"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

Archive for July, 2010

What price one man’s death at the hands of police? What price one man’s privacy at the hands of the media? Simon Harwood, Ian Tomlinson and “harassment”.

From Bristle’s Blog from the BunKRS

Since yesterday’s blog post, the picture supplied by PC Simon Harwood’s solicitors to the media has been published in the mainstream media – well, The Sun and the Telegraph. Both reports even – unlike the BBC’s recent articles – refer to Harwood beating Mr Tomlinson with a club as well as pushing him to the ground.

But no mention of the letter to which the photograph was attached (reproduced above).

As Kevin at Random Blowe blog puts it:

Now personally, I’m not interested in what Harwood has to say about anything unless it is in the dock and in front of a jury. Equally, anything that prevents his lawyers from trying to argue in future that a fair trial is impossible, because of intense interest from newspapers more interested in headlines than justice, has to be good. After all, there still remains a realsitic possibility that the DPP’s decision may be subject to legal challenge and that Harwood may yet have to account for his actions in court.

But given how shocking this case is, it is still important to be able to put a face to the name. Anonymity granted to police officers normally extends far beyond what ordinary members of the public can ever expect – not unlike the kind of different treatment routinely granted to policce whenever they are accused of causing someone’s death.

What Simon Harwood did had terrible consequences, and clearly his culpability needs to be judged, as would the actions of any member of the public in similar circumstances.

Indeed, we know – our common sense screams it at us – that had the roles been reversed, and it had been Ian Tomlinson who beat Simon Harwood from behind with a club after his friend set a vicious dog on him, and then shoved him hard to the ground, and then walked off, all whilst wearing a ski-mask, then Harwood’s family would not be rending their garments in public over the failure to prosecute.

So the attempt by Harwood’s solicitors to stamp on any coverage of their client. There is a genuine public interest in this, and no amount of whining or ‘Not For Publication’ letters is going to stop that.

But equally the buck does not stop with PC Simon Harwood. In many respects he was doing exactly what he should have been. He was an experienced Territorial Support Group officer. He had been selected for the TSG because of his aggression and willingness to use physical force. During Glencoe, the G20 policing operation, TSG units were clearly deployed by senior officers to control space and people, not to prevent crime or maintain order; Simon Harwood was there not as a warranted peace officer, but as an anonymous paramilitary footsoldier.

Nor were these ‘inexperienced junior officers panicking under pressure on the frontline’ as was the line fed to the Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons – these were experienced full-time public order specialists (TSG), backed up by volunteer reservists (Level 2s), directed by officers who spend their time surveilling and monitoring political protests (Forward Intelligence Teams), and under the on-the-ground supervision of a formal public order policing hierarchy (such as the Bronze Commander).

Simon Harwood should pay for his actions.

But so too should Commander Bob Broadhurst (Metropolitan Police), who was in overall control of the G20 policing.

So too should Chief Superintendent Alex Robertson (City of London Police), operational commander on the ground, witness to and possibly the one who ordered the assault on Ian Tomlinson.

So too should Chief Inspector Peter Mills (Sussex Police), another senior police officer with a long background in policing protests who was present at or in the near vicinity of the Tomlinson assault.

So too should PC Alan Palfrey (Metropolitan Police), Forward Intelligence Team officer who was a direct witness to the assault on Ian Tomlinson, who would have known Mr Tomlinson was not even a protester, but who did nothing to help him, and who did not make a statement about the incident until after he was named by non-police officers. So too should PC Palfrey’s FIT colleague PC Steve Discombe.

So too should the many other police officers who were witness to, who covered up, or who were complicit with, the assault on Ian Tomlinson.

And no number of solicitors’ letters from any one of them shall stem the public interest in, or the public anger at, the killing of Ian Tomlinson.



Norfolk Fire and Rescue Authority’s Bureaucrats Putting Your Lives In Danger.

Fire chiefs have defended controversial plans to reduce the number of fire engines which serve Norwich.

While the public ‘consultation process’ which is nothing other than lip service continues to be under way for the next few weeks, Fire bosses are making sure that the media give full weight and air time to their proposals whilst barely a mention of the actual bureaucratic red taped claptrap the consultation actually entails…it’s a funny old game!

As usual bosses know best and the fire fighters themselves ought to just put up and shut up!

We aren’t in this instance even going to bother commenting on Mike McCarthy, acting chief fire officers ridiculous recent statements on call out and arrival times, other than to say on your head be it Mike!

Meanwhile this from Jamie Wyatt, Fire Brigades Union secretary in Norfolk

“The proposals not only cut the number of fire engines and firefighters but also remove the attendance times for second fire engines reaching certain types of incidents.

