duplicitous reasons. His civil servants should have insisted that he was doing it wrong. 
It is not inconceivable that following due process, Sharon Shoesmith could well have ended up being sacked. It may have taken longer but it would not have exposed the workings of NewLabour and Balls in particular to derision and possible massive compensation claims. What will the redtop furies and harpies make of that?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Judge them by their actions - Chapter 40

Just as the media are concentrating all their quills on the Obama visit, the Tory party slip it out that Lord Cashcroft, the tax-avoiding peer and tory benefactor, has been given a job.
David Cameron has swept aside private objections from Nick Clegg to appoint Lord Ashcroft, the Tories' multimillionaire former treasurer, as the main adviser to a government review of Britain's military bases in Cyprus.” Guardian online 24/5/11
A controversial figure to say the least. He spent millions (unpaid taxes?) trying to influence marginal seats before the last election.
Now why would a tax-avoiding multi-millionaire want to support the tories? What on earth is in it for him?
And why do the tories not recognise his toxicity? Or do they not care what citizens think?
Peas from the same pod anyone?
Watch out for the sale of bases somewhere down the line......

Monday, 23 May 2011

Ryan ‘Gaggsy’ Giggs

Yesterday, in front of the adoring faithful at the theatre of dreams, Ryan Gaggs was presented with his twelfth Premiership Championship medal. A quite remarkable achievement. As the crowd chanted his name, did he pause to wonder about the wisdom of his recent actions? Not just the shagging - but also the gagging? He is reputed to have spent over a quarter of a million on keeping his indiscretions covered up. He would have been better off keeping his hands in his pockets. 
Here in Scotland, the Sunday Herald confirmed what was one of the worst-kept secrets of the internet age. Gaggsy’s move to try to suppress Twitter has backfired spectacularly. It is a monumental own goal. Hundreds of thousands of citizens have tweeted and re-tweeted the details. The facts are in the public domain. 
Pompous old judges getting to grips with the antics of popular beat combos have barely an inkling about the workings of the world wide web. The suppression of Gaggsy’s love life is no big deal. Other cases such as Trafigura, who covered up toxic waste dumping, causing terrible harm and suffering in a third world country, are much more serious. 
The suppression of what the venal, slimy, toe-rag known as Fred the Shred got up to is on yet another level. This so-called ‘master of the universe’ helped ruin a national institution and brought misery to millions. The fact that he was granted a super-injunction says a great deal about m’learned friends and the way the powerful are protected while the weak can sod off. Lawyers who make a very handsome living in these cases resemble the worst plastic surgeons who make fortunes out of the rich and gullible, sculpting vanity projects out of silicone and botox. The outcomes are frequently similar too. Despite denials,  the evidence is there for all to see.
On the same day the Herald put on record the name of one errant footballer, Andrew ‘Gagger‘ Marr interviewed President Obama. Why? The man now has zero credibility as a serious journalist. He is a self-acknowledged hypocrite. Surely there must be other intelligent interviewers within the BBC? Selecting ‘Gagger’ for this job said a great deal about the values at the heart of the Corporation’s news team. It is also an insight into the kind of money ‘Gagger’ is on for him to be able to afford to go down the super-injunction route.  
And therein lies the essence. Super-injunctions are tools for the rich and powerful. They are neither just nor fair. 

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Judge them by their deeds - Chapter 39

Why are our politicians so lacking in any form of moral compass? Anyone wanting to know what Cameron is really like should consider the following in the Independent.
“In Bahrain, it was another day of violence and repression as the Saudi-backed Al-Khalifa dynasty continued to clamp down on protesters demanding a better life for the repressed Shia majority.
But in Downing Street, David Cameron exchanged a warm handshake with Bahrain's Crown Prince, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa.” 
All the guff talked about Libya, Syria and the ‘Arab Spring’ is shown up for what it is .....
Bullshit, utter bullshit.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Judge them by their deeds - Chapter 38

