Friday, December 22, 2006

Seven Best Things

That talented varlet NotSaussure has repaid me for tagging him once c/o Iain Dale's meme by tagging me back to write about the Seven Best Things of 2006.

1. Getting engaged to the man I love (February, Amsterdam, in a Mexican cantina in the Red Light district, since you ask). We're getting hitched in April 2007

2. Leaving my job to write full time. Scary, but ace.

3. Getting a book contract ( book will be out in July. The dreadline of 30th Jan isn't funny though and means I'll be very quiet in the New Year).

4. Meeting two Home Secretaries, one Secretary of State for Culture and Prince Charles . Prince Charles was lovely and twinkly. The politicians, less so .

5. Meeting some amazing people, too many to name. Film directors, film-makers, writers, fellow-passengers, bloggers, activists, campaigners, politicians, journalists, lawyers, athletes, dancers, actors, musicians, police officers, researchers, presenters and composers, it has been an humbling privilege and an absolute pleasure.

6. Seeing Edward Scissorhands at Sadlers Wells.

7. Still being here.

Just writing it all down is mad. I know I will never have another year like this ever again. Well, I appreciated the hell out of it while it was all going on.

Argh, now I have to tag seven people...Apologies in advance to:
Iain Dale, Netherworld , Holly Finch, Nosemonkey, Kobwebby, RabbitStrike, Disillusioned Kid

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Last night's carol service and SOCPA demo

It was freezing, but excellent. First off, the final lone mass demonstration of the year outside the House of Parliament on Parliament Square, with a good crowd led by Mark Thomas and his elves, followed by illicit carol singing by the statue of Winston Churchill. Hipflasks of sherry, cognac and hot mulled wine were produced and mince pies handed round to keep out the chill, then we tumbled into a pub to thaw out and to hear more about Tim from Bloggerheads exciting new project, National Service.

Photos can be found here , here, here, and here .Davide at Netherworld has written it up here with photos here. Rabbit Strike has written it up here. As they have both covered it so well I advise everyone to go and read their accounts rather than have me write it all up again here, badly, with a hangover. Big huge thanks to everyone who came. It was especially lovely to meet some of the readers of this blog. We raised £85.93 and 75 euro-cents for Medical Aid for Iraqi Children and we had a very good sing song busting bureacracy to defend democracy. Small things, foolish things, but important things.

UPDATE: More coverage from D-Notice, Bloggerheads and another very good, thoughtful write up from Disillusioned Kid

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cameron 'War Raised Terror Risk'

Cameron now saying it ' War Raised Terror Risk' (Times). My God, I agree with the Conservative leader.

''The Conservative leader directly contradicted the Government’s official line — that the invasion has had no impact on the terror threat — as he announced the party’s policy report into the security threat. He said that he was in agreement with the report, written by the Conservatives’ independent security policy committee, which said that “the war on terror has led to more terror”.
Asked whether he thought that involvement in Iraq had increased the risk of terrorism, he said that it was just “a statement of fact”.

See also Bringing It Home ( UK policies aid Muslim Extremism) from DEMOS ( part-funded by the Government). See also today' foreign policy report from Cahtham House ( BBC - Blair failed to influence Bush), see US election mid-term results, see US official's recent claims that the UK 'got nothing back from the Bush relationship, the harrowing judgement about the death of a young British soldier who was not given body armour - judged 'inexcusable' yesterday, see the latest death toll, and shake your head that the bloody fools in Government did not listen, would not listen, and have shamefully turned their face away from our protests ever since.

I remember when the largest day of global protest ever happened, over a million taking to the streets, many more millions worldwide, crying out against the expected horrific consequences, the loss of blood and treasure that we knew would come from such hubris and mendacity and selective blindness, from those swept along by the arrogant neoconservative ideology and the will to power. Or the lure of celebrity, the posturing shoulder to shoulder on the world stage. Or 'the voice of God'. Or the Medal of Honour. Or whatever the hell it was.

We might have still needed to go war, but we should have gone lawfully, carefully, preparedly, with world support, and after humbly listening to what the people living in the Middle East said they wanted as help.

Instead, we have this utter disaster, which has bred more disasters, and spilled endless blood, and created a vortex of hate, and yet the Government will not accept their faults, and will not accept the link between their actions and the consequences. For shame.

UPDATE: The Sharpener on the latest foreign policy report

18 Doughty St encore

I shall be on 18 Doughty St again tonight, coming in as a late substitution from the bench, and am looking forward to the usual comments on Iain's blog about ''who the hell is that lefty woman?'' from the audience. As I don't go out the house much these days apart from to Christmas bashes in the evenings, it is nice to get out and talk to people without being drunk and without banging music in the background. Someone suggested I was on the station as ''totty'' last time: perhaps I should flash a little cleavage tonight to cheer up the viewers who will be enduring my seditious views later.