“That means that for some incidents there will be no time limit on how long it will take for sufficient resources to arrive, and therefore puts the public at increased risk.”

We at Norfolk Community Action Group ask that concerned residents in Norfolk not only take part in the online ‘consultation‘ but get firmly behind the FBU and support them in whatever course of action they see fit to take in the coming months.

Health Inequalities Worst Since The Great Depression – With The Cuts Still To Come (I.W.C.A. Article).

Inequalities in premature death are as high as they have ever been in this country, and this is before the cuts. The Lib-Con coalition thinks that deep, swingeing spending cuts are the only way to get this country out of its economic hole, but is there any justification for that view? Or is there another agenda at work?

Research published this week in the British Medical Journal looking at inequalities in premature mortality between the richest and poorest areas of the country found that “inequalities in premature mortality between areas of Britain continued to rise steadily during the first decade of the 21st century. The last time in the long economic record that inequalities were almost as high was in the lead up to the economic crash of 1929 and the economic depression of the 1930s… geographical inequalities in mortality are higher in the most recent decade than in any similar time period for which records are available since at least 1921”. By 2007, for every 100 people under 65 dying in the best-off areas, 199 were dying in the poorest” (link).

The research also found that “Recent government interventions have aimed to reduce these inequalities, but, the evidence suggests, to little effect”. This is amply borne out by a report from the National Audit Office earlier this month, looking at the success (or otherwise) at the Department of Health’s efforts to reduce health inequalities in England (link). By way of contextualisation, the report begins by stating that “In the early 2000s, in England, people living in the poorest neighbourhoods, could on average expect to die seven years earlier than people living in the richest neighbourhoods and spend far more of their lives with ill health.”

Addressing health inequalities was something that New Labour made a priority, at least rhetorically. Their target was to reduce inequalities in life expectancy between the poorest areas and the national average by 10% by 2010. The outcome of their efforts has been that:

“life expectancy in spearhead areas has not improved as fast as the whole population and the gap in life expectancy between the two has widened since the baseline by 7 per cent for males and 14 per cent for females. Life expectancy for the whole population now stands at 77.9 years for males and 82.0 years for females”, with the result that inequalities in life expectancy “can still be 10 years or more depending on socio-economic background… In Blackpool, for example, men live for an average of 73.6 years, which is 10.7 fewer than men in Kensington and Chelsea in central London, who reach 84.3 years. Similarly, women in the Lancashire town typically die at 78.8 years – 10.1 years earlier than those in the London borough, who reach an average 89.9 (link).”

One does not need to look too far to find the cause of Labour’s failure. By now there is a good deal of research literature on the ‘social gradient’ of health: that “health inequalities result from social inequalities… the lower a person’s social position, the worse his or her health” (link; see also http://www.iwca.info/?p=10011). As the socioeconomic gradient steepens, so the social gradient of health steepens, something that Labour allowed to happen on their watch (link).

This brings us to the present day pass where Dr Sam Everington –a former deputy chair of the British Medical Association, and now a GP in Tower Hamlets- can state of his patch that “We estimate probably a half of our children are malnourished; vitamin D-deficient, iron-deficient. We have a massive problem right next to the City of London. It’s very similar to what you would find in developing countries in big parts of our communities” (link). That ‘Third World’ conditions should be emerging in London, cheek by jowl with tremendous wealth, simply shouldn’t be possible, but it is happening, demonstrating that “Inner London is by far the most unequal of all regions in England” (link).

Recent research has shown, that the Cockney accent –the accent of working class London- is being forced out of the capital, to surrounding areas like Hertfordshire and Essex (link). This gets called ‘white-flight’, but it’s not solely white-flight anymore, and has far more to do with affordability and economic opportunity than race. With the decline of industry, the rise of finance and its offshoots, and the decline of social housing, the working class is being increasingly priced out of the nation’s capital, with the city becoming increasingly the domain of the wealthy and welfare dependent. And even this latter group will come under increasing pressure once the cuts in housing benefit kick in.

“Slashing spending in the midst of a depression, which deepens that depression and paves the way for deflation, is actually self-defeating”

Will the cuts do anything to reverse the appearance of child malnutrition in London? The Lib-Con coalition and its supporters argue that the cuts are for the patients’ benefit, that the long-term effect will be to purge the economy of waste and inefficiency, restore market discipline, drive down the cost of government borrowing on the international bond markets, lowering long-term interest rates and allowing the private sector to power us back to prosperity.

