Category Archives: crime

Brexit – where do we go now?

Back from the mud and pretending we’d not left the EU until I got home, I’ve been trying to rationalise the campaigns, the vote, the result, and what it means for the UK, England and the EU. Whichever way you look at it, it isn’t going to be pretty, and I very much doubt it’s going to be the ‘new Britain’ that many Leavers hoped from the mess that both sides threw around for the last few months. If we wanted our country back, what sort of country is that really going to be?

Some things to make clear: however disappointed I am in the result, and whatever bile and hatred is already emerging, all Leavers are neither racist, nor xenophobic, nor are they all little Englanders wanting us to return to the 50s (18 or 19), nor do they hate Europe, or each other, nor are they idiots. Some are some, many or all of these things, but just because some voted Leave as a protest (I mean seriously) and others regret it, that’s democracy. You can be disappointed in a result, detest those that drove us to it, even those that made that choice if you want to, but this is how democracy works. If we’re going to get angry, get angry that those that lied to us. Many voted to control immigration, save the NHS, ‘take back control’ (and what a loose and nebulous premise that was.. of what?), to make our own laws, to halt pressure on public services… all of which are admirable and sensible choices. Sadly, I very much doubt many of these things will be resolved.

The truth of the matter is – to me (my opinion, not attacking yours) – this was a referendum that no one but a section of the Tory party wanted. That section’s been there ever since we joined the EU in its earliest form. Cameron shat himself over the threat of ‘up to 10’ seats going to UKIP last May, so pledged this in their manifesto. He never expected to be in majority government, and suddenly had to deliver. All this from the threat of an ‘outsider’ who’s a former Tory councillor, stockbroker and pint-drinking middle England upper middle class Tory, Nigel Farage. This is the political mess our country has become.

Once the campaign started, you had one side (Leave) who were energised, with the EU as a punchbag, marking it out as the root of all evil – immigration, public services, economy, democracy, human rights, red tape – when much of it was created by the very govt they existed in. They had the might of the press behind them, whose lies they’d been supporting for years. They vented against the very experts that supported their last 6 years in power, as if figures just didn’t matter any more. A motley crew of Farage, Johnson, Gove, Duncan Smith, Patel and more, evoking the colonial era success of industrial Britain, an Albion that’s a figment of our imagination (we were a terrible country then) as if pulling up the drawbridge would move all our problems away, instead of merely making us having to deal with them in isolation. They preached lies from the start: 350m went to the EU every week, it would all go to: the NHS, science, arts, rural areas, defence… you name it, pluck out a populist idea and sell it. We’d solve immigration issues with a points system that already lets in 180,000 a year from outside the EU, we’d reclaim our democracy (as if forgetting our membership of NATO, WTO, UN, Commonwealth and many other climate and trade deals we don’t write ourselves) or complaining of unelected politicians (whilst choosing not to reform the Lords, which is exactly that), and then moved onto, emboldened, the rub of it all. They lost the economic argument, so they hit home on immigration. They may have criticised Farage’s posters, but did nothing while in power. The very Tories that decimated our public services in the myth of austerity now blamed immigrants for it, when they are net contributors to the economy, and have allowed the growing xenophobic and racist voices to rise and demonise them, the working classes and post-industrial communities. They caused the problem, they pushed it onto someone else. A perfect storm. They had no plan for victory (did they really expect it?) and didn’t care. They’d lie with impunity, it was never going to happen, was it? And these are the candidates for PM. Cameron was awful, but this lot… you just wait.

