Sunday, 11 April 2021

Off With Their Heads

 

After The Guardian asked its readers to “share your tributes and memories of the Duke of Edinburgh, I blogged this:I am proud to say I turned down an invitation to meet him and his wife. In 1994, and as a Director of War Child, I was invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace for NGOs involved in the Bosnian war. We were operating a mobile bakery to feed hungry families in Mostar and delivering insulin for diabetic children in Sarajevo. Others at War Child didn't share my Republican values and did attend. When the Duke asked them what War Child was doing he was told about the bakery. He quipped, "I bet they steal the bread." He was then told about the insulin deliveries to Sarajevo and added, "I bet they steal that as well."

 

That was all I wanted to say, but then a friend sent me this in response to my words, “Just think if he’d lived to 100. We’d have had all this and then repeated when he died. Every cloud.” 

 

Social media were now full of “We are North Korea” comments and the BBC had to issue a special complaints form after so much public anger over the corporation pulling its TV schedules for Friday 9 April.

 

The media and politicians, from Boris Johnson to Sir Keir Starmer, went into overdrive to explain away the Prince’s racist, sexist and other abusive comments as ‘gaffes’, as off-the-cuff’, and as ‘well-intended’. 

 

The obsequious, forelock-tugging, was  now on the defensive and the door has been opened to those of us who are opposed to the ‘cap-doffing’ offered up to the remaining vestiges of feudalism in this country. That stretches from the royal family to the unelected House of Lords, to wealth and land ownership.

 

It is time to resurrect the Commonwealth of Britain Bill first introduced to Parliament 30 years ago by Tony Benn and seconded by Jeremy Corbyn. It proposed a “democratic, federal and secular Commonwealth of Britain”. The monarchy would be abolished, the Royal Family pensioned off, the honours system disbanded, and the Crown Estates nationalised. Supremacy would rest in two democratically elected chambers.

 

Off with their heads’ has a royal origin, since it was made by the Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll's ‘Alice's Adventures in Wonderland’. She went on to say, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” 

 

I used to think a Republic was an impossible thing both before and after breakfast, but after the last few days I am not so sure. Tony Benn’s Bill needs to return. 

 

It will be difficult since the only person who has come closest to having his head removed is Benn’s seconder and the official Opposition is led by the ennobled. But perhaps it’s an impossible thing we have to believe in if we want to see who won Masterchef.


Friday, 9 April 2021

Who is the real Prince?

 

 

The Guardian asks its readers to “share your tributes and memorie of the Duke of Edinburgh … Did you meet him? What effect did he have on your life?”

 

I am proud to say I turned down an invitation to meet him and his wife. In 1994, and as a Director of War Child, I was invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace  for NGOs involved in the Bosnian war. We were operating a mobile bakery to feed hungry families in Mostar and delivering insulin for diabetic children in Sarajevo. Others at War Child didn't share my republican values and did attend. When the Duke asked them what War Child was doing he was told about the bakery. He quipoped, "I bet they steal the bread." He was then told about the insulin deliveries to Sarajevo and added, "I bet they steal that as well."

 

No tears for him. I keep them for yesterday’s sad departure of Jovan Divjak

 



Monday, 5 April 2021

An ineffective Protestor

 


Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the London Kill the Bill rally the other day was a poweful rebuttal to his detractors who claim that he has spent his life protesting ineffectively and that protests never change anything.

 

He gave a summary of a long history of protests, from the Tolpuddle Martyrs in the 1830s to the Chartists in the 1840s, to the Suffragettes in the 1920s, to Cable Street in the 1930s, to the fight against anti-trade union legislation in the 1970s, to the ongoing anti-racism protests of Black Lives Matter and the climate change activism of Extinction Rebellion. 

 

The current protests against the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which seeks to outlaw protests altogether, fits into this history and as Jeremy reminds us - not only does protest work, but without protest things don’t change.


Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Unravelling a Scandal

 

Last night I watched Alexander Nanau’s award-winning documentary, Unravelling a Scandal.


On 30 October 2015 a fire broke out at a rock concert at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, Romania. There were inadequate fire exits and 27 people were killed, with 37 dying later as burn victims.


There were massive street demonstrations across Romania and the government resigned. Not only had there been negligence at corporate and state level regarding inadequate fire protection, but the post-fire deaths were found to have been due to contaminated disinfectants supplied to hospitals.


All this was exposed by Catalin Tolontan, Mirela Neag and a team of journalists at Gazeta Sporturilo (Sports Gazette) who meticulously uncovered a world of political and corporate corruption, bribery, offshore accounts and mysterious ‘suicides’.


The state media and major news outlets remained quiet or joined in attacks on them as they exposed the scandal.


Of course nothing like this could take place in this country. Oh wait a minute …...



Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Whose Disorder?

 

 



"This was people intent on causing serious disorder," Chief Constable Andy Marsh

 

The Guardian is now publishing press releases from the police and presenting them as ‘news’. The latest is “Police in Bristol feel under siege after second night of unrest." The Guardian, 24 March 2021.


The ‘article’ consists of nothing but quotes from John Apter of the Police Federation, Chief Superintendent Claire Armes, an unnamed source at ‘Avon and Somerset police’ and ‘a police spokesperson’.


It concludes with this comment about injured officers after the weekend disturbances - ‘They said neither of the officers taken to hospital were found to have suffered broken bones.’ Well that’s a relief since we had been told that the force had suffered multiple injuries.


If you turn to The Canary, Tribune and eye-witness accounts you can find the truth cannot be hidden behind a press release. This is from a demonstrator, Kieran Denman … “people were being peaceful, people were sat in front of the police station, as in literally sat. Police kicked people, pushed people on the floor. People pushed back. Police in riot gear battoned people in the head, sent in attack dogs and horsesEvery step of the way the police escalated. Every step of the way they knew that was what they were doing, but were perhaps just a bit surprised at how many of the crowd were willing to go from a sit down protest to fighting back rather than allowing the police to attack them with impunity."

 


Sunday, 21 March 2021

David Hencke - thank you

 

 

David Hencke is the Guardian journalist who wrote my War Child story 20 years ago. Thanks to him I managed to recover my life and go on to have my account of those years published. 

 

I recently received an email from him saying: “I have finally managed to find the time to read your book from cover to cover. Just a note to say what a great book and what an amazing and brave life you have had. Obviously I knew about the Pavarotti Centre because I was so closely involved in reporting it all. But your descriptions of life in Bosnia and the vivid descriptions of all the characters plus your recollections of vile public school life made great reading. What also comes out is your great love of music and how important music is to you. Just thought I would drop you a line to say how much I enjoyed it.” 

 

Thank you David and you can now read "Left Field" online and free here.





Thursday, 18 March 2021

Pablo Escobar would be jealous

 


The BMJ reports that the UK government has spent £10bn on its covid-19 test and trace programme, £15bn on personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare staff and £6.5bn on other ‘health’ spending. “Experts said that they were astonished at the size of the sums, including the billions paid to private companies such as Serco to run ‘test and trace’ services.”

Allyson Pollock, a member of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, described the £10bn figure as “scandalous expenditure,” adding, “there are really serious questions to be asked about the way these contracts were set up and about their performance. Ten billion pounds spent, and the only effective track and trace is being carried out by traditional public health teams.” Pollock concludes that, “This money should have been put into supporting the established system of public health services instead of going into new parallel centralised services run by private companies, where much of it is squandered and wasted.”

Chris Ham, former chief executive of the King’s Fund, said that the numbers were “astonishing.” He tweeted: “Would be good to understand exactly what the money was spent on, especially on test and trace.”

The following are just a few of those who have been ‘awarded’ Covid-related contracts without contract tenders or any independent oversight. They range from pest-control companies to publicans, experts in offshore investment to fashion, confectionary and interior design companies.