At any rate I had better get out of what I am currently wearing which is a huge furry jumper covered in cat fluff, over the knee socks and furry slippers, with no make up: I have been writing all day, hence the slatternly look, and am pleased to announce that I have managed 8000 words which is a personal best, and just as well after a slow week.

Tomorrow night I will be at the final simulataneous lone mass demo of 2006, making a point about the ludicrous time-wasting SOCPA laws that prohibit demonstrations without applications near Tony's offices, and then singing carols with Father Christmas from 7pm in Parliament Square. This last is illegal, possibly, under SOCPA so cross your fingers I don't get arrested and put into the cells with a collection of elves.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Matthew Parris: columnist of the year

Matthew Parris won Columnist of the Year at the What the Papers Say Awards this year. Here's three good examples of why: Give me one good reason for replacing Trident - go on.
Let's say farewell to the 'ethnic minorities'

and especially this We could have protected the Ipswich women - we failed.
It's not just because I find myself in agreement with a lot of what he writes. It's the way he writes it as well: beautifully. Matthew Norman is my other favourite columnist, pointing the blunderbus of black humour and baroque vitriol upon the political rampaging elephants of the day.

'A Universal Human Response'

This report on the Greater London Assembly's website is interesting: it concerns interviews done with over 300 people about their reactions on and after July 7th. Report here ( PDF) from the Department of Psychology, University of Sussex.

Your Good Elf....

Sunday, December 17, 2006

M15 Chief Quits

...see here. Rumour has it - and now the Mail says it, so I can write about it - that new information into how many times the July 7 bombers came across the radar of the intelligence services before they bombed will be out soon, maybe in the New Year. Up to eight times is the whisper I heard - ( officially it is five at the moment). How, for example, they were filmed and taped driving around in a bugged vehicle for two months in 2004, talking, planning, discussing, plotting ...

I hear that the explanation or excuse given again (if and) when the report comes out will be that the bombers were recorded talking about fund-raising fraud to support jihad, rather then actual jihadi bombings, on British soil or elsewhere. And that was why they were not followed more closely by ''overstretched'' security services at the time. But nonetheless, Khan and Tanweer, two of the bombers were known to security services. Listened in to. Known about. Monitored. And not stopped. Meanwhile, Germaine Lindsey's mobile number was even known to the security services, we're told. He killed 26 people on my train, injured over 300.

M15 had the July 7 bombers in their sights. But didn't stop them. Why?

The July 7 bombers were ''peripheral figures'' to another intelligence operation- then they fell through the gaps and the operational crevices (google it) as more attention was being paid to a different plot.

(*The timing of the busting of that plot is interesting too. Rumour has it the Americans pushed for a pounce a little too soon...but what do I know?)

Well, the trial relating to that matter will end soon, and reporting restrictions will be off...

And we shall see whether, once the first alleged plotters, (the ones that M15 were concentrating on when they didn't book the 7/7 crew), were busted, their associates/brothers in Jihad went onto ''Plan B''. Hmmm. Hmmm again
Perhaps they applied the learnings of the failed operation? - no big vehicle bomb for the July 7 crew, no big-bang spectacular using huge amounts of explosives; instead moving to a new, smarter plan. Smaller, home-made(?) bombs, light enough to be carried in rucksacks by four more young zealots, including at least two young men whose names were known, whose ideaology was known, whose faces, movements, addresses, phone numbers, conversations were known... but who were not stopped by the security services... moving easily through the crowds of commuters, caught on as-yet-unreleased-CCTV - undetected...ready to do their deadly work.

52 dead. Over 800 injured. One summer's morning that I and others can't forget.

Interesting, then that Eliza Manningham Buller resigned a few weeks before the publication of an expected report...

See today's Sunday Times...

''Sources said she had decided to quit in anticipation that she might be asked to resign over blunders concerning last year’s July 7 bombings.''

And, I note, feeling nauseous, note how her leaving was announced on a day where a very great deal of bad news was already being disgracefully buried. See Iain Dale, Blairwatch, Chicken Yoghurt and A Big Stick And A Small Carrot to get an idea of the sense of outrage in blogland over a day where corruption, scandal, and much else besides was covered with reports about dead women: Diana and the murdered, marginalised women of the Ipswich streets.

Psssst....Do you want to look awfully prescient? Sign this, now, before everyone gets on the bandwagon.

Really. You won't regret it.

Wait and see. And please, pass this on. Thank you.
UPDATE: Nosemonkey sniffed it out first, Morning Star , NotSaussure and NetherWorld pick it up and Blairwatch is on it too, (though beset by conspiraloons in the comments, sadly, which is one of the reasons I've stuck comment moderator back on.)

