Category Archives: Corruption

A “Hutton style” inquiry?

rebekah brooks and tony blairOn Monday 11th July 2011, the day after the News of the World published its final issue, Tony Blair spoke to Rebekah Brooks in what Brooks says was an hour-long phone call, and Brooks summarised the phonecall in an email to James Murdoch:

“1. Form an independent unit that has an outside junior counsel, Ken Macdonald, a great and good type, a serious forensic criminal barrister, internal counsel, proper fact checkers etc in it. Get them to investigate me and others and publish a Hutton style report,”

“2. Publish part one of the report at same time as the police closes its inquiry and clear you and accept short comings and new solutions and process and part two when any trials are over.
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Lies, Hobnobs, and Huhne

Chris Huhne MPChris Huhne in the Guardian yesterday:

First, none of this would have been possible without my own mistakes. I am no saint (but nor did I claim to be).

Chris Huhne was one of the Tory/LibDem Cabinet’s millionaires. He was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change: he is now European manager of Zilkha Biomass Energy, a transition from government minister to employee in the same field that is now so familiar its corruption wouldn’t make the headlines – except that Huhne spent some time in between in court and in jail.

Besides his wealth from his pre-Parliament career as a City of London economist, Huhne owned seven houses: the one he officially lived in, in London: his official second home, in Eastleigh: and five more rental properties.

As revealed in the MP expenses scandal in 2009:

He owns his second home in his Eastleigh constituency in Hampshire outright but regularly claims for its renovation. In August 2006 he was reimbursed for a £5,066 builder’s invoice that included having two coats of “red rustic timber care” applied to garden items, and two coats of green preservative for fences. On another occasion Mr Huhne submitted a handyman’s bill for £77.31, covering odd jobs such as “replacing rope on swinging chair”. Continue reading

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Michael Gove: Flipper

Michael GoveMichael Gove talked about people living beyond their means, and Labour spending too much on welfare, and claimed this justified the Tory/LibDem cuts cuts cuts workfare cuts.

Michael Gove used to work for Rupert Murdoch as a journalist at The Times, until he was selected as the new Conservative candidate for the safe seat of Surrey Heath in the 2005 election.

Gove and his wife Sarah Vine, had bought a nice house in Kensington for £430,000 in 2002.

Between December 2005 and April 2006, Michael Gove used the Additional Costs Allowance (meant for an MP to claim for their second home) to claim more than £7000 for furnishing this house:

Around a third of the money was spent at Oka, an upmarket interior design company established by Lady Annabel Astor, Mr Cameron’s mother-in-law.

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Iain Duncan Smith: Pest Control

As Channel 4 News publicly exposed the Universal Jobmatch site as a scammers paradise in December 2012: even easier than the old job scams offered via the JobCentre websites, this just required a scammer to register as an employer (no verification) and post job details, then harvest CV data from the jobseekers who applied.

From the Department of Work and Pensions website: Home \ Advisers and intermediaries \ Updates \ Universal Jobmatch:

Universal Jobmatch is the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) online service which is radically changing the way people look for and apply to jobs. It’s one of the biggest changes to the labour market in 27 years.

Universal Jobmatch is open to all jobseekers, regardless of whether or not they are claiming a benefit.

But if you are claiming a benefit, DWP can make you use it. Continue reading

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When to muzzle your Press

Deer and foxI was inspired to write this, if that’s the word, on reading Fleet Street Fox on the Leveson Report: The devil is in the detail, published yesterday in the Press Gazette.

It’s a fine example of a rant as you will ever find from an MP explaining with tendentious authority why the general public have absolutely no right to know about their Parliamentary expenses and how it will ruin a free democracy if this is allowed: you would think this was an investigative journalist who sees censorship on the cards, not a fox demanding the right to be unmuzzled in the henhouse.

But the devil is in the detail, and the detail of Leveson is the bit which will muzzle the Press as effectively as Hannibal Lecter strapped to a luggage trolley.

Leveson wants this backed up by law which is plain wrong, because there’s no bill ever passed by Parliament that wasn’t tinkered with later. Hacked Off and other campaigners may feel the suggested law is fine, but it’s the law it may mutate into which is why it should never happen.

