Thursday, 2 October 2014

David Cameron's rewrite of history to justify military intervention is breathtaking

The Prime Minister seems, at times, to be making it up as he goes along.. Take the comment he made when being interviewed on Newsnight on Monday by Evan Davis. “It was terrorism on the streets of Britain that caused us to be involved in Afghanistan,” said Cameron who added that it is a similar type of threat now that is the basis for action in Iraq.

This is all very strange given that most of us were led to believe that the original action in Afghanistan was due to the attack on the twin towers of 11 September 2001. It was an American response that the British just felt they had to be part of for whatever reason.

The idea that it emanated from terrorism on the streets of London is an entirely new view. A rewrite of history to justify a Cold War style rhetoric that is being developed to claim this evil force is out there coming to get us all unless we act now in foreign lands.

There are those ofcourse those who believe the reverse is true - that if Britain were not interfering in  other people’s countries – specifically Iraq and Afghanistan - everyone would be a lot safer at home.

The lack of such threats in countries not pursuing such military adventures abroad, like Sweden, Canada and Germany, provide much evidence to support this view.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Kieran Conry may have stepped down but bombing Archbishop of Canterbury is more of a worry

Sad to see the demise of Bishop of Arundel and Brighton Kieran Conry who has resigned following revelations in the Mail on Sunday about his private life.
Bishop Conry was one of the more personable bishops prepared to adopt an open mind to many problems. Against a bleak landscape occupied by of a group of dour men only it seems concerned most of the time with managing the decline of the institutional Church he often shone a beam of light.
Still at least the Catholics did not have the ignominy of watching one of their archbishops voting and speaking in favour of the bombing of Iraq. This was the scenario that Anglicans had to suffer from their own great shepherd, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby – a real case of onward Christian soldiers

*Daily Telegraph reveal Kieran Conry as Tablet wine correspondent N O'Phile - he will continue to contribute to the magazine - Mandrake - 1/10/2014

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Rally in support of sacked union rep Charlotte Monro, as tribunal postponed

More than 50 people gathered in support of sacked union rep Charlotte Monro at the start of her employment tribunal hearing in east London.

An occupational therapist and moving and handling co-ordinator, Monro was dismissed on October 30 2013, after working at Whipps Cross hospital for the past 26 years.

The dismissal followed an investigation that began after she addressed the local Waltham Forest scrutiny committee in her capacity as a union rep.

A charge that she had brought the Barts Health trust into disrepute was later dropped on appeal but the grounds of breaching confidentiality and non-disclosure of previous convictions were upheld. Hence the employment tribunal hearing.

Monro is being backed by Unison. “We call on the trust to reconsider its decision to dismiss such a long serving and valued health service worker and union official, and to recognise the impact this has on the wider workforce morale and the reputation of the trust. .No employer should be allowed to act in this way,” said Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison

Addressing the rally outside the tribunal, Norma Dudley of Waltham Forest Save Our NHS declared that it was important to support staff when they spoke out. “Staff tell managers who escalate complaints up to the chief executive level, they then squash them. That is why trade unions are so important,” said Ms Dudley. “Charlotte stood out on these issues.”
She added: that: “the message is that the public will support staff when they speak out.”

A nurse called Andy told of “compulsory 12 hour shifts, unpaid overtime, with nurses going home in tears.”
The hearing itself was adjourned, having been scheduled to run for four days, due to the unavailability of the tribunal judges for the full period. It will recommence in January.

*see report of 22 Jan 2014 for further details of case.

- "Workers rally behind sacked NHS rep" - morning star - 24/9/2014

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Scots independence debate is reflection of democratic deficit across the UK

The surge for independence in Scotland is no doubt a reflection of a democratic deficit in the UK. The Scots are tired of being ruled by Tory governments from Westminster, whilst voting for Labour and Scottish Nationalist Party candidates in their own country.
This same frustration though exists south of the border as well. Millions across the UK are disillusioned at having been ruled by what has amounted to a right wing Conservative government (propped up by the Lib Dems) elected by a minority of the population.
The reaction has been a growing disillusionment with the Westminster establishment. Ironically, this has seen expression in support for parties like UKIP, which represents the most extreme form of neo-liberal Conservatism that helped bring about many of the problems that needs addressing in society today.But the UKIP vote is a protest vote. People want an alternative, which is why they vote for independence in Scotland and seek alternatives elsewhere in the UK.