Struggling for democracy

I wasn't able to hand in my application to demonstrate at the Simulataneous Lone Mass Demo on Wednesday 20th December with Santa and the elves last week, so I went with a mate to hand it in at the local nick last week instead. (You have to hand in your form to get permission to stand in Parliament Square and peacefully protest 6 days before you turn up.)
Going to the police station to hand in a form was a very surreal experience. I've been to that police station before to report stolen phones/snatched handbags etc, and I expected to queue, probably for up to an hour, but this was something else.

My friend, who is a writer, hadn't been to this station before. She has written the whole thing up here. We arrived at the station at 16:50. We left at 19:20. The actual handing in of the form took less than 3 minutes. It was the other stuff that surprised us. (Timeline here. )

The incredible difficulty of finding a police officer who would come to the desk, for starters. I'm British, I'm used to queueing. But over two hours standing in a cold, bleak, graffitied room with distressed and anxious people who just want to hand in a form/sign something/pick up a dead man's effects/collect lost property...and for long, long periods there is nobody at the reception desk who will help you is soul-destroyingly frustrating.

Especially when you can see police officers through the reception desk shatter-proof glass standing about talking and photocopying things in the office . You can call to them, you can huff, you can wave, but they look past you and they will not come. Sometimes an officer would come to the reception desk to get something, or pop out of a door and they would not meet anyone's eyes, even though we - a room full of queuing, getting-upset people who'd been waiting for hours - were a few feet away.

It's odd, being so comprehensively officially ignored by uniformed officers who simply pretend you are not there. You feel like a wraith. A pissed-off, hungry, invisible wraith. You feel like scum, in fact. You start to hate the police. And I don't hate the police, I have been treated brilliantly by the police I have come into contact with and am enormously grateful to the Operation Sapphire detectives who have helped me in the past with the stranger-attack in 2002, and to the Met police who are helping me now with a case of harrassment. But if a wussy liberal like me can get to the point of considering inciting a riot in a crappy North London police station out of sheer headbanging frustration then I am not surprised that ''community relations'' get a tad tense at times...

Still we all made the best of it, we angry ghosts waiting under the flourescent, flickering striplights. It would have been a lot worse if we'd all been having a go at each other while we were queueing. As it was, we all got on quite well. There was a cameraderie found which made me think that if I do end up in hell for all eternity, at least I'll get on with people.

At one point my friend, me, the Irish Man, Nice Sex Offender Who Needed to Sign Form, ASBO-Boys on Bail, Swedish Lost Property Girl and Woman with Clipboard had a perfectly serious conversation about whether we should pretend to have a mass brawl to get the police officers we could see through the glass of the untended reception desk to stop photocopying/drinking tea and come to the window and take some notice of the people waiting to talk to an empty desk.

The police officer manning the desk had gone, you see. We could still see her, through the glass. She was taking a detailed, handwritten statement off a man who had come in to complain of harrassment. His stalker had accompanied him to the police station, and continued to circle the reception area whilst we all queued. Occasionally she would rap on the door and gaze hungrily at the object of her desires through the glass as he talked to the (once) desk officer.

We all abandoned the fake riot idea in the end though, as one of the AsBoys had another suggestion...

'18.40AsBoy, who more closely resembles the Artful Dodger (the 60s film version) by the minute, hangs around the inner door. “If you kick it, they will come out,” he explains to us in matter-of-fact voice of experience. “But they *will* arrest you.” Start to weigh up pros and cons of this option.'

It's almost as if the police don't want you, surely not.

An officer came to the desk in the end, a sweet-faced dark-haired young woman who apologised for the delay when it was our turn at the window. She didn't know what to do with the SOCPA forms. We told her how to fill them in; she thanked us. We left. Then we looked at the forms. They hadn't been filled in, just photo-copied. We went back. We explained. She filled them in. Wrongly. 'Shall I stamp them?' she asked. We said, yes, please, it proves that we were here. That we exist and the station exists and we saw you and it wasn't all a dream.

Anyway, it takes more than a two+ hour wait to put me off legitimate political protest, and if that is the future - an interminable limbo of bureaucratic form-filling and waiting endlessly to be seen, heard, validated by an unsympathetic, chaotic State Machine - then I'm even more determined to make my point about why that's a bollocks way to carry on. Whilst I still can.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Carols in Parliament Square 20th Dec 7pm

Public Carol Service
Click here for more information.

UPDATE: Radio 4's Today are running a which law would you like to repeal? competition. See ScaryDuck. I'm voting to repeal Sections 132-138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 which bans the right of free assembly within 1km radius of Blair' s offices.

Oh Come All Ye Faithful to Parliament Square at 7pm on Wednesday 20th December where there will be a spontaneous demonstration of festive cheer, joy and hope expressed through the medium of peaceful carol-singing.