So, we can’t have laws in the UK, because however nice a law looks when it’s proposed, Parliament may change it into something unspeakable, so all laws are wrong. We should instead trust to the kindness and gentility of the likes of David Grigson.

Okay. That’s nice, Fox. We should live in a lawless society because we can’t trust Parliament.

Let me answer a simpler question.

When is muzzling the Press appropriate and can you recommend a certain kind?

By and large, muzzles are used to keep the Press from biting or causing injury. There are two types of muzzles: prohibitive (also referred to as the “tyrant’s muzzle”) and regulatory.
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Newsnight will be back on Monday. Probably.

Briefly – for what now seems a very short time – everyone was saying “We must believe the victims.”

Newsnight’s decision not to run an investigative programme about Jimmy Saville, because all they had was his victims’ testimony, was widely criticised.

On Newsnight tonight, instead, was the more usual refrain: Steve Messham was a “fantasist”, and shouldn’t be listened to. Lord McAlpine’s lawyer talked of bringing legal charges against Newsnight and Alistair McAlpine himself issued a comprehensive denial. Newsnight formally apologised, though it’s hard to see what for: they did not name Lord Alistair McAlpine as Messham’s abuser: nor did they hint his identity in any way.

[But see The BBC, Lord McAlpine and Libel Law for how Lord McAlpine might be able to sue the BBC anyway.]

More to the point, Steve Messham says:

at the time police showed him a picture of his abuser but incorrectly told him the man was Lord McAlpine.

Mr Messham told the BBC that he was “mortified” when he recently saw a real picture of Lord McAlpine and realised his mistake.

Newsnight did not name Alistair McAlpine as Steve Messham’s abuser. Steve Messham did not name Lord McAlpine to the media. The only senior Tory named was Sir Peter Morrison, who died in 1995.
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Hillsborough and Tomlinson

“Please let some good come out of all of this” – the policeman finished his report on the Hillsborough disaster, only to see it heavily redacted for the judicial inquiry in 1989:

David Frost, who as a 21-year-old officer helped to treat fans in the Leppings Lane terraces, told the Lord Justice Stuart-Smith review in 1997 that his superiors made “wholesale changes” to the statements made by him and his fellow officers to “sanitise and protect themselves”.

Mr Frost told the judge how, three days after the tragedy, on 19 April 1989, he and fellow policemen were taken to a pub by a senior officer and warned: “It’s backs to the wall, boys. We’ve all got to say the same thing. Unless we all get our heads together and straighten it out, there are heads going to roll.”
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The 16-page original testimony from May 1989, which at times reads like a diary from the trenches of the First World War, was cut down to six pages, the most heavily redacted statement out of all the 116 police statements that were altered. Mr Frost told Lord Justice Stuart-Smith he was ordered to sign the new redacted statement but refused. The final document shows what appears to be Mr Frost’s signature, but it is clearly different from his original handwriting, suggesting that someone involved in the cover-up forged his signature.

You'll never walk alone - flowers at the Kop goal
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The Spam Spiv

David Cameron has appointed Grant Shapps co-chairman of the Conservative Party in the latest Cabinet reshuffle.

The Tories have an image problem, you could say. George Osborne was booed tonight by 80,000 people at the Paralympic Games. The Conservatives are widely perceived as the party of arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of a hot pasty or a pint of milk, headed by men who went to Eton and were members of the Bullingdon Club at Oxford, the government for millionaires by millionaires, the party of tax cuts for the rich and high unemployment, workfare, and lowered wages for everyone else, the coalition of broken promises and NHS privatisation. Indeed, they have an image problem.

The Chairman of the Conservative party is a Cabinet Minister when the Tories are in government, and runs the “party machine”: oversees Conservative Campaign Headquarters.

Grant Shapps is the Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield and was Minister of State for Housing & Local Government. Until Monday’s reshuffle. At about one this morning Huffington Post

has learned from senior government sources that Sayeeda Warsi has lost her job as Tory co-chairman and is replaced by Grant Shapps.

