Cameron’s Watergate (LabourList 25th July 2009)

February 23, 2013

This post that went out on Labour List in 2009. I never archived to this website, mostly because it caused such a ferocious reaction that the Labour List editor, Alex Smith, said he regretted posting it. However, it later proved to be influential because it breached the taboo that said that the press couldn’t be touched. Following this, Journalists from The Washington Post were sent to London to assist The Guardian in researching hacking and this eventually led to the Leveson enquiry. I’ve uploaded it today in order that it doesn’t get lost.

I’m never short of admiration for David Cameron as a campaigner. He has no policies, but he is a brilliant man for the way he has pulled his party around and made them so electable. But it just seems strange the way this rash of thefts and bugging has been happening since he’s been around.

First we had the Damian Green business where a civil servant stole information that was embarrassing to the Labour government and then chanelled it to the press through this MP. Although the Tories point out that Gordon Brown once leaked a document, Gordon went on the record. Next we had Derek Draper’s email being hacked and then published by those ironically accusing him of wishing to smear, when all he did was consider it, before thinking better of it. Then the expenses file; a member of the Conservative Party selling revelations to The Telegraph when The Sunday Times was the obvious buyer, but wouldn’t have led on the Duck House story. It’s all a bit weird.

So why would David Cameron hire a man that Fleet Street considered to be unemployable? Coulson’s News of the World scoops were all explained by the original prosecution, so that’s not his attraction. Nor is he a party animal; he voted for Blair.

So why, why, why would David Cameron hire a man who had recently been involved in a scandal where people had been sent to jail for stealing information from public figures? Everyone knew that the hacking was massively more widespread on the basis that the News of the World had broken so many stories in the previous couple of years and this was the explanation. So why would a future prime minister want to have anything to do with him? Why?

Cameron says “Everyone is entitled to make a mistake”. But surely this must be because there is a deep bond of friendship that can overcome this stain on Coulson’s character? What other explanation would David Cameron have for employing and sticking by a man with an apparent expertise in hacking people’s phones? He could have any press officer in the world, why Andy Coulson?
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Tackling racism is important but we can’t just see minorities as eternal victims

January 27, 2013

When I was a child, a lad in our street threw a stone through the window of the first Bangladeshi family to move into our street. We were rounded up by the local vicar and taken around to the family, and they gave us biscuits and lemonade, and made friends with us. Other Bangladeshi families arrived over the next few years, but they didn’t get their windows smashed.

More recently, I did some community work on the Boundary estate, near Brick Lane. One of the issues was the relations between the new middle-class white residents and the existing Bangladeshi community. Leila’s cafe and shop, which sold organic food, had her windows smashed by the local Bangladeshi teenagers. Her response was to make friends with them, and these days they treat Leila with great respect, because they all want jobs in the cafe.
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Honour and Shame in Tower Hamlets

December 29, 2011

We used to be proud of spreading our ideas around the world. Now we are confused about how we explain our identity to the people who have settled here.

The problem is that we need to understand their culture and identity, before we can explain to them our own. With 3,000 honour crime complaints to the police last year, maybe this is the issue that we’re failing to comprehend.

It would help to understand what happened in Tower Hamlets last year, when the Labour Party collapsed in on itself over the selection of Lutfur Rahman as candidate for Mayor.

It started out as a conversation about secularism, but we didn’t know it was about secularism, because in school we learn everything there is to know about Martin Luther King, but nothing about Martin Luther. We know about the rights of minorities, but not about the separation of church and state.
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Metta Bhavana Great Britain

March 31, 2011

I once had a work-mate who went to school at Eton. We used to talk about the culture of our respective schools. He said that at Eton, popularity and happiness are absolutely essential. There was a constant pressure to be outwardly happy, regardless of whether your mood was good or bad, at any given moment.

I found this interesting because at my school, Stepney Green, in the east end of London, everything was about being hard or at least the illusion of being hard. The glamorous kids were the ones with problems. Miserable and angry was cool.
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The 6th Estate

November 14, 2010


During the tense two years following the Credit Crunch, widespread predictions of civil disorder were both highly credible and seemingly inevitable, but no winter of discontent nor summer of strife came to pass. Yet, the people whose efforts successfully averted this destructive course have gone unrecognised and unappreciated. That’s a great shame and it should be rectified.