AYANDA CAPITAL, CARGO SERVICES, CLANDEBOYES AGENCIES, CLIPPER LOGISTICS, CRISP WEBSITES, FACULTY, FAMILY OFFICE, GLOBUS, HANBURY STRATEGY, KAU MEDIA, MEDICINE BOX LTD, MELLER DESIGNS, P14 MEDICAL, PA CONSULTANCY SERVICES LTD, PEST FIX, PPE MEDPRO, PUBLIC FIRST, RANDOX HEALTH, SERCO, TAEG ENERGY, TOPHAM GUERIN, TOWER SUPPLIES, UNISERVE, UNISPACE, VENTURES LTD

The BMJ concludes that “The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale that is harmful to public health.” On a scale that would make Pablo Escobar jealous.

It is not a public enquiry that is needed, but police investigations and criminal charges.




Monday, 15 March 2021

Whisper in the Corner

 

 

The women’s suffrage movement is only the small edge of the wedge. If we allow women to vote it will mean the loss of social structure and the rise of every liberal cause under the sun. Women are well represented by their fathers, brothers and husbands.”  Winston Churchill

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which is being voted on in Parliament today proposes a maximum sentence of ten years for vandalising a statue. Sentence length will be determined by the statue’s “emotional symbolic value.”

The Bill goes on to propose a minimum four years sentence for serious sexual offences and to outlaw protests causing “serious unease” and/or “serious annoyance”.

Unease” and “annoyance” are value loaded words and would elicit entirely opposite responses from Home Secretary, Priti Patel and Clapham resident, Patsy Stevenson, as would what people think of the Churchill statue’s “emotional symbolic value.”

Liberty claims the Bill “threatens protest” with human rights lawyer, Kenan Malik, warning that it the Bill is voted into law our right to protest will be reduced to “whispering in the corner.”

And Churchill’s statue gets better protection than Patsy Stevenson.

 


 


Monday, 8 March 2021

Rough Times

 


Boris Johnson on the 1% offer to the nurses: "What we have done is try to give them as much as we can at the present time, Don’t forget that there has been a public sector pay freeze, we’re in pretty tough times.”

Here is whar the ‘pretty rough times” has meant for others.

… £ millions of Covid-related contract have been given to friends or associates of Johnson and his ministers. Many were given to those without any expertise in medical equipment, provision or practise or who were insolvent or close to being so. Here are a few ...

AYANDA CAPITAL, specialists in currency trading, offshore property, private equity and trade, awarded £252 million.

CLANDEBOYES AGENCIES, a confectionary products company, awarded £108 million.

CLIPPER LOGISTICS, a logistics company servicing retailers in fashion, tobacco, alcohol and other high-value goods, awarded £1 million.

FACULTY, a technology company contracted to Donald Trump, Vote Leave, Nigel Farrage and Cambridge Analytics, awarded £500,000.]

HANBURY STRATEGY, providing political insight and analysis and communications strategies, awarded £900,000.

MELLER DESIGNS, suppliers of women and men’s accessories, homeware and beauty products, awarded £148 million.

PA CONSULTANCY SERVICES LTD, a management consultancy company, awarded £156 million.

PEST FIX, a rodent infestation company, awarded £110 million.

PUBLIC FIRST, “we help organisations understand and influence public opinion”, awarded £840,000.

TOPHAM GUERIN, a creative and digital agency, awarded £3 million.

UNISERVE,a trade management provider, awarded £186 million.

UNISPACE, interior design company, awarded £239 million,

And these are for special mention ..

CRISP WEBSITES, website designers with £18K in the bank, awarded £108 million.

TAEG ENERGY, with NO recorded infomation, awarded £43.8 million.

VENTURES LTD, an insolvent company, awarded £49 million.