And Remain? Half-hearted or invisible campaigning, or simply not campaigning at all, so afraid of standing alongside they hated they sucked all momentum out of the positive message that could’ve been made. They led on the economy, supported by almost everyone, but couldn’t put out a good message. It was only one thing: DOOM. And yes, that’s what’s going to happen, but they were hamstrung on the truth. Blame the EU too much for immigration, and people will question how their austerity helped public services. Cameron and Osborne started strongly but were the only big voices that anyone recognised. Their hearts weren’t in it in the end. Then the rest? Greens and Lib Dems did work hard, but their voices were drowned out by the main protagonists, and the positivity submerged by the lies and negativity. And Labour? Split, as were Tories, down the middle, riven by an internecine war for the party. Corbyn appeared half way through to support an insitution he’s been opposed to all his career, and refused to share a platform with any other party for fear of his own reputation. His colleagues did, but the message was almost entirely negative, and positivity doesn’t resonate with fear. A half decent campaign would’ve likely won, and yet refuting all the Leave’s lies simply was ignored by the press most of the time. By the end, even after the tragic killing of MP Jo Cox, no one could appeal to compassion or sentiment. The campaign, like all politics now, seemingly, has been poisoned.

All the same, I, like many still held out hope that we’d sneak a win by a couple of percent. So, what happened? The split of age ranges said it all – 75% of young people (but not enough young people) voted to Remain, most cities did, Scotland did, as did Wales, but much of rural England and working classes voted to Leave, and this tipped the balance. Even then though, the result was a shock. Even personally, putting aside my beliefs, it’s depressing to think that we can survive in a globalised world where immigration, climate change, economics, crime and trade are all internationally formed and affected by shutting the curtains. But the supremely negative campaigns destroyed all hope in the whole referendum. Fears and worries were inflamed, division and hatred fed, to the point where many people simply saw it as the only solution. A kick against the elite? If you think Gove, Farage, Johnson and Duncan Smith aren’t elites then we are in trouble. Yes, kick Westminster, but this wasn’t a changing of the guard. It’s going to be a lot, lot worse.

So, what now? Economic shock, uncertainty, a plunging pound, and protracted battles for control of government and opposition. And what of the promises? 350m to the NHS, or schools, or public services? Just ‘suggestions’. Immigration? It ‘may well not fall’. Control is not constriction. Trade? Single markets mean free movement. Just ask Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. The EU council’s made that 100% clear. So we best invoke Article 50 now. Oh, that’s not going to happen? Why? When? Because the Leave campaign have no plan, no post-exit ideas. They didn’t expect to win. They’ll crow and laugh as the markets fall, we all lose money, because it won’t affect them. It never would. They’ve got their wish? Who cares what happens now? If you believe any of their lies, that’s understandable, the country is a mess that needs many many things solved, and so you feel hope and empowerment from voting to Leave. But this was never going to happen. It’s far more complex than a Yes/No choice. It’s a modern tragedy, a vote that should never have taken place, or was supposed to, on the whims of a party riven by internal division over Europe. This was never anything but a Tory civil war, that’s resulted in the country in panic. And it’s going to be the reason for division and hatred. We’ve seen that already, and it’ll be the excuse for everything ‘well we’re just the UK now, everyone else needs to leave, we voted for it’. It’s grim. Scotland will leave the UK, maybe Wales too. And we may end up with a result that betrays everyone’s hopes – both Leave and Remain.

What will the future look like? PM Johnson? A man so much more right wing than Cameron or Osborne, a born liar who ruined London if you weren’t an investment banker or CEO or foreign property buyer, or Gove, another former journalist that finds truth a mere inconvenience. Or Theresa May, a Remain campaigner that really was 50-50 and who gave us the Snooper’s Charter. We’ll have a UK Bill of Rights, tear up so much EU legislation that protected our workers rights, environment, industry…. and unless we have a sensible opposition party we’ll allow the Tory party to steamroller this country and sell it off to the highest bidder. All while the division they stoked keeps us busy. I’m no Labour cheerleader either, and I’m deeply disappointed in the party tearing itself apart, with neither wing wanting compromise, so while they should be uniting with Lib Dems, SNP and Greens to hammer this terrible government, they’re going to be fighting each other.