We did it last year and it was ace. BBC report. Urban 75 report. My blog reports. Tim's report, Guido's report

Please note that although, as I said, this is a carol service, technically it also qualifies as an unauthorised demonstration which you can be arrested for under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act legislation . You see, you can't peaceably gather within 1km of Tony Blair's office and protest or voice dissent any more. He doesn't like it. Laws were passed to deal with it. Silly laws. Laws that people will also be protesting about on Wednesday 20th December from 6pm-7pm in a Lone Mass 100% Legal Demonstration ( today's the last day for handing your forms in to the police, chaps, by the way)
Section 132 of the Serious and Organised Crimes and Police Act 2005 is a legislative sledgehammer to crack a nut - in this case, to remove the long-resident peace protester Brian Haw from outside Parliament and to control dissent. Section 132 - Demonstrations in vicinity of Parliament: Demonstrating without authorisation in designated area:(1) Any person who-(a) organises a demonstration in a public place in the designated area, or(b) takes part in a demonstration in a public place in the designated area, or(c) carries on a demonstration by himself in a public place in the designated area,is guilty of an offence if, when the demonstration starts, authorisation for the demonstration has not been given under section 134(2). A formal warning usually precedes any action, but the Police may arrest any person committing an offence under Section 132 of the Act and if found guilty that individual may be liable to a fine of up to £2500 and/or a term of imprisonment of up to 51 weeks.

You are all invited. And please do pass this on. The police are invited too. They were very shy last year. This year I will bring some mince pies to see if I can tempt them out of the shadows and encourage them to join in.

We will be collecting money by passing a bucket round to raise cash for Medical Aid for Iraqi Children. ( Perhaps the Police Benevolent Fund too?)

Information here .

''Shocking: Hacks illegal info rap''

Amidst all the chuntering about codes of conduct for bloggers, and the ongoing sneering by certain columnists at the blogosphere, it is illuminating to note this ( via Iain Dale).

Iain reveals...

''a report to be submitted to Parliament tomorrow by the Information Commissioner, which outlines the extent to which our national newspapers - and their journalists - are breaking the law to obtain confidential information illegally.
1. Daily Mail - 952 incidents by 58 different journalists
2. Sunday People - 802 incidents by 50 different journalists
3. Daily Mirror - 681 incidents by 45 different journalists
4. Mail on Sunday - 266 incidents by 33 different journalists
5. News of the World - 182 different incidents by 19 different journalists

There are several questions arising from this. If the authorities know the details of which newspapers use these agencies to break the law on their behalf, and if the agencies know which journalists have engaged their services, why are they not all joining News of the World reporter Clive Goodman in the dock this week? Goodman was caught out (and has pleaded guilty) intercepting mobile phone calls of the rich and famous, in particular the Royal Family. So far as I am aware no charges have been laid against any newspaper or journalist...''

Actually I have no interest in getting into a willy-waving competition with the MSM ( main stream media) since I see blogland and dead tree land as happily symbiotic and complementary. Hey, we're all writers, and writers like to be read and to write. But I will note in passing that pro journalists and media commentaters, spinmeisters and politicians and communications experts who jump into pulpits and admonish bloggers, who publish unpaid and alone without benefit of legal departments, sub editors, fact-checkers et al for passing 'dodgy' information on, having a cynical attitude and generally needing to pull their socks up might like to take a teensey weensy look at how they get their exclusives and the ethics of the practice of sub-contracting out the dirty work...

And while we are at it, all this personal info leaking all over the place - have a look at where it is coming from. The Hampshire detective agency acquired a lot of its information from government sources (DVLA, health facilities, Police National Computer...)

And they still think centralised databases and ID cards won't be open to abuse?
Like, dur.

Blogging on legalising drugs will have to wait as I have a chapter to finish.

UPDATE: The Telegraph is on it

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Somebody's daughter, somebody's friend...

The horrific murder of five young women in Suffolk is headline news. It has also re-opened the debate about prostitution. There is a real change, it seems to me, in the public's reaction to the murders of these vulnerable and marginalised young women. If you compare the news reporting and reaction to the Yorkshire Ripper case, notorious for comments such as ' he may now move to innocent victims' to today it is clear that there has been something of a sea-change in attitudes to the murder of prostitutes.

I checked the comments at the Daily Mail and found little condemnation of 'vice girls' and chunterings of 'well, what do you expect if you are a street prostitute'. Instead I found compassion and sympathy and people raising the issue of decriminalisation and legalisation, recognising that these women have little protection and lead desperate lives. And that thinking has been seen across the board. There are still some however who are saying that we cannot legalise prostitution because 'that condones it.'