That’s the justification that is being given, but is there any truth to it? The medicine certainly doesn’t appear to be working in Ireland. Ireland has been undergoing deep spending cuts for almost two years now, yet this week saw the Irish government’s credit rating downgraded by the ratings agency Moodys. The reason given was “the Irish government’s gradual but significant loss of financial strength, as reflected by its deteriorating debt affordability”. As the Financial Times explains, “The country has suffered a dramatic contraction in GDP since 2008, causing a sharp decline in tax revenue. The general government debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 25 per cent before the crisis to 64 per cent by the end of 2009, and is continuing to grow” (link).

The austerity which has helped devastate the Irish economy has not appeared to help one bit: the proportion of government debt in the economy hasrisen, and the Irish government is still paying 5.5% to borrow on the international bond market, compared to around 2.5% for Germany. We see no evidence of Ireland reaping any rewards, from the bond market or anywhere else, for its masochism. As the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has said “It’s almost as if the financial markets understand what policy makers seemingly don’t: that while long-term fiscal responsibility is important, slashing spending in the midst of a depression, which deepens that depression and paves the way for deflation, is actually self-defeating”(link).

Why, then, are the Lib-Cons so gung-ho about making cuts so soon and so deep? As Will Hutton has said of the cuts in store for us, “No country has ever volunteered such austerity” (link). Certainly, no such measures are being planned in the US. What we are seeing in Britain is a rerun of 1929, when the Treasury argued that domestic fiscal deflation is an appropriate method of pulling a country out of recession. In the words of Robert Skidelsky, “The implicit premise of the coming retrenchment is that market economies are always at, or rapidly return to, full employment. It follows that a stimulus, whether fiscal or monetary, cannot improve on the existing situation. All that increased government spending does is to withdraw money from the private sector; all that printing money does is to cause inflation” (link).

Such market fundamentalist thinking is, almost unbelieveably, back in the ascendant after the financial crash. So weak is the left that, in the wake of the worst crisis of capitalism since the 1930s, neo-liberal ideology is coming back even stronger. There is currently a robust debate taking place among economists and academics on how fiscal deficits should be tackled (link), but the Lib-Cons are apparently as unaware of this debate as they are of what’s happening in Ireland.

What is happening is the triumph of ideology over pragmatism, in the name of shrinking and remodeling the state along neo-liberal lines. New Labour were hampered in this quest by their dependence on the public sector unions for finance, votes and their activist base. The Lib-Cons have no such obstacle. In 1929 there may have been the excuse of inexperience. Now, only the most blinkered ideologue can unquestioningly laud the benefits of cutting spending in a recession, and blinkered ideologues it is who are in the Treasury. In 1929 it led to tragedy. In 2010 it will do so again.


Ian Tomlinson Benefit Night Being Organised.

A benefit night to raise money for the family of Ian Tomlinson who was killed by police is in the process off being organised to raise much needed funds. Monies raised will help with the attempt to take on a private law suit against the TSG police officer responsible after the British state blatantly rallied round and prevented justice from prevailing.

One of the organisers says

“Anyone who wants to be involved in anyway, whether its to play as a band or acoustically, speak on the subject, poetry or wants to have anything at all to do with the Innocent Ian Tomlinson Benefit please contact us on IanTomlinsonBenefitGig@hotmail.co.uk to help raise money for his family who are still fighting for justice against the cop that brutally attacked him as he was walking home from work at the G20 protest last year.”

Well done Norwich!


Friday 30th July-A Day Of Solidarity With The Family Of Ian Tomlinson.

Friday is gearing up to be an interesting day if promises of pickets and protests are anything to go by.

Apart from the main London event, call outs have come from Edinburgh, Newcastle, Bristol and even San Francisco.

Our thoughts will firmly be on the family and a growing commitment to not let this miscarriage of justice be forgotten or brushed under the carpet.

Justice for Ian Tomlinson campaign

On April 1st 2009 PC Simon Harwood randomly attacked and killed a member of the public during the G20 protests. The victim, Ian Tomlinson, was not a demonstrator but a local resident on his way home form work as a newspaper vender to watch a football match. He was struck by Harwood and thrown to the floor resulting in his death.

Tomlinson’s killer has been protected from prosecution by unreliable medical testimony and policing and judicial systems that clamour to protect their own.

We Demand:

-The prosecution of PC Harwood

-The resignation of Keir Stramer, Director of Public Prosecutions

-The striking off of Dr Freddy Patel from the medical list

-An overhaul of the IPCC and a fully independent public inquiry

-More accountable policing and changes to the policing of protests, starting with the dissolution of the Mets Tactical Support Group

-A public apology and justice for Ian Tomlinson, his family, his friends and his supporters

To donate money to the Tomlinson family to fight for a private prosecution go here


So that’s what democracy looks like…

Down right open and democratic south-norfolk-council...HONEST!

South Norfolk planning meetings in spotlight

Calls for councillors to ban the holding of political briefings immediately before planning meetings fell on deaf ears yesterday after members unanimously rejected officer advice on the issue.

