Linklog entries in January 2014

Monday, 27 January 2014

Rufus Hound to stand for the National Health Action Party as an MEP 

This is an interesting development that should bolster awareness of the National Health Action Party. The party was set up by doctors to challenge the privatisation of the NHS; a process started by the last Labour government but grossly accelerated by the Coalition’s Health and Social Care Act and additional regulations passed last year - which I wrote about at length.

Behind NHS logos, nearly all NHS services must now be put out to tender so that private companies can compete to run them. The NHA Party believes that this marketisation will lead to a focus on profits not patients, and endanger the principles of the National Health Service. Furthermore they are drawing attention to the fact that the NHS ought to be exempted from the coming EU-US trade deal which further risks England’s ability to determine the future of the NHS. Wales and Scotland have made different decisions which have kept the market out.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Drax protesters’ convictions quashed over withheld evidence of police spy 

This Guardian editorial puts the news about the Drax protestors having their convictions quashed into the wider context of the ongoing concerns about secret policing and its undermining of open justice.

Rob Evans reports on the Drax case in more detail. You can also watch two of the Drax protesters making a brief statement outside the court where they express the need for a full independent inquiry into the actions of undercover police officers.

If you’re new to this story then I highly recommend reading the book ‘Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police’ by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Caitlin Moran on Benefits Street 

There has been endless commentary about the Channel 4 documentary series Benefits Street but Caitlin Moran surpasses the rest. I’ll share an extract of her piece from the Times for the sake of those who can’t see behind the paywall.

Ninety-nine houses on a single street in Birmingham are now seen as the prism through which we examine the lives of every person on benefits in Britain... To show how absurd the weight and analysis lumped on Benefits Street is, imagine for a moment a putative Middle Class Street.

If, on our new Middle Class Street, we’d seen three out of 99 lovely Victorian terraces engaged in crime — the same ratio as Benefits Street — but the middle-class crimes of tax evasion and expenses fiddling instead, no one would be lining up to condemn the entire middle class. No one would be presuming to be an expert on the middle-class lifestyle. No one would be making statements on the moral degeneracy of the 21st-century middle classes.

When the irony is, of course, that the working-class benefit fraud costs £1.2 billion a year, while tax evasion — inevitably a middle-class crime — costs £14 billion annually. £14 billion! That it is often repeated does not dim its outrage. The fact is simple: richer people steal more. You cannot trust them.

Friday, 17 January 2014

The power of the EU to determine our economic agenda 

Fraser Nelson hopes that should Ed Miliband win power at the next election his ambitions to fashion a ‘fairer’ economy will be thwarted by the EU.

Nelson is celebrating, in the Telegraph, this very undemocratic hope. The issue he is raising is crucially important but largely neglected. Whilst the mainstream media reports day-to-day politicking, behind the scenes the US and the EU are negotiating a hugely significant free trade deal which could limit the scope of our politics for decades to come and render current political promises impossible to realise.

Nelson says that the EU would be able to prevent us from re-nationalising the railways and other industries. Even the NHS isn’t exempt.

This is exactly why George Monbiot described the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as “a monstrous assault on democracy

The TTIP is being negotiated this year. We better wake up to its implications quickly and get informed before it is too late.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Scotland Yard pay out twice over ‘inconsistent’ claims 

Here are three choice extracts from Martin Bentham’s report, though I recommend reading the whole article:

Police allegations against two students at a tuition fees demo were thrown out after YouTube film and photographs showed “shocking” inconsistencies in Met officers’ accounts of the incidents.

Scotland Yard has agreed to pay Mr Kumar £20,000 in damages after he launched legal action for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, assault and malicious prosecution.

He [Mr Kumar] said he had been appalled by his treatment and the inaccurate accounts given by police. “What was astonishing was I was sitting in court and there were officers there ready to testify that I had done something when it was as clear as day from the video that I hadn’t.”

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Jury conclude that Mark Duggan was not holding a gun when shot but was ‘lawfully killed’ 

There is a wealth of commentary, reportage and analysis appearing around this verdict, but I am linking to Vikram Dodd’s report because it is well-informed and comprehensive.

I recommend also reading the jury’s actual conclusion.

The jury concluded that Mark Duggan had thrown the gun before being confronted by the police, but that the policeman (V53) who shot Duggan had an honest belief (even if mistaken) that he needed to use force to protect himself and his colleagues.