I wanted to understand more about the argument for legalisation so I read the entire International Union of Sex Workers website today, which makes a compelling case for decriminalisation. Sex workers pay tax and national insurance, yet they have very little protection, especially street sex workers who often have chaotic lives with few choices and struggle with drug addiction, abusive pimps, beatings, robberies, rapes and worse. The international traffic in women and children is a modern day slave trade. It strikes me that it is an expensive and hypocritical morality that purses its lips at prostitution whilst sex workers suffer in dangerous working conditions. Like the drug trade, the sex trade has always been with us, and prohibition only serves the interests of organised crime and quadruples the damage done.

I have little patience with 'Christians' who condemn out of hand those whose lifestyles do not match their own high standards. As we approach Christmas, I am remembering the stories told of the son of an unmarried mother, whose family sought political asylum in a foreign land and were refugees during his babyhood, the man whose birth was attended by shepherds, the unclean outcasts of Jewish society, and by pagan foreigners, who as an adult sat and ate with the hated and the despised tax collectors and 'sinners', whose feet were washed by a prostitute who loved him, who said 'set the prisoners free, feed the hungry, clothe the naked', who condemned hypocrisy and who told those without sin themselves to throw the first stone. I wonder what Jesus would have said to those who say 'we are a Christian country' and who so saying turn their face away from a debate about how we can care for the poor, the dispossesed, the desperate, the terrible lives of those who we look past and do not see, until their thin bodies are found naked and dumped, and their young faces look out of the pages of the papers.

And while we are at it: legalise drugs as well. More on that later.

UPDATE: Oh dear, just when I thought sanity had struck the Mail, AN Wilson comes out with this bilge, one of the most stupid pieces I have ever seen. Kate Moss is to blame for the murders?

UPDATE 2: Much more sensible stuff from Archrights and NotSaussure

18 Doughty Street

Have been in bed with headache all afternoon probably caused by not getting to sleep until 3.30am and waking up at 7am. I'll be on 18 Doughty Street at 10pm, thank god for painkillers. Also on the show will be Patrick Mercer, the Conservative Homeland Security Spokesman whom I have met on several occasions when asked to come in and comment on terrorism stories. He has previously supported an independent inquiry into the London bombings. It will be interesting to hear whether David Cameron has come out in support of one yet.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Join me at the final simultaneous lone mass demo of 2006

What better way that to mark the ending of 12 months of blogging, and celebrating free speech, than by coming together in festive individualistic harmony to defend free speech outside Parliament, still the seat of democracy, in the now-legendary Lone Mass Demonstrations organised by comedian Mark Thomas , his supporters and others who wish in the future to proudly tell their grandchildren how they politely, legally and enjoyably fought for freedom? Well, it's a great week for it. Come and join me....

First off, Brian Haw and the SOCPA test case.

What's that? In a nutshell: Brian Haw faces a jail sentence for failing to comply with controversial new anti-protest law ( SOCPA).

What can I do? Turn up in support and/or pass this on.
Where? Monday 11th to Wednesday 13 December, Marylebone Road Magistrates' Court
9.30am gathering of support, 10am trial

I'll be doing the supporting Brian thing on Monday at half-nine outside the Marylebone magistrates court, followed by...

....the final Simulataneous Lone Mass Demonstration in Parliament Square of the year.

Remind me?
The idea of the Simulataneous Lone Mass demonstrations is that you draw attention to the stupidity of the Serious Organised Crime & Police Act laws which prohibit peaceful mass demos outside Parliament without permission. By applying to protest as an individual about anything you like - silly or serious - and doing so, as a lone individual - together - simulataneously - with other lone protesters - and by applying en masse to protest as individuals - you draw attention to the crapness of the law. Whilst obeying the letter of it.

It is 100% legal, it is making a serious point in a satirical way and it is great fun. One day you will tell your grandchildren you were there, I promise.)

Over to the organisers...

''The end of the year is upon us, it's time for the last Mass Lone Demo of 2006 and we've heard it on the grapevine that someone rather special will be joining the cause. News of the disturbing erosion of UK civil liberties has travelled across the world and Father Christmas himself will be making an application to demonstrate in Parliament Sq on the 20th December, handing in his form at Charing Cross Police Station on Monday 11th December between 12-2pm.

Also in attendance will be several of his elf helpers who have beenequally distressed by this gross attack on the right to protest. One elf, speaking to us on condition of anonymity, said: "Particularly at this timeof peace on earth and goodwill to all men it shocks and saddens me that theUK government has implemented such draconian legislation."

Please come and show your support for Santa and his friends and hand in your own application for the MLD. If you are unable to attend, you can of course hand in your application up to six days before the 20th December ( ie. by the 14th December)

The demonstration itself will as usual be in Parliament Square from 6pm until 7pm on 20th December.