Yes “We’re in pretty rough times”


Sunday, 7 March 2021

Doing well from the pandemic



Nurses have been ‘awarded’ a 1% wage increase with Health Minister, Matt Hancock, saying this is "what we think is affordable given the financial pressures caused by the Covid pandemic.”

What are those financial pressures? One of them is Steve Dechan whose loss making P14 company was ‘awarded’ £276 million in PPE/Covid contracts by Hancock.

From this money he bought a 100 acre Cotswolds mansion, another home in Cornwall and a third house for his parents in Exeter. He told The Sunday Times that he had done “very, very well out of the pandemic”.

While Dechan has been busy setting up three new homes with his millions nurses have been busy saving our lives with their 1%.  




Saturday, 6 March 2021

Nurses - forget the patients, catch the rats

 


Nurses to be 'awarded' a 1% wage increase. With the average nurses annual salary at £33,000 that is £27 a month or £6 a week increase.

Health Minister, Matt Hancock says this 1% increase is "what we think is affordable given the financial pressures caused by the Covid pandemic.”

He is right because he and his government have handed out £25 billion in Covid contracts to friendly pub landlords and rat catchers. For example Pest Fix, a rodent infestation company, were awarded £110 million.

Over one year that works out at £9 million per month or £2 million per week.

Nurses - forget your patients and start catching rats.

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale that is harmful to public health.” The British Medical Journal







Sunday, 21 February 2021

pigeon prejudice

 


Jeremy Corbyn was constantly asked by the Press when he was going to resign. Some of the reasons given for the necessity of his departure included that he was looking forward to a 'humanity destroying asteroid’, rode a ‘Chairman-Mao' bike and attacked 'pigeon prejudice’. Most serious of all, that he was a racist and antisemite.

A Cabinet Minister dishes out £billions of PPE and other Covid-related monies to his chums, the High Court rules the government broke the law and the Press lead on how sad the Queen is about Prince Harry and Meghan

Here is a photo of an asteroid, a Mao bike, a pigeon and an anti-semite.

 


 



Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Rat catchers as health providers

 


It is a matter of great relief that the Covid-vaccine programme is being carried out effectively and efficiently. As a ‘most at risk’ person, `and, after receiving my first ‘shot’, I can vouch for this.


That is because the programme is in the capable hands of the NHS and rat-catchers and bankrupts are nowhere near the vaccine-operating centres.


The British Medical Journal has declared that, “The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale that is harmful to public health,” with £billions of Covid-related contracts given to companies run by friends or associates of politicians in the Tory government.


Worst of all, many were given to companies without any expertise in medical equipment, provision or practise or who were insolvent or close to being so. Here are a few, in alphabetical order:

 

AYANDA CAPITAL, specialists in currency trading, offshore property, private equity and trade, awarded £252 million. 

CLANDEBOYES AGENCIES, a confectionary products company, awarded £108 million. 

 

CLIPPER LOGISTICS, a logistics company servicing retailers in fashion, tobacco, alcohol and other high-value goods, awarded £1 million. 

 

FACULTY, a technology company contracted to Donald Trump, Vote Leave, Nigel Farrage and Cambridge Analytics, awarded £500,000.

HANBURY STRATEGY, providing political insight and analysis and communications strategies, awarded £900,000. 

MELLER DESIGNS, suppliers of women and men’s accessories, homeware and beauty products, awarded £148 million.

PA CONSULTANCY SERVICES LTD, a management consultancy company, awarded £156 million.

PEST FIX, a rodent infestation company, awarded £110 million.

PUBLIC FIRST, “we help organisations understand and influence public opinion”, awarded £840,000.

TOPHAM GUERIN, a creative and digital agency, awarded £3 million.

UNISERVE, a trade management provider, awarded £186 million.

UNISPACE, interior design company, awarded £239 million,

And these are for special mention ..

CRISP WEBSITES, website designers with £18K in the bank, awarded £108 million.

TAEG ENERGY, with NO recorded infomation, awarded £43.8 million.

VENTURES LTD, an insolvent company, awarded £49 million.