It’s a mess. And it’s a mess built on a decade of lies and mistakes from all sides. The rise of the right in Europe (and many elements at the extremes of it) is continuing and we have a battle to prove we’re a friendly, open country and region. Leaving the EU can only hurt that, and for the many Leave voters that do not share that sentiment, we have to come together to try and ensure we don’t retreat into ourselves and into hatred and division, because this result is the means for many to now see their views as accepted. I’m incredibly disappointed, and sad, and angry with the politicians that lied to us all along now being at the control. The country will suffer and I have no faith they will do what’s right.

Ever feel you’ve been cheated…?

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Evaporating the goodwill.

As a Lib Dem, the past few months have been a living nightmare. And nothing comes any worse than the tumult over tuition fees. I may not be a student any more (those days are long gone) but I understand the dismay that they feel, knowing that in the future, the burden of paying for university will be placed on those that attend, rather than the taxpayer.

I also supported the protests when they were announced. We talk a good game in this country, but when it comes to direct action, we’re not always the best at walking the walk. However, it’s been astounding the size and amount of demonstrations, both in London and around the country. The sour taste that sits in the mouth though, and that will continue to do so, is the violent element to these protests.

Now trying to unpick the propaganda is easier said than done. It wasn’t hard to see there was a hardline element willing to cause as much damage as possible when they broke away to Millbank, and some of these were aiming for damage not just to the buildings, but the police, or bystanders. And once the police’s underwhelming response was noted, the stage was then set for ugly repercussions. We’ve seen it all before. In the G20 demonstrations, where the Met Police stated that trouble was ‘inevitable’ beforehand, thus giving them the perfect excuse to kick off. We all know what happened that day.

And so it came to pass again on the day of the vote. While many students were aiming for peaceful protest, the minority, just like the police’s pre-justified actions, will know that, since violence is ‘inevitable’, then they have the perfect excuse to disrupt and grab all the headlines from those trying to uphold the tradition of peaceful protest. Watching the scenes on tv it was pretty appalling. The police stated the protest strayed from an ‘agreed route’, thus justifying their first overreaction. With the violent few then pushing at the barriers, the first baton charge was their pre-prepared reaction, and after that, the rest of the events were almost pre-ordained.

Sights of a wheelchair user being dragged from their chair were disgraceful, as were those of a policeman being knocked off their horse, and the barricades being flung at riot police. Seeing Winston Churchill’s statue defaced, and idiots swinging on the remembrance day’s flags on the Cenotaph were flashpoints that will go just as far (especially with older generations) to evaporating any sympathy that students may have garnered over the last months.

There are no winners here.

The students, protesting in a battle they surely knew they’d lose (and did, just). Their futures and those of students that will see the first hit of the new fees in 2012, pitched into a system that puts the epmhasis on mere higher education attendance rather than excellence and focus on academia.

The police, who, while they are often in a no-win situation in scenarios such as this, were brutal, heavy-handed, untruthful, and have shown themselves to have learnt little since the G20 other than to make sure their ID numbers now show as they bring the batons down on the skulls. Mounted police charging a kettled crowd (students, rather than rioters) was shameful, and the myth that protesters (some young kids or old) were allowed out when this wasn’t possible is one that should be exposed. Kettling the last group until midnight on Westminster Bridge was a story that seemed to get scant coverage. It deserved more.

The press, who covered in an often hysterical and biased way, reporting on the police hurt and never the students, until much later in the day. What happened to impartiality?

And lastly, the politicians, who through their thinking got us into this ghastly mess in the first place.

This may be the death knell of the Lib Dems. Personally I hope (and think) this isn’t the case, but like the case for Iraq for Labour, this may haunt them for years to come.

And with the dire economic future showing little sign of improving, this may be the start of a very long, violent winter of discontent.

A shame on our city…..

Ian Tomlinson lies dying on the pavement at teh G20 protests

The G20 summit brought with it the usual concerns – would the day be hijacked by anarchists? Would those groups wanting to ‘hang the bankers’ really do it? How would the disparate groups be kept in one place safely? Would the protests really have much resonance across the world? But many of the press before the event nervously questioned the police’s insistence that they would turn violent. Yes, there were elements in any anti-globalisation demonstration that would be bound to hijack it for their own skewed means, but the talk up to the event seemed like it was a self-fulfilling prophecy: violence would need strong-handed police, which would result in trouble, justifying their actions.