What is needed is a serious public discourse about the situation. That is not a right wing led discussion, where the likes of the BBC invite in a cosy bunch of acceptable establishment figures to discuss amongst themselves what is best for the rest of us.

An open discourse would lead to a devolvement of power to people. The nettle of electoral reform must be seized in order that the political system can be reinvigorated to genuinely represent the mass of people and their interests. The end result must be a society that is run for the many not the few.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Cardinal Nichols likens modern day work conditions to slavery

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has likened some of the work conditions in Britain today to those of the days of slavery.
Delivering his homily at St Mary and St Michael’s Church in the east end of London to mark the 125th anniversary celebration of the London Docks strike Cardinal Nichols said: “We know that working conditions exist today, in this city, which are not far from effective slavery, as well as the presence of extensive de facto slavery too.
“It is right to struggle against these outrageous conditions, just as it is right to seek to work with those who share a desire to develop a healthy ecology of enterprise in our society today.“
The Cardinal referred to the development of Catholic Social Teaching since the statements of Cardinal Manning at the time of the Great Dock Strike in 1889, which he played a pivotal role in resolving. “Catholic Social Teaching continues to develop these fundamental principles of the priority of human dignity and the importance of the common good, across wide spectrum of concerns,” said Cardinal Nichols. “In 2012, for example, in the midst of the world-wide economic crisis, the Catholic Church published a document entitled 'The Vocation of the Business Leader' based on precisely these principles. Today there is increasing interest in Catholic Social Teaching providing a framework for building a good and prosperous society. I constantly meet business leaders who recognise the vital importance of the partnerships called for in that Teaching and the importance of the well-being of employees as a key factor for good in a sound and lasting business.”
There was notably no mention of the role of trade unions today.

*"Archbishop lays into modern slavery" - Morning Star - 16/9/2014
*"Cardinal Nichols: some work in London today is akin to slavery - 19/9/2014

Monday, 15 September 2014

Hack Attack is great but where credit is due?

Nick Davies's Hack Attack is great but there is an ongoing irritation regarding one of the Guardian’s claims to glory.

On page 189, Davies refers to the case of former News of the World reporter Matt Driscoll who won his case at an employment tribunal in Stratford, East London being awarded £800,000.

"The tribunal found witnesses from the NOW to have been variously unsatisfactory, evasive and dishonest. The Guardian carried a report. The story had a special significance because Coulson was now clearly likely to be working at Downing Street within six months. Not one other national newspaper published a single word about it," writes Davies.

This is correct but it is rather galling that the Guardian keep referring to their reporting of this case as though it was some their initiative. Editor, Alan Rushbridger previously commented in similar fashion when interviewed on Newsnight.

The reality is that I was the reporter at the tribunal who gave the story to the Guardian. I was asked as a freelance to cover the story by Steve Turner of the British Association of Journalists  who were representing Driscoll. I don't believe there were any other journalists present.

I sent the story to the Guardian who ran it as a page lead on page two on 24/11/2009 headlined ”NOW faces £800,000payout in bullying case”– incidentally, without my byline. So well done the Guardian but credit, where credit is due!!

*Independent - Andy McSmith's diary - 16/9/2014

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Hack Attack - a brilliant expose of the Murdoch empire

This excellent book reveals the true horror of a media empire run wild, spreading corruption into almost every area of public life.

The consequences for democracy are huge, with Nick Davies really unveiling nothing less than the equivalent of the Watergate scandal in the UK.