Among all the talk of crumbling superinjunctions and the nefarious doings of the egregious cretin who ‘shredded’ RBS, there comes a story which is in the public domain but is largely  ignored. 
Lloyds Banking Group held their AGM in Glasgow this week and came under fire from shareholders over the remuneration package for top execs. They were as ever gross and insulting to the rest of the real world. 300% bonuses for doing the job satisfactorily is crazy; 300% bonuses for doing the job unsatisfactorily is way beyond crazy, yet that is what was voted through with 18% objections. 
The killer fact which torpedoes all government claims to be curbing the bonus culture is this. “UK Financial Investments, which manages the Government’s 41 per cent stake in Lloyds, voted in favour.” Independent 19/5/2011.
Osborne, Cable et al sound off about reining in the excesses but given the practical chance to put our money where their mouths are they do nothing. 
Bullshit, utter bullshit.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Be-suited, Barmy and Clueless

The BBC is a great national institution. It is still one of the best broadcasters in the world. It enjoys has a great deal of support and affection from the public. The fact that reporters from the BBC are frequently barred from the world’s trouble spots by despots and tyrants shows how influential an organisation it is.
So all in all it is a ‘good thing.’ Well, not quite. Over several years there has been a shift to a management culture which has promoted administration, bureaucracy and bullshit over effective programme making. They pay themselves vast salaries and then justify those salaries by issuing edicts and schemes which reveal their shallowness.
 An example from a report into the BBC by the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee reveals the vapidity of executive thinking. 
“The BBC opened itself up to "predictable ridicule" and lowered its reputation by hiring an executive from the US to oversee its Salford Quays move, an influential group of MPs has said. They claimed the use of Guy Bradshaw, whose home is in Kentucky, as the "migration manager" for the production move to the north of England lowered "the esteem of the BBC". Guardian Online 19/5/2011
The besuited fools in charge seem to think that Salford is in an alien country and expert help from overseas is required to organise the move. The first reaction of so many corporate clowns is to seek a consultant rather than utilise in-house talent. Why? Was there no-one on the staff of the Corporation who could do this? 
Lord Reith would not have approved.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Secret PFI deals choke NHS

A scheme which began under Major;  enthusiastically followed by Brown; and is now maintained by Osborne, is one of the reasons why the NHS is in trouble. It is not common knowledge and it is a national scandal. The whole thing has been kept off official accounts, which is a disgrace in itself, for spurious reasons of ‘commercial confidentiality.’ 
Each Chancellor mortgages the future while looking good, funding major public works (schools, hospitals etc). It shows just how similar the parties are in their approach to openness and transparency, i.e. not at all. They are all complicit, deceitful and silent. 
Private Corporations, using very clever lawyers and accountants, contractually lock in swathes of the public sector. They ensure serious penalty clauses are built into each contract to make defaulting on the debt prohibitive. It also means that the building does not belong to the school or hospital. Repairs, complaints, refurbishment and alterations all take much longer to deliver. 
The off-balance sheet PFI (Private Finance Initiative) is a deeply flawed policy, costs untold millions and is largely kept secret ‘for commercial reasons.’ Studies that have managed to gain access to some details reveal that a new hospital costs at least three times its actual price. This situation is magnified thousands of times across the country. It is clearly bonkers but the appeal of it lies in the fact that it penalises future generations. Current and recent governments look better than they are, which is saying a lot when their mediocrity is taken into account. Hospital Trusts end up being locked into contracts which will take them years to pay off. This obviously reduces the amount they can spend on running their Trust. Simply to stand still in budget terms means that many trusts will have to make cuts to meet their repayments. 
The Tories and Tory-lite NewLabour should be ashamed. As should the LibDems. Good governance it is not. 