No one would’ve guessed the events of that day would turn out as they had. While violence did erupt sporadically, and the symbolic destruction of a branch of RBS (bailout money to fix the windows, how poetic, and pointless) fed the news frenzy, one tragedy appeared almost a footnote to the day’s events. Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper seller, had died of a heart attack in the early evening in the backstreets around the Bank Of England. Seemingly unconnected to events, statements from the police called it a ‘tragic accident’.

But over the last 24 hours, as eyewitness reports of the events started to tell a different story. And a video shows most of the attack as it happened, pouring cold water on the police’s version of events. The man – not even a protester, and on his way home, and came across the remnants of a police line ‘kettling’ protesters away from the Bank of England. Walking away from a line of police, hands in his pockets and quietly, he appeared to be struck, first by a baton, then pushed from behind by the same man, falling and apparently hitting his head on the pavement. Dazed, he appears to talk to the police, who do nothing to aid him, before being helped up by bystanders. Three minutes after walking away groggily, he dies on a pavement of a heart attack.

The storm that’s been played out today, with the IPCC’s enquiry mercifully having the City of London police removed from it (would we face more ‘inquiries’ the like of which have seen no policeman from the capital convicted of any violent offence against a protester in the last 50 years?) we may yet see justice for a man whose only crime was to head home, through an area he used daily, and walk away from a line of over-zealous police. It’s hardly the scandal from Genoa, but it’s the final straw in a city and country where we should pride ourselves in our democracy and our civil protectors, but we face an ever eroding set of liberties, sacrificed to the ‘war on terror’ and the police with ever-increasing reign to ‘protect’ us. We have a right to protest, and yet even that seems to be diminished now. From Stockwell to Forest Gate, I have little faith in their ability to deal with truth any more, and the skewed statements, denying any contact with Ian Tomlinson before his death, sounded like the echo of Sir Ian Blair all over again. We haven’t learnt, it seems, a single thing.

Indeed new footage uncovered by Channel 4 news tonight gives further evidence that the officer struck Tomlinson forcefully before he was pushed to the ground. And the officer who was involved has gone to the IPCC – no doubt to tell them of his provocation. There are glimpses of hope, that process can be followed, and that the police can be held accountable, but we’ve heard it many times before, only for it to ebb away in a sea of misadventure, of ‘cannot recall who was at the scene’ or ‘details have been lost’. I hope for once they can do the right thing. If the protester had struck the policeman, we all know he would be in court before his feet had touched the ground, and it’s high time the police were treated with the same ‘respect’ we are by them.

When something sounds too good to be true….

It usually is.

Bernie Madoff

Take Bernie Madoff. Financier to the stars, the rich, the cream of America’s (and the world’s) elite. A genius player of the money markets, a former chairman of the NASDAQ, a Wall Street legend. What better pedigree could you choose? And who better to invest with? The perfect high-rolling individual with whom to invest your millions. Or so it seemed. An investment return that defied the markets. And yet, in the end, no more than a Ponzi scheme.

Despite the intelligence of many of his clients, it was the oldest trick in the book. There was no capital, merely the payment of money to investors using other investors’ money. A paper profit but a puff of smoke. A house of cards. Arguably the biggest private fraud in history – $50bn – and perpetrated by an individual with an aura of invincibility that allowed him to convince those willing to make a seemingly staggering return to part with their life savings. There was the rarefied air of the Palm Beach Country Club, home to most of his investors, who he personally chose. There was no application to this exclusive group, you were invited by Madoff, adding to the air of elitism.

