Sunday, January 30, 2011

punishing the poor. again.

With the massive demand for whatever council houses are left in the UK far outstripping supply, there has to be some method of prioritising those on the waiting lists.

Westminster Council is planning to shuffle unemployed people to the bottom of the deck and give first dibs to those with jobs. They say it is

designed to recognise positive contributions to society, reward those who are in jobs and to encourage those who are not currently employed to seek work

We've been here before on Bristling Badger, and I've no doubt we'll have to revisit it in future, but here we go again. The government's own figures show that unemployed people outnumber the available jobs 5:1.

Once we see the rise in unemployment that the government expects to be caused by George Osborne's first budget, and the ranks are futher swollen by the millions of people on Incapacity Benefit who the government has decided are suddenly magically fit to work, that ratio will be more like 11:1.

You cannot expect people to get jobs that don't exist. Penalising them for not getting these jobs is an exercise in cruelty.

Westminster cabinet member for housing, Councillor Philippa Roe, said: "We want to introduce a system which is fairer to local people and rewards those in employment."

This is an attack on the fundamental reasons for having social support such as council housing and the benefits system. It is not there as a set of incentives and penalties. It is there to ensure that, in our wealthy society, no person has to fear homelessness, destitution, hunger or illness simply because they have no money.

These are risks posed to us all, so it is a kind of insurance. Also, societies with the greater gaps between richest and poorest have the most crime, so a robust welfare system protects everyone, even those who will never be poor.

But more than that, it is organised compassion. Most of us - Tory councillors evidently excepted - do not want to live in a place where people suffer for lack of any simple and cheap remedy. This is why previous generations of workers agitated and voted for the welfare state to come into existence. It was working people actively saying they do not want the unemployed to be punished for their predicament.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

police in 'lying again' shocker

Further to the last post, there's another point to be considered in Chief Constable Jon Murphy's desperate arse-covering exercise.

Mr Murphy said officers were not permitted "under any circumstances" to sleep with activists. "It is grossly unprofessional. It is a diversion from what they are there to do," he said.

Yet the first undercover cop to talk, Mark Kenedy, said

I had a cover officer whom I spoke to numerous times a day He was the first person I spoke to in the morning and the last person I spoke to at night. I didn’t sneeze without a superior officer knowing about it. My BlackBerry had a tracking device. My cover officer joked that he knew when I went to the loo.

And yet they were unaware of his relationships including one that went on for many years. They didn't look at any of the communications on that Blackberry between him and his partners. The tracking device presumably switched off when he went to his girlfriends' houses or away on holiday with them.

Two of the other three officers uncovered this week are known to have formed lasting sexual relationships. Presumably their superiors didn't know either.

This stuff isn't just about one or two people, nor is it confined to the eco-anarchist movement targetted by the officers we've heard so much about in recent days. In the early 90s far-left and anti-racist groups were infiltrated. One of the officers involved talked about it last year.

officers would get together for regular meetings and you always knew if something was going on. If someone started talking about getting good information from a female target, we all knew there was only one way that could have happened. They had been sleeping with them.

An officer who worked on totally different deployments in the early 2000s said last week

At training school, it was drummed into your head that you are only limited by your imagination. The whole UC model in the police is taken from the spooks, where an agent sleeping with the enemy is condoned.

The official Met line was 'don't do it', but unofficially it was condoned. I remember one senior detective saying to me, 'Have you embedded yourself in the community yet?' It was tongue in cheek, but I left with the impression that had I shagged around for intelligence, it would have been OK.

The chance that Chief Constable Murphy doesn't understand the National Grid and hasn't seen the defence evidence of the case he commented on is exceedingly small, nonetheless it towers over the odds that he really thinks no officers have sexual relationships with targets.

Bracing themselves for a possible spate of legal action from the citizens who were deceived and sexually abused by police, Murphy's statement is the cops brazenly denying their wrongdoing, denying justice and denying truth. The first duty of the police is to protect the police, no matter what they've done.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

lock up your grannies

At the recent trial of people who tried to shut down Ratcliffe on Soar coal fired power station, defendants showed that they knew the National Grid network meant that there was no chance of anyone's electricity supply being disrupted. Rather, it meant cleaner-burning gas stations would come onstream. This, in fact, was the basis of their claim to be actually preventing a quantifiable amount of carbon from being released.

Sentencing them, the judge said

It is right to emphasise that this the planned action would have had no practical effect on the electricity supply.

Yet the head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde, was on Newsnight last week claiming the opposite. He rebutted the interviewer pointing out that the protesters were not terrorists, saying

They were looking at taking out one of the biggest power stations supplying over two million people - hospitals, vulnerable people - for a considerable period of time.

One of the Ratcliffe defendants, Bradley Day, wryly declared

I find it deeply disturbing that a senior police officer with a responsibility for the country's national security doesn't seem to comprehend how his own National Grid works.

But ACPO clearly think this untruth is their best shot. And indeed, given what an awful time they've having as their secret police remit unravels, they may be right. As they continue to be splattered with criticism from all sides - even the Daily Mail laying into them for fuck's sake - they need to ramp up the fear and lies to take our eye off the ball.

Today, ACPO's Jon Murphy went one better than Orde.