V53 said that he fired the shot because Duggan was holding a gun. How could the jury believe the officer’s ‘honest belief’, but not believe that he was right about the facts in his story?

Dodd reported that V53:

came across as a coherent witness and his performance on the stand played a substantial part in the lawful killing verdict.

The inquest was full of contradictory evidence which leaves crucial questions unanswered. Dodd highlights many areas of dispute and concern, such as:

Three days after the shooting, on 7 August, after Tottenham had burned and nearby Wood Green had been ransacked, the armed officers were allowed to sit together in a room at Leman Street station in east London for eight hours and write their full statements after conferring.

Stafford Scott, an active community member in Tottenham who is close to the Duggan family, raises more questions in his article.

Will the IPCC address these concerns and outstanding questions in their report? Will the truth ever come out?

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The net migration target is misguided and inhumane 

This article is by yours truly.

It was a post on Facebook that first prompted me to look into our immigration policy and what was driving it. A friend of mine had shared a post by an Australian called Harley Miller who is facing deportation from the UK after her application for visa renewal was rejected, despite working in our NHS for nine years and owning a home here. Harley drew my attention to the net migration target and how it is determining the fate of individual lives. When the government talks about reducing net migration, they are talking about removing people like Harley from the UK.

My article also coincides with Vince Cable telling Nick Robinson that he never agreed to the “arbitrary” net migration target because it wasn’t practical or helpful – particularly when many aspects of net migration lie beyond the government’s control.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Simon Hoggart’s Obituary 

I am very sad to hear that the Guardian’s political sketch-writer, diarist and columnist Simon Hoggart has died after suffering from cancer.

Hoggart allowed me to spend a day with him on work experience after I graduated in 2007. I emailed asking if I could shadow him for a day and he kindly and generously agreed. I was so excited. I met him in the central lobby, sat with him in the press gallery to watch a parliamentary debate and then we went to the Commons bar for a drink and a chat. He decided to run with a shark metaphor for his column that day. I then followed him to his office in parliament and watched as he typed and filed his piece. He groaned when the computer stalled, cursing the “spinning ball of death” on his Mac.

Since then I have read his columns with extra affection and interest. They often caused me to guffaw aloud. He was one of the few truly funny writers. The world already feels poorer without his wit.

I’ve just bought his book ‘A Long Lunch: My Stories and I’m Sticking to Them’. On the first page he derides the very idea of an autobiography, writing that the world is too full of them, with “titles such as An Eventful Life, or Here, There and Everywhere, Life As It Is Lived, Along the Way, or It Seemed to Me. The very titles depress the soul and I have made these titles up.”

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Fighting for legal aid is Matt Foot’s family tradition 

Simon Hattenstone is a consummate story-teller. Here he tells how the solicitor Matt Foot discovered eery and heartwarming similarities between his campaign against legal aid cuts and the work of his forebears. Read it from start to finish as it is a great story; personal and political.

Matt Foot also gave his own account of his family history, relating to legal aid, on the LRB Blog - so read that too if you’re hungry for more.

I met and interviewed Matt a few years ago for a Newsnight film and a Guardian article. I found him inspirational; determinedly investigating cases, digging for truth and exposing injustice.

Ultimately his fight to save legal aid is about defending access to justice. It’s to protect the principle that his great-grandfather Isaac Foot introduced in 1929: “that a poor prisoner should be in no worse position to defend their innocence than a rich prisoner”.

Friday, 3 January 2014

When drug companies don’t publish trials, real people die 

Tom Chivers’ piece for the Telegraph is well worth reading in full. He clearly explains why the AllTrials campaign – to force drug companies to publish all results of all clinical trials for all currently prescribed drugs – matters.

Tom Chivers:

Financial incentives for pharmaceutical companies can easily drive them into making decisions that kill people – or, if you prefer, save fewer lives than they could, as if that’s different – by denying doctors the information they need to prescribe the best available drugs. So people die when they don’t need to. Registering and publishing all pharmaceutical trials would be an easy and obvious way of saving lives; the only reason not to do it is because companies make money from pretending drugs work better than they really do, and that doesn’t strike me as a good enough reason.

Today the Public Accounts Committee have called for action to address this scandal.