(The application forms can be got by going here

or if in dire straits, by emailing me at - RN)

Please forward this on to as many people as possible and let's make this last demo of the year a real cracker.
If you have any questions then please contact either
or Fizza at

Thanks, on behalf of Mark Thomas. Mob No: 07952 145854'' ( this is not my mobile but the mobile of one of the demo organisers - RN)

NOTES: The completed forms should be sent back to Charing Cross Police Station by one of the following methods.
1. Hand delivery to Charing Cross Police Station up to six days before the 20th December
2. Sent by recorded delivery to Operations Office,Charing Cross Police Station, Agar Street, London, WC2N 4JP
3. Taken into any Metropolitan Police Station, the Station Officer should sign the form in the appropriate place.
They should then:(a) Photocopy the form and hand you a copy.(b) Send a copy by fax to this office on 47527 ( c) Send the original by internal dispatch to Operations Office at CX.''

(Detail, detail to remind you of previous events
Review of what a top laugh it was last time)

Remember! Demonstrating is completely LEGAL as long as you have gone through the charade of getting written permission. Got it?

Here's a quick reminder....

(a) Support Brian Haw, Mon 11th Dec - Wed 13th 9.30am Magistrates Court ( I'll be there Monday9.30am)
(b) Hand in forms for SOCPA protest with Santa Monday 11th 12-2pm - ( I'll be there Monday 12pm) or until 14th Dec by hand/recorded delivery at Charing Cross police station, then roll up forthe ....
c) 20th December Final lone mass demo of the year.

Thank you. See you there!
Might sing a few carols too. And down the Red Lion after, of course.

Parliament Square SOCPA test case

Some of you may remember the various anti SOCPA protests to defend free speech that we have had this year and last year. The unlawful Carol Service, the Simulataneous Lone Mass Demonstrations...Now we have a test case with the irrespressible Brian Haw. Whatever your opinion is of Brian, I support his right, and the right of anyone else, to stand outside Parliament and peacefully protest against the Government of the day. It is quite outrgaeous that the great clunking fist of an unfair law was brought in to crush this man and his protest against foreign policy. So here's the update....

PRESS RELEASE - Brian Haw faces jail sentence for failing to comply with controversial new anti-protest law
Monday 11th to Wednesday 13 December, Marylebone Road Magistrates' Court
9.30am gathering of support, 10am trial

Brian Haw, the Parliament Square peace protestor, is on trial next week in the latest in a series of cases relating to the controversial ban on unauthorised demonstrations near Parliament under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA). Mr Haw has been continuing his vigil for peace and justice in Iraq and elsewhere for over five and a half years.
His display of placards, banners andother items opposite Parliament is testament to the suffering and injustice caused in other countries as a result of the UK's foreign policy.

Mr Haw is charged under Section 134 of SOCPA with failing to comply with the conditions that the police imposed on his protest in May this year.[A]

The trial will be the first test in court of the legality and reasonableness of the conditions (restrictions) that can be applied to aprotest under SOCPA. One of the arguments put forward will be that thec onditions are incompatible with freedom of expression and association,as enshrined in the Human Rights Act. [B]

Among the range of conditions placed on Mr Haw's protest by the police is one relating to the size of his display. Shortly after this condition the night of 23 May in which they seized most of the display to reduce it to a fraction of what it previously. [C]

Mr Haw's defence team include Ian MacDonald QC of Garden Court Chambers who has a reputation as one of the most progressive lawyers in the country, taking on criminal, immigration and race relations cases. In2004 he publicly opposed the government's indefinite detention of terror suspects. [D]

The consequences of this case for Mr Haw could be very serious - if convicted, he faces up to 51 weeks in prison or a substantial fine. Mr Haw said, "This case is about love, peace and justice for all. It is about humanity, decency, democracy versus genocide, torture, diabolical cruelty and mindless greed. Its an age-old battle for truth and sweet reason to prevail."


The court will start at 10am. There will be a demonstration of support outside from 9.30am. Marylebone Road Magistrates' Court is at 181 Marylebone Road, London,NW1 5QJ. Nearest tubes: Edgware Road, Baker Street. The court is nearMarylebone mainline station.
Contact Emma Sangster, supporter of Brian Haw, on 07791 486484 or LauraHiggs at Bindmans and Partners, 020 7833

A. After the Court of Appeal hearing on 8th May, Brian Haw lost his exemption from the ban on unauthorised protest in the 'designated area'around Parliament under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.
(Judges rule against peace vigil, BBC, 8 May 2006 )

B. Under Section 134 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005,the police can impose conditions on a demonstration to control it. Theseconditions can be extremely wide ranging, covering anything from theplace and time where the demonstration may take place, how long it cango on for, how many people can take part, the number and size of banners or placards used and the maximum permissible noise levels.