Monday, 16 May 2011

Fat Cat slips out of the NHS bag

Ooops! Just as the three month hiatus in NHS reform draws to a close, a Tory Adviser gives the game away. As usual, there seems to be more honest speaking done when these spokesblokes think they are a long way from home. 
“Mark Britnell, who was appointed to a "kitchen cabinet" advising the prime minister on reforming the NHS, told a conference of executives from the private sector that future reforms would show "no mercy" to the NHS and offer a "big opportunity" to the for-profit sector.”
“Britnell, a former director of commissioning for the NHS, who is now head of health at the accountancy giant KPMG, was invited to join a group of senior health policy experts, described by the respected Health Studies Journal as a "kitchen cabinet", in Downing Street earlier this month. The group, which includes former NHS executives and the former Department of Health permanent secretary Lord Crisp, was assembled by Cameron's new special adviser on health, Paul Bate.”
“In unguarded comments at a conference in New York organised by the private equity company Apax, Britnell claimed that the next two years in the UK would provide a "big opportunity" for the for-profit sector, and that the NHS would ultimately end up as a financier of care similar to an insurance company rather than a provider of hospitals and staff.”
“According to a glossy brochure summarising the conference held last October, Britnell told his audience: "GPs will have to aggregate purchasing power and there will be a big opportunity for those companies that can facilitate this process … In future, the NHS will be a state insurance provider, not a state deliverer." He added: "The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years." (my emphasis) Writing in the Health Studies Journal, Britnell also suggested that the NHS would be better served by breaking with the mantra that all services should be free at the point of delivery by allowing co-payment, where patients share the costs of care and drugs.” Observer 15/5/11

“No top down reform of the NHS” (Tory Manifesto) turns out to be a bigger lie than the LibDems Tuition fees pledge. They should suffer similar opprobrium. The Tories are liars and should be shown ‘no mercy!’

Sunday, 15 May 2011


It is disrespectful to the FA Cup Final to have other games played on the same day.  For the first time in its history. For the first time ever. Thank you, you greedy, greedy arrogant bastards who run the Premiership. Thank you to the inept and pathetic FA for continuing to be so craven and useless in the face of greedy nasty people. Anyone who really cares about the future of football should be concerned. It is a sign of the continuing diminution of the FA in the face of slick operators and the Murdoch empire. 
Why were 4 Premiership matches scheduled for lunchtime kick-offs prior to the start of the FA Cup? 
To suit Sky Sports. All the matches could easily have been played on the Sunday but that would have reduced Sky’s income.  
Mr Murdoch did not appear in his own paper’s ‘Rich List’ again this year. Fancy that! With all those phone-hacking payouts to come - he must need the money.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

British Drones

There is a moral issue and a practical issue in the use of pilotless drones to bomb ‘terrorists’ in Afghanistan and now probably Libya. The computer game brought to life was shown graphically on a recent BBC documentary. A gum-chewing operative, safely ensconced in the good ole USA, was seen operating a joy-stick while watching a screen, guiding a weapon onto its target. The target had been identified by intelligence. The same intelligence that led to hundreds of innocent - wrong place, wrong time - muslims being incarcerated without redress for years in Guantanamo. The practical issue is simple. Every time a Taliban leader is killed but in the process many civillians die too is crazy thinking. It creates many more ‘insurgents’ or ‘freedom fighters’ or ‘terrorists’ or ‘martyrs’ depending upon your point of view. Nothing like providing more troops for your enemies. One cynical thought. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, ‘terrorists, and ‘insurgents’ have become the enemy. And who benefits? The arms industry who need a constant supply of conflicts to sell their loathsome goods. 
An article in the Guardian revealed other problems, principally that our military use these weapons too and that their use is hush hush.  
“Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, is right to question the morality and legality of US drone strikes in Pakistan (The Predator paradox, 6 May). As he states, in 2010 alone there were 118 US drone strikes in Pakistan with estimates of up to 1,000 people killed. Some of these may well have been aimed at so-called "high-value targets"; but as Macdonald rightly points out, "several hundred innocent people of all ages have also died".
So it is a shame that this rare critique of unmanned drone strikes says nothing about Britain's own use of armed drones. There is a virtual wall of silence surrounding such strikes. We do know that between June 2008 and December 2010, more than 124 people were killed in Afghanistan by British drones. We know this not because of any ministerial statement, parliamentary question, or Freedom of Information (FoI) request, but because of a boastful, off-the-cuff remark to journalists by the prime minister during his last visit to Afghanistan.
I have repeatedly tried to obtain information about the circumstances of British drone strikes under FoI legislation, but all requests have been refused as being "prejudicial to the defence of our armed forces" or, more recently, simply ignored. A parliamentary question asked by my MP, Andrew Smith, about whether British drones were firing the thermobaric variant of the Hellfire missile – a variant that British forces are known to possess – was refused as "its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces".
Macdonald suggests that "tossing a dime would be a better way of identifying a 'high-value terrorist' than relying on US military intelligence", and that "Guantánamo proves the tragic inability of the US military to differentiate between an enemy and an incidental bystander".
I have heard similar sentiments in my investigations from British military officers and officials – the implicit assumption being, of course, that British forces would never be so inaccurate with their targeting or reckless with their drone strikes.
However, without accountability and scrutiny, without proper information about the circumstances of these strikes, we cannot pretend to be legally or ethically superior to the US in this matter. Macdonald would no doubt agree with Philip Alston, the then UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killing, writing for the Guardian website last year, who said of drone strikes that "accountability is an independent requirement of international law. When complete secrecy prevails, it is negated".
With controversy growing, it is high time that the defence secretary, Liam Fox, makes a full statement to the House of Commons, giving as much detail as possible about Britain's drone strikes. In particular we need to know whether all those killed in the strikes were directly participating in hostilities at the time; whether the UK has or would use drones for assassinations of so-called high-value targets; and whether any civilians are known to have been killed or injured by UK drones. Chris Cole Guardian 13/5/2011