When the Lindsey Oil Refinery workers burst into spontaneous anger and destruction, the fire was quenched by the Unions who went in and established a dialogue between Management and Workers. They kept the refinery working and left the media to look elsewhere for their story.
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The Price of Heroin

May 29, 2009

One of the great quandaries of drug policy is the question of whether the price of heroin should be high or low. If the price is high, we’d like to think that this will act as a disincentive to consumption. However, a high price causes an addict’s life to descend into greater chaos. Once the addict’s savings have been spent he inevitably begins to steal, but can only steal barely enough to feed the habit. Once the bills are red and the landlord’s patience exhausted, the addict becomes vagrant and begins to lose his health, leaving him to face either eventual death, or rehabilitation with a price: permanently damaged health for him, and for us, a considerable burden upon the state through the provision of healthcare and thereby the entitlement to social housing. So the question is whether we get value from maintaining a high price of heroin if it costs us far more both in revenue and social costs.
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The Weight of the World; Comparing Burdens

March 16, 2009

I was pondering one of those confusing moments of indecision that the modern world has foisted on us. I was in the kitchen having just blown my nose and I honestly had no idea what the advice is between swing-bin and recycling. I chose recycling then suffered the disturbing image of a Chinese child on crust removal duty, so fished it out and gave it to the swing-bin. I went back to my TV then suddenly it occurred to me that paper isn’t kept and ironed out to be re-used, it’s simply chucked into a huge hopper and pulped down for future products. Here’s me contributing to the destruction of the rain-forests out of my pure ignorance. I went back to the kitchen and fished it out of the rubbish and gave it to the recycling bin, but then back at my rolling news TV show, I suddenly imagined your cereal box with a tiny bit of me embossed within the… you get the picture. Swing- bin was the final decision.
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The Perfect Crime

February 13, 2009

In the annals of The Perfect Crime, under the section “Sex Industry Traffickers” would be a description of the offence. “Go to Eastern Europe. Kidnap your girl. Force her to have sex with 10 men a day for 365 days a year and keep the money for yourself.” If there was such an entry, the question that may arise for any self-respecting criminal is this: What flaw may possibly exist in a crime that involves 3,650 witnesses per year? The answer is this: None. To be a witness in this circumstance has just been made illegal by the British government. This truly is the perfect crime. Read the rest of this entry »

Shouting Fascist!

February 9, 2009

When I was a kid growing up in the east-end on London, there was only one Bangladeshi boy in my class in the first year at school, but by the time I was in the sixth form there was only one white boy in the whole first year. The east-enders feared this immigration and some residents on the Exmouth estate signed a petition calling for no Asian families to be housed in their block. The GLC accused them of racism and threatened to have them evicted, even though some of the petitioners were black.
Shortly after this scandal, I was around my mate’s house on the Loxley estate when I overheard a conversation between his parents and the residents of the block, who had gathered to discuss what to do about the Asian family that the council were bringing around to view a flat. I’d never known my mate’s parents to be racist before or since, but what they were saying seemed pretty nasty to me. They wanted to put the Asian family off by giving the impression that the block was filled with racists, but they were frightened of getting evicted by Ken Livingstone. So they decided to have people on the landings shouting “Smelly Paki” and throwing things at the family then ducking before the council officer could identify them. It was a nasty idea and one of the residents dissented saying it was wrong to treat a family this way, but his someone else shouted, “We have to do this. If we don’t we could lose everything!” They feared their community and identity was being swept away from under them. I thought at the time that they were like the Red Indians.
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Palestine and the Press

January 27, 2009

The problem with the Gaza disaster appeal video is that it focused itself on the Palestinians as victims rather than being a call for peace. This is not new. The media’s focus on the Palestinians as victims has been a considerable part of the problem over the last 30 years.

During the First Intifada, when children threw stones at Israeli soldiers, pictures were beamed around the world and it became the biggest media story of the day, but the effect on both Israel and the Palestinians was disastrous. The need of western-world television viewers and magazine readers was to share the suffering of a small people, but children in the West Bank and Gaza found themselves with a choice of going to school or going to where the western press scrum were gathered and be a hero before cameras that told their story to the whole world. Perhaps a billion dollars worth of media was made out of that story, by Reuters, AP and the BBC, but I doubt if the Palestinians received a single penny of that money.
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