C. Police seize Parliament Square protester's placards, The Guardian,Tuesday May 23, 2006

D. Garden Court Chambers

Parliament Square website for latest updates

UPDATE: 11-13 December 2006: Brian was on trial for failing to comply with SOCPA conditions from. See here for more. Read reports day 1, day 2 day 3The trial has been adjourned until 22 January 2006 at City of Westminster Magistrates Court while the judge considers the arguments that Brian's lawyers put forward that there is no case to answer.Meanwhile his legal team are pursuing both a judicial review of the conditions and a petition to the House of Lords for an appeal of the Court of Appeal 8 May decision

I was too ill with bronchitis to make it: please see carol service and 100% legal demo or follow website for next steps

Friday, December 08, 2006

''It's political correctness gone mad'' gone mad

''The dead hand of political correctness is throttling the life out of the festive spirit," thundered the Sun, announcing, like the Mail, a front-page campaign to defend Christmas. (In Birmingham, the paper noted despairingly, "Christmas has been rebranded as Winterval.") Spurred on by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, and by the Christian Muslim Forum, which has launched a national battle against the de-Christianising of Christmas, local leaders of three faiths wrote to Franks in Luton this week. They warned darkly of the "anger within religious communities" that might erupt if he did not "refrain from renaming the Christmas festival using another (non-religious) name".
All of which might be reasonable, were it not for a few awkward facts...''


Cartoon from This Modern World

UPDATE: US loonery from Fox News.

Hat-tip, Urban 75 where I like to post during breaks and bouts of coughing .

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Sharpener on Christmas Spirit

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

On receiving a rejection letter from a publisher...

From A Few Words Before We Go...

Dear ejh
We are writing to express our delight that we are able to reject your application for a post within our organisation.We understand that you may feel disappointed by this rejection and we would be extremely pleased, to the point of jubilation, if this were so. We wish to make it clear that causing you personal unhappiness is a goal towards which we attempt to strive and we are delighted if we are able to achieve it.

Frankly though we must tell you that we were extremely disturbed that you should have considered applying for a post here and we are conducting an urgent review of our systems, personnel and procedures to ensure that such a thing never occurs again. Even the thought that you might have liked to be associated with us fills us with a feeling of self-loathing that is only partially ameliorated by the joy we feel in turning you down. We feel slighted, but worse than slighted. We have been insulted, but worse than insulted. We feel dirty. But worse than dirty: we feel unwholesome...


Monday, December 04, 2006

Bringing it home

"We therefore reject completely the idea that government actions are breeding resentment and alienating Muslim communities." - Local Government Minister Phil Woolas, today.

Today: 'UK policies aid Muslim extremism' ( BBC) Read the report Bringing It Home' in full. It is extremely readable and I applaud it.

  • ''British Muslims are being driven into the arms of violent extremists by official attempts to engage with them after the 7 July bombs, a study claims. Policies since the attacks in London have "driven a wedge" between Muslims and the wider community rather than isolate extremists, the report says. The study, by think tank Demos, accused ministers of failing to engage Muslims over British foreign policy in Iraq. It called for "community relations to be at the heart of security policy". ( from BBC summary)

    June 2005: A month before the July 7 bombings, security and intelligence officials working from inside M15 HQ warned that in the June JTAC report that "events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist-related activity in the UK". The report's findings were published in the New York Times but not the UK.

    2004: A year before the July 7 bombings, a link between the government's foreign policy and disillusion among young Muslims - strenuously denied by ministers - was also made in a paper prepared for Tony Blair on the orders of the home and foreign secretaries.
    The paper,
    Young Muslims and Extremism, ( please read, is is so prescient, it makes me sad) which included input from the security services, said British foreign policy "seems a particularly strong cause of disillusionment amongst young Muslims". The war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan were all seen by a section of British Muslims as being acts against Islam. "This disillusionment may contribute to a sense of helplessness with regard to the situation of Muslims in the world, with a lack of any tangible 'pressure valves', in order to vent frustrations, anger or dissent," said the paper.

    Reapeating things at least three times is meant to be the optimum way of ensuring your audience really understand and remember your points.

    Blair was told a year before the attacks that his foreign policy was a recruiting seargeant for home grown terrorism. He was told the same thing a month before the attacks. The ISC report published after the bombings stated the development of a home-grown threat and radicalisation of British citizens were "not fully understood or applied to strategic thinking". Well, after July 7th they damn well should have been grasped.

    But it seems the Government STILL won't listen. It only pretends to listen and it will only talk on its own terms. It absolutely won't talk about the effect its own policies are having in increasing resentment and the growth of extremism. So the ''debate'' it pretends to be having is not honest, nor helpful. It is in fact, counter productive. It is not a debate at all. It is a sham, a trick, and a lie, and lying to people makes them more angry and more distrustful. And easy prey for extremist messages.

    As we see today in the report from Demos today.

    If the Government is too frightened to face up to an uncomfortable debate on whether its own policies have contributed to the growth of extremism - indeed, still denies it outright after having been told at least three times that yes, there is a link - then the Government is comprised of craven cowards who do not even have the guts to stand up for the policies they make.