Friday, 13 May 2011

Plonker Ainsworth

Just when some citizens were forgetting about the sins of NewLabour there come two revelations showing just how diabolical they were. The fact that Campbell misled the Chilcot Inquiry will not surprise many folk who have been paying attention. General Laurie wrote to the Inquiry, "Alastair Campbell said to the inquiry that the purpose of the dossier was not 'to make a case for war'. I had no doubt at that time this was exactly its purpose and these very words were used. I and those involved in its production saw it exactly as that, and that was the direction we were given. The previous paper... was rejected because it did not make a strong enough case. From then until September we were under pressure to find intelligence that could reinforce the case." Independent 13/5/11
The following article tucked away inside the Guardian will have been missed by many and is equally as damning. It reveals the ‘thinking’ prevalent in the thicker areas of government.
“The Ministry of Defence has been condemned by the high court for stifling legal challenges over the treatment of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A strongly worded judgment said the former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth lobbied behind closed doors to avoid embarrassing court decisions in a way that was damaging and"frankly inimical to the rule of law".
Overturning restrictions on access to legal aid, Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Stadlen ruled that cutting off funding for public interest cases about allegations of UK involvement in torture was unlawful.
The judgment drew attention to a letter Ainsworth sent in 2008 to Lord Bach, then at the Ministry of Justice, seeking a review of funding for judicial reviews.
"The MoD has been faced with a series of judicial review applications arising out of the intervention in Iraq," Ainsworth wrote. "In most of these cases the consequences of an adverse judgment would be extremely serious for our defence, security and foreign policy interests."
One case related to the treatment of detainees handed over to the Afghan authorities. "This decision leads me to wonder whether the time is right for a look at the rules under which [the Legal Services Commission] makes its decisions in judicial review cases...."
The letter, the judges said, asserted that "the consequences of an adverse result" were a "good reason for the denial of public funding to bring the case". But, the judgment continued, "by law such a position is not open to government".
The judges added: "For the state to inhibit litigation by the denial of legal aid because the court's judgment might be unwelcome or apparently damaging would constitute an attempt to influence the incidence of judicial decisions in the interest of government. It would therefore be frankly inimical to the rule of law." Guardian 13/5/11 (my emphasis)
Quite frankly this was disgraceful behaviour by a minister who recently confirmed himself to be a deeply stupid plonker when he appeared on Have I Got News For You. He would need someone to explain to him what 'inimical' meant. 

Sadly, no surprise though.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Police Intelligence? A good example of an oxymoron?