But the sad fact was many of these were older, couples, many charities that saw his philanthropy and followed it for the benefit of their charitable purposes. Big banks suffered as well – investors at BNP Paribas, Banco Santander, and HSBC were among the heaviest hit. Amazingly, the SEC investigated Madoff’s organisation eight times in the last sixteen years, and, incredibly, found no evidence. Similarly, a rival firm, determined to replicate his amazing results, concluded they were impossible, and in 2005, a report to the SEC still resulted in no findings. In the end, the credit crunch was what took the rug from under his manicured feet. Wishing to withdraw 7bn, Madoff couldn’t cover the cash. The end was nigh.

This week he pleaded guilty to 11 charges of fraud, and may face up to 150 years in jail. He’ll most likely die there. But while he admits his role, and remorse, only he will know why he did it. It is, in a time where greed is laid bare to us all, a staggering conceit, and one that probably says as much about personal greed (and, at the same time, the willingness for people to accept anything in order to make money) as any. Gordon Gecko would be proud.

Police protection, the Italian way….

Police Raid in Genoa at G8 in 2001

Some of you may know the story of the police brutality at the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, where riot police waded into crowds (including members of the public, journalists) and then into a school where an alternative protest summit was being held by groups wishing to voice their concerns about the G8. These protests happen at every G8, some a more militant, some peaceful, but none will be dealt with with the ferocity of that day seven years ago.

And finally, a chapter has been closed on the episode, in Italy at least, where today a ruling cleared all senior police officers of any charges relating to that day. This is the day that 300 police charged into a school containing 200 peaceful protesters, and, to a man and woman, beat every single one of them. Women, men, young and old, British, Italian, German, Belgian, there was no discrimination. What was one of the most shameful days for a police force in any western country, has been swept quietly under the carpet, as if it was simply a storm in a teacup.

What does this say about Italy itself? It’s hard to guage a sentiment, as there is still so much not known about what happened that day. Did the police assume the protesters were part of the Black Bloc anarchist movement (as some witnesses have claimed) or was this just an excuse for the violence? Who orchestrated the action? Not one senior officer has been charged, so if this is the case, where did the commands come from? Following the events, one officer even preposterously claimed he “was off duty and had just turned up to make sure his men were not being injured.” Many of the police testimonies differered greatly, key evidence disappeared, and many of those officers cleared are now in high-ranking positions in Italy, some in anti-terrorism. Every single charge against the protesters was dropped, yet in the face of this, only 13 of those that took part have been sentenced. And, due to the length of the appeals, and a statute of limitations, none of them will even go to jail.

And yet the victims, including British journalist Mark Covell, who still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, have little recompense. All deported straight after the events, (cleaning up the evidence and clamour in one go) they still suffer while the police are held almost totally unaccountable. None of the police, bar one, that took part in the raid has ever been identified, as they all had masks on. They have, from this, never stood trial.

While we in Europe like to pride ourselves on our liberal and forward-thinking approach to law and order, it’s clear that, even now, this view isn’t one that’s held, or at least acted out, throughout our society. The acts of that day in Genoa, and the resultant disgrace that took place in its courts shows that there are those that are still far from civilised. In Italy, the spectre of the far right still looms, and with Silvio Berlusconi still in power, the recent shame of the persecution of Romany gypsies is still a warning to those that feel it is now a thing of the past.

Let us not forget this shameful episode. Italy’s police, it seems, may seek to uphold the law, yet they may also be above it.

Slow progress…..

The human body is an incredible thing. It’s made up mostly of water, but it’s constructed around a brittle skeleton of calcium-based bone. When it breaks, it’s a gruesome sight and feeling, and it’s an amazing feat that it can blend itself back together, even if it’s with a little help from the NHS.

My jaw was broken 12 days ago, by two cowardly, thieving little fucks, and put together expertly a mere 18 hours later by the undervalued, and underpaid members of the NHS that work at Whipps Cross Hospital. So, here I am, down the line, trying to rationalise the slow, ponderous process by which the human body mends itself. My jaw is struggling to fit together as it once did, stitches holding it together, covering plates underneath. I try to bite and can’t get my front teeth together, and worry is seeping in. I reassure myself that things will be ok, that I’ll speak to the hospital, and that everything is taking its natural course, but it’s only human nature to think the unthinkable.