Unfortunately, in the midst of some of these groups – recent history would evidence this to be true – there are a small number of people who are intent on causing harm, committing crime and on occasions disabling parts of the national critical infrastructure. That has the potential to deny utilities to hospitals, schools, businesses and your granny.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

just checking

As Edward Woollard starts his two years and eight months sentence for dropping a fire extinguisher off Tory Party HQ,

Commander Bob Broadhurst, the Metropolitan police's head of public order, said: "We all recognise and respect the fundamental right to peaceful protest.

Is this the same Commander Bob Broadhurst whose boss who, in the wake of the Mark Kennedy unmasking, is getting a stern letter from Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee?

"During our inquiry into the G20 protests, [MPs] explicitly asked Sir Paul Stephenson and commander Bob Broadhurst about the deployment of undercover officers," said Vaz. "I am disappointed they appear not to have given us the full facts."

Is this the same Bob Broadhurst who spent the weeks leading up to 2009's G20 protests talking up the threat of unrest so any police action would seem justified?

Is it the same Bob Broadhurst who was in charge of the Met's G20 operation on the day, where officers were sent in to baton people exercising their 'fundamental right to peaceful protest', and continued even as they held their hands in the air and chanted 'this is not a riot'?

Is it the same Bob Broadhurst who, after all the kettling, bloodshed and death inflicted by police, said 'My officers did what I asked them to'?

Monday, January 10, 2011

release the kennedy files

The dramatic collapse of the trial of the remaining six Ratcliffe power station defendants has been seriously misrepresented.

114 people were pre-emptively arrested in the midst of a plan to shut down Ratcliffe on Soar power station in April 2009. Despite not being charged, most were given restrictive bail restrictions. Proceedings were dropped against all but 26. One of those not prosecuted was a protester called Mark Stone, who was in fact an undercover police officer called Mark Kennedy.

The problem for the police is that Kennedy had helped to plan the action, had paid for the vehicles to transport the equipment on the day. When police vehicles were spotted at the power station and activists debated calling the whole thing off, Kennedy drove out for a recce and reported that the police had gone, putting the action back on. He encouraged others to join in.

Whatever the Met's guidelines are for involvement of undercover officers, you have to wonder whether instigating, planning and inciting crime are outside the remit.

Last October Kennedy's true identity was discovered by activists. He professed remorse, though notably didn't tell activists much that they didn't already know.

The Ratcliffe trial went ahead for 20 who admitted planning the action but claimed to be justified as they were preventing a greater crime. Last month, they were found guilty, with the judge leniently sentencing them amidst glowing praise for those convicted.

The trial of the remaining six - who said they had not decided to go on the action at the point of arrest - collapsed today.

Trial collapses after undercover officer changes sides says the BBC, with the same words appearing in the Daily Mail, Telegraph and across the news media.

'The undercover cop who turned' is a great movie premise (actually, it's a mediocre and somewhat corny movie premise), but it's not what happened. He had swiftly retracted his tentative and unspecific desire to help the defendants. It was only when the defence lawyers insisted that there must be witheld documents about Kennedy's part in the action and asked for disclosure from the police that the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case.

So, it was not Kennedy's work for the activists that saved the day but his work for the cops. The opposite of what the headlines say.

It is reasonable to assume that Kennedy reported to his superiors about the action. Indeed, there has been reference to a report planned by NETCU for ministers about it that presumably includes material from their man on the ground. Yet none of it was disclosed by the prosecution.

Rather than expose what they knew the Crown chose to drop it. After hundreds of thousands of pounds had been spent and six, if not 26, people had spent nearly two years preparing for prosecution for a crime which the state knew they didn't commit.

Imagine if a police officer sees a street fight. Ten minutes after it's over a vanload of cops turn up. Yet at the subsequent trial, the prosecution don't even mention the one officer who had actually seen the event. There'd be the pervasive odour of rat.

The CPS said they'd found

Previously unavailable information that significantly undermined the prosecution’s case

and specifically said it was

not the existence of an undercover officer

It was just coincidence that they only found this mysterious evidence, 21 months after the incident, within 48 hours of the prosecution's request for the Kennedy documents. When your job is to secure convictions, it must be tempting to withold evidence that exonerates.

Had the prosecution not been aware of Kennedy's outing, those six people would tonight be preparing for their second day of a three week trial at the end of which, like the 20 last month, they would probably have been found guilty.

Yet the way the story's being told totally misses this stuff. Almost as a mirror of the Ian Tomlinson killing being One Bad Cop, this is One Good Cop gets the activists freed. As with the Tomlinson case, it avoids the real issue - this is institutional. Kennedy didn't do anything to help the defendants; the police and CPS chose to conceal evidence as a matter of policy.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

newbury remembered

I've been a fan of Dorian Cope's On This Deity blog since it began. Bright and bold writing commemorating aniiversaries of the history of rebellion and dissent - with an incredibly prolific daily posting policy to boot - it belongs in the blogroll of anyone with a political conscience.

So it was quite an honour to be asked to write for it. Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the tree-felling work starting at the Newbury Bypass. I wrote a book about my time on the Newbury bypass campaign a few months after it ended. Today I've written a primer/reflection piece for On This Deity, The Third Battle of Newbury Begins.