First, an update on the case against the Fortnum and Mason occupiers. 
“The court have decided to hold a case management hearing on the 27th June, it’s a high possibility that a test case involving 10-20 defendants will take place shortly after. We have to make clear that this decision is not fully confirmed and may be different in some cases.”
“Footage which emerged since the protest shows a senior police officer at the scene, describing the protest as ‘non-violent and sensible’ and promising that they would all be free to leave. In oral evidence from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lynne Owens to the Home Affairs Committee stated the motivation for the mass arrests was for intelligence gathering.”
“She said: “Do we now need to build on that intelligence picture? Yes, we do. It is why the fact that we arrested as many people as we did is so important to us because that obviously gives us some really important intelligence opportunities. … We do need to improve the intelligence picture, but our ability to arrest over 200 people at the weekend gives us a very good starting point in terms of building that picture”
Sophie Stephens, a supporter of the Fortnum 145 said: “The treatment of the protesters has been a clear attack on the right to protest and civil liberties. The mass arrest happened amidst calls for the police to be given more rights spy on protesters. The police have even told parliament that this was an opportunity to gather intelligence about protestors. This is political policing clear and simple.” Quoted from Fortnum 145 campaign online.
Second, the ongoing problems at the Metropolitan Police.
Private Eye had a recent article which gave another dimension to the goings on at the Met. 
“The Met’s reaction to the occupation is heaping intense pressure on a force facing hundreds of job losses through the very cuts those arrested were protesting against.
The Eye has learned that an extra 20 er counter-terrorism officers have been drafted in to deal with the 138 charges of aggravated trespass, the 1994 legislation brought in against hunt saboteurs.
M’learned friends advise the Eye that this is a tricky piece of law, especially set against human rights entitlement. And with video evidence showing a police chief inspector in the building admitting that the demonstrators were “non-violent” and “sensible” and promising that they would be let go, the legal process is unlikely to be straightforward or cheap.”
Third, all of this adds to the general picture that the Met are a law unto themselves and seemingly out of control. Throw into the pot the Tomlinson disgrace with brutality, lies and cover up exposed; the use of undercover officers in the climate change movement; the pre-emptive arrests on the day of the Wedding; the corruption at the heart of the phone hacking non-investigation and the damning report into the policing of the G20 protest and you have a clear picture of a force that is unfit for purpose. 
What a lot of silence from Theresa May .......?  

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Defend the Right to Protest

138 peaceful protesters appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court yesterday. They were charged with aggravated trespass after occupying Fortnum & Mason on 26 March in order to voice their opposition to corporate tax avoidance alongside activist group UKUncut. An article in the Independent spelt out several concerns.
"The court date follows two weeks in which the police have cracked down hard on anti-cuts campaigners in Britain. New charges have been brought against student protesters, including Alfie Meadows, the young man who was nearly killed in the police kettle on 9 December.
Known dissidents have been seized from their homes and arrested, and community centres have been raided for signs of subversion. The signal to the silent majority who oppose this Government's spending plans is clear: think twice before speaking out. If you take action to defend public services, you risk being punished.
UKUncut seem to have been singled out for police harassment. Far fewer arrests were made of those who committed unrelated acts of violent property damage on the day of the anti-cuts protest, whereas all I saw damaged inside Fortnum & Mason's was a single chocolate rabbit.
However, the group's core argument, that the state could save billions by pursuing corporate tax avoidance instead of cutting public services, is gaining ground. It is an argument so compelling that top economists and even, this week, the Royal Family's lawyers, have taken up the fight against wealthy companies "raiding the public purse" as the poorest are hit by spending cuts. Thousands of ordinary people, from octogenarians to toddlers, have been mobilised by this simple message.
For now, these intimidation tactics appear to be working, antagonising the anti-cuts movement into temporary retreat. Ordinary citizens have begun to shy away from protesting, not because they suddenly support the cuts, but because they are worried about the evident penalties for speaking out. Many activists have begun to feel isolated and demoralised, shaken by the arrests and by the savageness of the tabloid backlash.
Pre-emptive arrests of anti-cuts activists and the targeting of alternative communities for police raids are manifestly attacks on the right to freedom of expression. They are not, however, attacks on the "right to protest". The right to protest is, by its very nature, a right which citizens must claim for themselves, rather than having it graciously granted to them by the state.
The police backlash against activists proves that the Coalition is losing the argument on austerity. This Government has shifted from a strategy of persuasion to one of coercion. The only way ordinary citizens can defend our right to protest is by continuing to protest, standing up for one other and for public services, and refusing to be cowed by intimidation tactics." Independent 9/5/11
Following on this morning, the Independent wrote about a group who are co-ordinating a campaign against what they call 'political policing.' Bearing in mind recent revelations about police informers infiltrating climate change protests, this is a real concern. As our windbag two-faced ministers huff and puff about democracy in the Middle East, they ignore alarming developments closer to home. The Met Police spokeswoman said at a Commons Committee hearing that the aim of arresting the Fortnum and Mason protestors was "To gain intelligence." 
"Defend the Right to Protest, an organisation founded to support students and activists arrested in recent rallies against the government, say police must be challenged over their role in what they are calling "increasingly serious attacks on the right to protest in the UK".
Many of those who attended yesterday's rally expressed particular concern about the arrests around the royal wedding. A total of 55 people were arrested on the day of the wedding and nearly 25 people were arrested before most planned demonstrations had even taken place. The majority were either detained on conspiracy to cause a public nuisance, or were held under Section 60 stop-and-search rules on the day itself. Almost all of them were released without charge once the events drew to a close.
Hannah Eiseman-Renyard, 25, from north London, went to Soho on the day of the royal wedding, dressed up as a zombie bride. She was talking to four friends when she was approached by more than a dozen officers and arrested for suspected breach of the peace.
"I was wearing a bridesmaid dress, and used lipstick to look like blood – I didn't even think I was dissenting," she said. "I think it was part of a PR exercise by the police who are trying to criminalise protest." Independent 10/05/2011