We have also been told that Sayeeda Warsi has been offered another seat at the Cabinet table. The role on offer at the time of writing is rumoured to be as a junior Foreign Office minister with a seat at the Cabinet table, a position she has not yet accepted.

Sayeeda Warsi is “not one of us“. She argued last Friday:

“If you look at the demographics, at where we need to be at the next election, we need more people in the North voting for us, more of what they call here ‘blue collar’ workers and I call the white working class. We need more people from urban areas voting for us, more people who are not white and more women.”

But if the Tory party were to believe they need to listen to a woman, who is moreover not white and who comes from a working class, immigrant background, how they have to change to appeal to voters – this would turn the whole ethos of the Tory party upside down.

No, what David Cameron and George Osborne are apt to think they need isn’t some kind of radical policy change: they need a campaign to change their image. They need a marketing man. Grant Shapps has an alternate career: he’s “Michael Green“.

On The Daily Income website, Grant Shapps looks like this:

Michael Green on http://www.thedailyincome.com/michael-green
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Prisoners and workfare

One3one solutions: Justice working for you – at £2 an hour or less.

Prison costs a lot of money: it’s expensive to lock someone up and keep them under guard. If we’re going to spend that kind of money on keeping people who are a danger to society out of circulation for months or years, we should be investing it sensibly and giving people opportunities to reform.

I think it’s a good thing if a prisoner who’s soon to be released from jail can do day-release work outside, get used to interacting with people outside the prison environment before they actually go out for real. I think prisoners should have options to study and get qualifications in prison. I think we should be investing money in imaginative schemes like a prison restaurant, that give prisoners a chance to learn and get work outside, in trying to make sure that once someone leaves prison, they have more options than when they went in.

But:

Andrew Neilson, from the Howard League for Penal Reform says:

“We do welcome these opportunities [for prisoners to work] but it should be on the same basis as anyone else in the community. We don’t want the issue of prisoners on day release being employed becoming one that divides people and effectively people are turned against those prisoners because they’re seen to be taking people’s jobs. That’s not what should be happening.”

He’s talking about a situation that’s come up with a company called BecomingGreen Continue reading

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Our constitution, July 2012: Rights to the Commons

Today, Andy Wightman reports, the Scottish Government announced

the establishment of a “Land Reform Review Group” that will oversee a “wide ranging review of land reform in Scotland”. If this happens it will be very worthwhile.

However, the remit and membership of this group are yet to be agreed with Scottish Ministers and it is unclear how wide the remit will be. If it is simply to undertake a technical review of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, it will be of very limited value when the real issues concern inflated land values, affordability of housing, succession law, tax avoidance, secrecy, absentee landlordism, theft of common land, land registration laws, common good etc. etc. etc.

So Andy is crowdsourcing definitions of “land reform” and outlines of the remit of this Land Reform Review group in the comments at his blog – go, read, join in.

1. Enhanced constitutional rights (e) Rights to the Commons (eg water, access to countryside)

You may remember, before the council elections earlier this year, an Aberdonian pensioner, Renee Slater, registered a mannequin, whom she named Helena Torry, to stand in the Hazlehead, Ashley and Queens Cross ward. When it was discovered that Helena Torry was not entitled to be a council candidate, the notice of poll for that ward was republished, deleting Helena Torry, and Grampian Police charged Slater with an offence under the Representation of the People Act 1983.

What you may not remember, unless you live in Aberdeen, was that this wasn’t just a silly joke or a satiric commentary on the quality of council candidates these days.

Union Terrace Gardens are a public park opened in 1879: part of the park is planted with elms that are about 200 years old, about two and a half acres of sunken gardens, planted with elms that are nearly 200 years old. From early in the 21st century onwards, there had been plans to develop a centre for contemporary arts in Aberdeen, in partnership between Peacock Visual Arts and Aberdeen Council. The development had been designed by Brisac Gonzales, had been budgeted at £13.5 million, and would have included a restaurant and a gallery. Full planning permission and £9.5 million of public funding from various sources had been secured.
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