I walked down the dimly lit road it happened on for the first time today. Unlike the night it occurred, this was bathed in sunlight. It was daytime, and it’s going to be a long time before I go down that route after dark. It’s not a matter of kicking myself that it was somehow my fault, but there’s no point in prodding fate once more. I’ve been fairly placid about the whole affair until now, but I was in minor turmoil as I headed under the bridge and along the long, straight path again. I’d be daft to think it wouldn’t affect me, of course not, but I don’t want to let it do anything more than that. I need to convince myself I’m strong, and that it’s not beaten me, and I’m fine with that at the moment.

Maybe it’ll hit me, it’ll all come tumbling down like a pack of cards. I hope not, and I believe not. I like where I live, and I feel an affinity to it, even though I’d never been there before I moved. And I don’t want to be forced out. I live in the best city in the world, and I’d no intention of changing, even if I’ve suffered as I have. Instinct tells me to confront the feelings, and not push them to the back of my mind, to resolve them and not hide them. I remind myself on a daily basis that it could’ve been worse, and maybe should have been. No possession is worth dying for, and even if I’ve confronted my own mortality in the last few weeks, I’m a comfortable distance from it still, and I intend to be for a long time yet.

Through the wire….

So, added to the list of things I’ve experienced that I can’t say I’d wish to repeat (along with appendicitis, a broken leg, glandular fever, flying American Airlines and watching Channel 5) is having a broken jaw. Not something I planned, or contributed to, but something that was generously presented to me to two of E17’s less charitable inhabitants last Thursday.

Walking home from the bus (so I can blame TFL for this in part, as had there BEEN a tube, then I’d have been coming home another way) I was passed by a guy on a bike, who then proceeded to block my way, then smack me one. I wasn’t lucky enough to see his ‘friend’, but they were nice enough to kick me in the head twice once they’d got my bag, my iphone and the rest. While staggering around spitting blood out trying to get someone to call the cops (they ignored me, or even switched the lights off….) I thought I was just busted and bruised, but after stumbling home, enlisting my neighbour’s help, and riding an ambulance for the first time since I was 6, I since discovered the cunts had left me with a double fracture.

So, here I am, after surgery (and treatment from some of the best medical staff I’ve ever come across, restoring my faith in the NHS in one swoop) I’m now at home trying to resolve getting by without my two favourite pastimes: talking incessantly and eating. I’m now restricted to occasional slurred mumbling, like I’ve been out on the piss all day, and even then, with painkillers, it aches and throbs. The plates in my jaw and clips and rubber bands holding my head together, while aiding my recovery, aer not condusive to pain-free movement.

And as for food…. well, I’m reduced to porridge in the mornings, then anything I like, as long as it’s either soup, or a normal meal passed through a blender till it resembles that. No bread, no crunchy veg, no steaks (lamb, fish or otherwise), no pie, no rice, no pasta….. in fact anything I can’t eat with a straw or a small spoon without chewing, it’s off the menu. So, I will learn to love soup like it’s my favourite food. It is, now, after all, my ONLY food.

So, while the bonus of being off work is there, it’s outwieghed, outweighed by a long list of shit. In fact, I’ve not been this rested in years. It’s a shame that I’m also in pain, and hoping I can recover without the need for more surgery. Am i scared to go back? Not at the moment. Will I be walking that road again? Not at night. Do I want the little fuckers caught? I’m not too fussed. I didn’t see them, and I’m sure they’re not going to suddenly be so full of remorse to give up a life of crime. I just want to get my life back. The list of things that have been royally ruined by these events is too depressing to comprehend. Whatever’s gone on up to now, it’s the next 6 weeks that are fucked, so time to buckle down, be sensible and heal. I don’t want to be eating turkey through a straw.