Monday, 9 May 2011

A kind of hush

Searching through the 16 page election supplement in the Sunday Herald devoted to analysis and comment was a remarkable experience. It was not remarkable for what was said, rather for what was not said. The paper helpfully also ran a free poster with the new political map of Scotland. On the obverse of this poster were the details of all 73 constituencies. Plenty of facts barring one. The turnout for Scotland. Constituency turnouts were recorded in small print under each seat. In parts of Glasgow just over a third of the electorate voted. The highest turnout was 63% with the average being 53%. 
So what? With headlines such as ‘New Dawn’ and ‘Salmond’s Scottish Triumph’ there is much talk among the chattering classes about a referendum on Scottish independence and its impact  on the UK. This could be the first step towards a very different United Kingdom. There are calls for a UK-wide referendum on the matter. Better to let the Scots vote first, as there is every chance they will reject the call. That is, if they can be bothered getting to a polling station.  At that point the issue drops off the radar. 
The national press in England are very congratulatory towards Cameron and the Tories. There is agreement that last Thursday was very good for Cameron.The one blot has largely gone unreported. The Tories in Scotland recorded their worst result ever. It is worth repeating. The Tories had their worst result ...ever. Even worse than the rout of 1997. Their vote share fell to barely 13%. Thanks to PR (a system opposed by Tories in Westminster) they will still get 15 seats. Without the PR ‘Top up’ they would have held only 3 seats.
The LibDem vote collapsed as it did elsewhere. Scottish Labour had a nightmare but still ended up with 37 seats. Many of these came from the list system. As the Herald put it, “Many of the party list candidates who have stumbled into the Parliament, far from following in the tradition of Donald Dewar, Robin Cook and Gordon Brown, are a motley crue of Parliamentary assistants , relatives of MSPs and nonentities.”
Doesn’t bode well for rigorous and informed debate. There are interesting times ahead.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

SNP break the mould

Among the shockwaves and Labour anguish comes the prospect of an independent Scotland. There will be a referendum ‘within the next five years’ to ask the Scots what they think. Six weeks ago the thought of an outright majority for the SNP was beyond incredible. Labour held a significant lead in the polls and the best the SNP could hope for was to remain as the largest party. So what happened?
Labour ran a pathetic campaign with several own goals. The image of Iain Grey, cowering from anti-cuts protesters in a sandwich shop, surrounded by spinners and party hacks, cost untold thousands of votes. Alex Salmond is a rare ‘big beast’ in Scotland and ran a pragmatic campaign. Independence was rarely mentioned and did not figure as an issue. The transformation in the central belt was astonishing. This territory has been a Labour stronghold for nearly a century. The SNP gains shook Labour to their boots.
The LibDem vote collapsed in most parts. It was down by 20% in Argyll but held up in their  ancient strongholds in the northern isles. Many disaffected LibDems switched to the SNP. The Greens did not benefit. Their policies are as yet too austere for many to stomach involving higher taxes and dearer fuel. This in a country where fuel prices in rural areas are already very high. 
However in all the astonishment and kerfuffle one salient fact has been ignored by the media. This ‘earthquake’ was produced by a turnout of 53%. 
So yet again the largest ‘party’ in a major election was the non-voting party. 