A central figure in this deceit is former News Of the World (NOW) editor Andy Coulson, who went on to be placed at the centre of government, serving as the Prime Ministers chief of communications. Coulson is now serving a prison sentence.

Davies charts the often lonely furrow that he and the Guardian had to plough in trying to reveal  a web of corruption that embraced not just the News of the World newspaper and its journalists but other parts of the media, the police and politicians.

Davies became involved as a result of an interview he did on Radio 4’s Today programme, with NOW managing editor Stuart Kuttner, when the latter underlined the rogue reporter thesis.

It was from here that Davies pursued the line that phone hacking had not just been done by a lone reporter in Royal correspondent Clive Goodman and investigator Glen Mulcaire, who had been jailed in 2006.

The truth was that the hacking was being commissioned on a huge scale by news editors and others on the NOW payroll.  The police had the evidence from the Mulcaire case but at best had been negligent in not following through, at worst wilfully failing to investigate crime.

The book charts the Guardian’s battle to get the truth out, with most papers siding with the bully in the playground – News International.

One of the strengths of the book is how it exposes the whole corrupt morass of the hacking but also gives background incite into how power works and the particularly corrosive network of relationships that existed between the police, politicians and News International.

The bullying of Gordon Brown to get him doing what NI and ultimately the Murdochs wanted him to do in policy terms. The revelations about direct influence on matters like the Iraq war, privatising the health service and opposition to Europe, leave the reader asking who are these people and what right to they have to be influencing the democratic process in this way?

The use of the dark arts to destroy people or the softer approach, of keeping a secret then expecting to call in the favour later.

Davies outlines how a whole coalition of interests came together in a campaign of opposition. There were those being hacked, the politicians (often one in the same) and the Guardian. At one stage the paper does not seem to be progressing far so it decides to share some of the information with other media outlets such as the New York Times and the BBC. This increases the pressure.

Davies then starts linking up possible hack victims with lawyers, while NOW victim Max Moseley funds some of the legal actions and provides general financial support.

The pressure builds and builds with the police eventually waking to the fact that they really ought to do something.

There is then the race between getting the full enormity of the hacking scandal out and NI’s desire to purchase a larger controlling interest in broadcaster BSKYB.

It is a close run thing, with the decisive revelation being the hacking of murdered teenager Millie Dowler. Once this hacking and that of others like the families of the murdered Soham children Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells and the parents of Madeleine McCann, the whole saga goes onto another level.

There is universal condemnation, NI become toxic, with the political class as one- even including friends like David Cameron- turning away.

One though who stays loyal is Tony Blair, who notably at the time of maximum pressure on chief executive and former editor of then NOW and the Sun Rebekah Brooks suggests she set up a Hutton style inquiry as he did in 2003, following the Iraq war. This would “clear you” and “accept shortcomings and new solutions,” Brooks relays to James Murdoch.

The book is a excellent expose of a corrupt abuse of power. The final three pages of epilogue are particularly powerful, putting the whole scandal into the context of the neo-liberal onslaught that has hit people the world over for the past 30 years. Soberingly, Davies concludes: “For a while we snatched a handful of power away from one man. We did nothing to change the power of the elite.”

Davies does undoubtedly over –egg the role of the Guardian, riding into opposition on its trusty stead to oppose the evil Murdoch empire. The Guardian did play a vital role, standing virtually alone among national newspapers- many of whom no doubt were concerned about their own dirty linen getting aired in public. However, there were others like Private Eye magazine who played a vital role in unveiling the scandal.

Davies also adds a bit of colour, referring to his riding his horse around the hills of Sussex at times of frustration – a mobile phone never far away. However, all in all this is an excellent read, a must for anyone who wants to really understand the corrupt forces at work in Britain today.

Whatever else maybe said, Nick Davies and the Guardian have done a great service to journalism and democracy with their work in this area.


*Hack Attack by Nick Davies
Published by Chatto and Windus price £20
 *Hack Attack: Absolute power corrupts absolutely - see:Morning Star - 22/9/2014