    Why so scared, Mr Blair, Mr Woolas and co? It's not you who gets blown up. Here or anywhere else.

    To criticise foreign policy isn't to suggest that the terrorists have just cause or that the Government is somehow complicit. But the fact is, the policies HAVE bred resentment, and some - horrible minority - have taken that resentment and made it murderous. And many more are angry at the inconsistent and panicky official responses to the murderous few, which alientates many and are often unfair and ill-informed and which also feeds resentment, continuing the cycle.

    You still want to have those policies, okay, then defend them. You were told the were risks, you were told that

  • they would likely contribute to the rise of extremism ( a year before 7/7)
  • that they were contributing to the rise of extremism ( a month before 7/7)
  • and that they did contribute to the rise of extremism ( official reports after 7/7)
  • (Oh, and Mr Blair was also told that invading Iraq would raise the risk of terrorist activity a month BEFORE he invaded Iraq)

If you still think they are still good policies, that they make us safer, and the overall benefit to the public is worth the unfortunate side-effect of the rise of extremism, and the anger and alientation of large swathes of the population ( and I don't mean only Muslims) , can you please come out and say that? Then we might be able to have a debate about whether your belief in your policies is reasonable and justified.

Can you please, however, stop denying the link between Government policies and the growth - not the cause - the growth - of extremism, because we are not stupid. Thank you.

UPDATE: More from Not Saussure and novelist Dave Hill whose book ''The Adoption'' is OUT NOW.

Weapons of Mass Delusion

Why, when our army is over-stretched and under-equipped and fighting on two fronts right now this minute, are we are we spending £25 billion on weapons we hope to never use in the future?

Why are we lecturing ''rogue states'' on how they must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons and then busily upgrading our own?

Who do we think we are ''deterring''? What do we think we are deterring them from? Why do we think they will take a blind bit of notice of a Northern European island which has spent billions on some flash new submarines?

Why not put the big boys toys away, Mr Blair and think about what we could do with the money - our money - this is equivalent to over £800 per taxpayer - that might genuinely be useful and make us more secure in the future?

If this is part of Tony Blair's bloody legacy on which he hopes'' history'' will judge him, then he needs to consider that the history books will be concerned with the twenty-first century, not the twentieth.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The hijab shopping revelation

I've stayed in the house for the last three days, feeling iller and iller. As the barking sealion cough was getting worse and I had started running a temperature, I ended up making an appointment to go to the emergency drop in doctor's surgery in Harringey. Getting there was pandemonium due to the Arsenal/Spurs clash at the local Emirates stadium, but I eventually got my prescription for Amoxycillin and headed back down Green Lanes. It was a cold night, and I was bundled up in jumpers and a turquiose pashmina wrapped round my throat as I negotiated the busy streets, pounding past the greengrocers, the bread shops, smelling roasting lamb from the kebab resturants, glimpsing Christmas tat in the pound shops, jewellers piled with golden chains, pawn shops with even more of the golden chains on display...I stopped to buy mangoes, then as my ears were freezing, stopped again to take off my big blue scarf and wrap it round my head tightly, covering up all my hair and tucking it into my jumper, under my coat, like a hijab.

Walking back home it was a revelation. Instead of running the gauntlet down *Blackstock Rd, negotiating all the young men who hang around the coffee shops and mobile phone shops most of the day and evening, instead of the usual hisses and clucks and ''hello sweetheart''s I was treated with instant respect. They just got out of the way. In the halal shop where I stopped to buy a hot spit-roast chicken I was let through the door first, and served first. And I got a much bigger chicken than the non-Muslim Irish man who was in the queue after me, for the same price.

My final destination was the Turkish shop where I am mates with the man who runs it with his family. He remarked on my change of appearance. I explained. He looked cross.
'I know those boys, I didn't realise they give you problems,' he tutted. I said it wasn't a problem, just a nuisance, as I didn't especially like getting back-chatted by random youths every single time I went out for fruit or the papers. I explained that it wasn't me particularly; they said ''hello lady'' and blocked the path of every woman under forty who had uncovered hair and was without a male escort. They were just being boys, I supposed. But it was annoying at times. Sometimes in the evenings it was a bit threatening, though I knew they wouldn't touch me, just crowd the pavement whispering inanities.

''They think you are a Muslim lady now, they are respectful now'', he said, ''but they should have good manners to every lady''.
I said, well, never mind.

But I liked wearing my headscarf today. I think I'll wear it again, I said, when I want a hassle-free shopping experience. Then I bought some whisky, to make a hot toddy with, and we both laughed, because today I felt like I had the best of both worlds.

* edited because it was/is minimal in Green Lanes, it's Blackstock Rd where it is noticeable and to which this story mostly refers