Friday, 6 May 2011

Teflon Tories

The whipping boys have taken the hit for their coalition partners. Voters have punished them for broken pledges and subservience to their Tory colleagues. 
Meanwhile the Teflon Tories continue to get away with it.
Which party cheered the announcement of cuts for the weak and vulnerable? [BWD}
Which party launched a massive programme to ‘reorganise’ aka privatise, the NHS despite claims in their manifesto that they would not do so? [BWD]
Which party continues to receive huge financial backing from financiers, hedge fund managers and bankers?
Which party promised to maintain the grant for 6th formers and then promptly scrapped it?
Which party accepted that Sure Start centres significantly helped poorer families then did  nothing to stop them being cut? [BWD]
Which party mobilised their chums in the media to spread lies and half-truths about AV? [“BWD”]
Which party has very close relationships with the Murdoch empire?
Which party stands to gain the most by maintaining first past the post?

Which party has a leader whose only 'proper' job was in PR and my, can't you tell?
Not sure? Need to phone a friend?
One thought is a comfort in these troubling times. Teflon wears off over time - especially if it is abused. So let the abuse begin.....! 
The great electorate will come to see the Tories for what they are.
And downright nasty. 
[BWD = “Babies Will Die” from the ‘No to AV’ campaign material]

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Obama and Osama

Listening to Obama’s careful statement a phrase jumped out. The President said, “Following a firefight Osama was killed.” Sounds like an execution. In the face of much glee in the States and elsewhere, was this wise or avoidable?
Geoffrey Robertson writing in the Independent also has serious concerns.
“America resembles the land of the munchkins, as it celebrates the death of the Wicked Witch of the East. The joy is understandable, but in some respects, unattractive. It endorses what looks increasingly like a cold-blooded assassination ordered by a president who, as a former law professor, knows the absurdity of his statement that “justice was done”. Amoral diplomats and triumphant politicians join in applauding Bin Laden’s summary execution because they claim real justice – arrest, trial and sentence would have been too difficult in the case of Bin Laden. But in the long-term interests of a better world, should it not at least have been attempted?”
“America’s belief in capital punishment is reflected in its rejoicing at the manner of Bin Laden’s demise. It is ironic to reflect that Bill Clinton secured his election by approving the execution of Ricky Roy Rector (a convict so brain-damaged that he ordered pumpkin pie for his last meal and said that he would “leave the rest until later”). And now Barak Obama has most likely secured his re-election approving the execution of Bin Laden. This may be welcome, given the alternatives. But it is a sad reflection on the continuing attraction of summary justice.”
“It was not always thus. When the time came to consider the fate of men much more steeped in wickedness than Bin Laden – the Nazi leadership – the British government wanted them hanged within six hours of capture. President Truman demurred, citing the conclusion of Justice Robert Jackson that summary execution “would not sit easily on the American conscience or be remembered by our children with pride, the only course is to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused after a hearing as dispassionate as the times will permit and upon a record that will leave our reasons and motives clear”. He insisted upon judgment at Nuremberg, which has confounded Holocaust-deniers ever since.”
“Killing instead of capturing Osama Bin Laden was a missed opportunity to prove to the world that this charismatic leader was in fact a vicious criminal, who deserved to die of old age in prison, and not as a martyr to his inhuman cause.”
Steve Bell in the Guardian has his own take on the killing.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Beatification of John Paul II

A bizarre ceremony is taking place today in Rome. To many thousands of victims of clerical   child abuse the ceremony will be deeply upsetting. To make a ‘saint’ of someone who actively encouraged the covering up of child abuse establishes the Catholic Church as the home of the truly wicked. 
Anyone who doubts this should read the report into child abuse in Ireland. The Vatican were engaged in a world-wide cover up with John Paul II at the helm.
Anyone still not convinced should take a look at the guest list for the ceremony. That paragon of goodliness and humanity known as Robert Mugabe will be there. He is only safe from prosecution inside the Vatican - he would be arrested in other parts of Europe. 
Sums the whole thing up. 
Suffer little children.