Members of South Norfolk district council’s scrutiny meeting yesterday voted 12-0 against a report from the authority’s monitoring officer Tim Mobbs recommending that holding political ‘pre-meetings’ before planning committee sessions should be banned “in order to remove a potential obstacle to public confidence in the planning system”.

The report followed a complaint by members of the Carleton Rode Community Support Group last year following two planning meetings where applications for a gipsy traveller site in the area were considered.

Jim Wilson, from the Carleton Rode community support group and former chairman of Norfolk Police Authority, complained to the council following the second meeting which approved the plans last August about the “secret” political meetings taking place before the planning committee.

Mr Wilson said while there was no evidence the decision had been pre-judged, it was equally impossible to prove that it had not been and the meetings were not in the public interest. In the complaint submitted to the authority, he said that at worst they provide a “covert opportunity for pre-determination, bias, even hidden whipping of members’ votes”.

Mr Wilson said: “We asked the chief executive of the council to what the purpose of these meetings were and she said it was an exchange of information. But what information could be exchanged that couldn’t be exchanged in an open and public hearing?

“I’m disappointed that the main recommendation of the monitoring officer on councillors holding these before planning hearings has been overturned,” Mr Wilson added.

Though political pre-meetings are not illegal, the local government association has advised that the use of political whips to influence the outcome of a planning application is likely to be regarded as maladminstration.

No other district council in Norfolk holds them before planning committee meetings, while Norfolk County Council, stopped them following the election of the new council last year and concerns raised by a member of the public.

At yesterday’s meeting, Christopher Kemp, scrutiny committee chairman, temporarily stood down from the post so he could speak out in favour of the current system.

“Our group rules make it quite clear there can be no pre-planning discussions, however the main planning committee has to do other things as well such as determine policy issues,” Mr Kemp said. “There is a danger that it is open to misguided interpretations, but you do not know about what private conversations there might have been, whether it is at a group meeting in someone’s house of down the pub.

“We are not open in the sense the public can come, but we are open in the sense we are telling the public we are having these meetings.”

Murray Gray, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, said the monitoring officer’s report was quite finely balanced.

He said the purpose of the pre-meetings was not for members to be whipped on which way to vote, but to provide an opportunity to share information and raise policy questions.

“If we didn’t have group meetings, you wouldn’t necessarily stop members discussing it by phone or by email,” Dr Gray said. “The main planning committee is the guardian of policy and it’s important to understand what the policy is and what the argument is for overturning it. Some times you can clarify issues like that.”

Councillors instead agreed that future agenda papers will make it clear that the way members intend to vote should not be discussed at pre-meetings.


Norwich council leader’s stinging attack on the government

The leader of Norwich City Council today launched a stinging attack on the government as a plan for massive cuts edges nearer to approval.

Council staff have been consulted about a blueprint that could see job losses at City Hall and cuts to frontline services as the city struggles to save £7.5m in the next two years.

The cuts, which amount to 15pc of the council’s controllable budget, will have an unavoidable impact on services and staff, who face a fresh period of uncertainty about their jobs.

The authority, which has already cut spending by more than £10m in the last two years, said the changes were needed in the wake of government plans to cut public spending by 25pc in the next four years.

City council leader Steve Morphew called the plans “a great disappointment”, adding: “They are ill thought out and will be damaging.

“Much as we will resist being scapegoated for the deficit problems caused by the failure of the banks, we are nevertheless faced with having to deal with the problems.”

He admitted that the severity of the situation would affect the quality of services offered to Norwich families, saying: “There is no way we can continue to deliver the same services to the same level with the resources available.

“It is too early to say exactly what the impact is but we are pledged to protect the most vulnerable in our city and continue the fight for jobs, homes and prosperity.”

And he lashed out at the description of some council positions as “non jobs”, saying: “Suggestions for cuts made by some because they think they are services not worth bothering with are actually vital services for others in the community.”

Strategic managers, trade unions and other staff members have been consulted on the council’s draft blueprint, which will guide the authority through the straitened times ahead.

A revised version with their comments taken into account will go before a meeting of the Executive tomorrow.

Once it has been through the approval process the document will be used as a guide to help identify more specific efficiency proposals.

The council is proposing a timetable from June to April 2011 which envisages a “new staffing structure” to be in place by then.

And it believes it is well placed to make the changes thanks to the work of the corporate improvement and efficiency programme it set in train last year, set up in the wake of criticisms about how it was operating.

Staff will learn their fate in December after an assessment and selection process is carried out.

Officers are also now looking at where to make savings in a number of areas including sharing services with other councils, ICT and “income maximisation and collection”.