Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: Theresa May

The Dark Side of the DUP

A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on Friday November 30 2018

http://www.ceylontoday.lk/news-search/padraig%20colman/print-more/18690

Backstabbers

The DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) has started to withdraw its support from Theresa May’s beleaguered government and plans to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit deal. They abstained on the first two votes on the Finance Bill, and eight DUP MPs voted against the government in a third vote, on an amendment to the bill proposed by the Labour party.

Dubious Friends

When Theresa May called a snap general election in 2017 (despite there being a fixed-term parliament as claimed for Sri Lanka) it turned out to be serious error of judgement. The Conservatives won the most seats but failed to get an overall majority, worse than the majority of 17 she had before the election. The incumbent Conservative prime minister, announced her intention on 9 June 2017 to form a minority government with support from the DUP, whom she described as “friends and allies”. Those friends and allies were even stranger bedfellows than MS and RW. The DUP is the party founded by the Reverend Iain Paisley. It has fundamentalist views on homosexuality and abortion as well as climate change. More worryingly it has had ties with terrorist organisations. Peter Robinson, who was DUP leader and Northern Ireland’s first minister was an active member of Ulster Resistance. One of the things that group did was collaborate with terrorist organisations such as the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association to smuggle arms into the UK. Chris Patten described the deal as toxic.

The DUP are a rum bunch of individuals. Arlene Foster, the current leader, wasted £500 million of public money by her poor oversight of renewable energy incentive scheme; Jonathan Bell conveyed a public image of Christian rectitude but got horribly drunk in New York while promoting Northern Ireland; Ian Paisley Jr was suspended from parliament for taking bribes from the Rajapaksas; David Simpson opposed same-sex marriage and lobbied to have creationism included in the science curriculum in Northern Ireland schools; Gregory Campbell has called for the reintroduction of the death penalty and described homosexuality as an “evil, wicked, abhorrent practice”; Jim Shannon was voted the least sexy MP in 2011; Sammy Wilson has been accused of condoning calls that Catholics should be “expelled, nullified, or interned”; Nigel Dodds attended the wake of paramilitary leader John Bingham; Emma Little-Pengelly is the daughter of Noel Little, leader of the Ulster Resistance movement in the 1980s, who was convicted for being involved in a gun-running plot.

With friends like this…!

Money Tree

Protracted and difficult talks between these “friends” led to an agreement which secured DUP confidence-and-supply support for a Conservative minority government led by Theresa May. A confidence and supply agreement is one whereby a party will support the government in motions of confidence and appropriation or budget (supply) votes, by either voting in favour or abstaining. The DUP’s Brexit spokesman, Sammy Wilson, told the BBC it did not consider the recent votes a breach of their confidence and supply agreement.

May’s government, which had long been practising austerity and bleating about the lack of a “money tree”, agreed to put an extra £1bn into Northern Ireland for infrastructure, education, health, to maintain the guarantee to increase state pensions by at least 2.5% a year, to maintain defence spending, and agriculture spending in Northern Ireland at the same level for the rest of the current parliament (which theoretically takes us to June 2022). There was concern that the money could only be spent when Stormont was restored. In March, the government announced that £410m of the £1bn deal would be included in a new Stormont budget with money dished out to various areas. Downing Street has said that so far £430m has been released. In 2017/18, £20m was given to health and education while the £410m allocated for the Stormont budget is currently going through parliamentary approval procedures.

Are the DUP grateful? Are they ‘eck as like!

DUP Buys Ads where its Voters Won’t See

Two days before the Brexit referendum in June 2016, the Metro freesheet carried a four-page glossy propaganda supplement urging readers to vote Leave. It cost £282,000 and was paid for by the DUP, even though Metro does not circulate in Northern Ireland. The law is different in Northern Ireland and political parties do not have to declare the source of their funding. The DUP initially refused to give any information and then grudgingly said that the money came from “an organisation in England that wants to see the Union kept”. Later they disclosed that the money came from a much larger donation of £425,622 from “pro-Union business people” via the CRC (Constitutional Research Council).

The BBC Spotlight programme revealed that the Metro ad had been placed by one Richard Cook. Spotlight’s investigation of Cook revealed a long trail of illegal activities. Retired FBI Special Agent Gregory Coleman told the programme: “I think there is a good chance that law enforcement in New York City would be interested in taking a further look at this and possibly opening something up”.

Five Star

In April 2013, Prince Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, with Richard Cook, jointly founded a company called Five Star Investments. Prince Nawwaf is listed on the company’s initial registration as the holder of 75% of the shares. He was 80, had suffered a stroke and used a wheelchair. He was a very powerful and influential man in Saudi Arabia and well-known internationally. Why was he teaming up with a dodgy non-entity like Richard Cook? The nature of the company’s business is obscure. Five Star never filed accounts. In August 2014, the Companies Office in Edinburgh threatened to strike it off and in December it was indeed dissolved.

As well as being vice chairman of the Scottish Conservatives, Cook’s illustrious CV includes being accused of presenting fake documents to the authorities in 2009 to illegally ship used tires to India and he left a shipping company with a bill of more than £1m. He was a founding director and shareholder of a company called DDR Recycling in Glasgow which went out of business owing £150,000 in unpaid tax. In Ukraine, Cook’s company signed an $80m contract in 2013 supposedly for the purchase of used railway tracks. The person behind the company in Ukraine was a convicted criminal from Germany who had been sentenced to eight years in jail for his role in a large-scale food fraud.

Saudi Connection

Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz died in September 2015. He was the twenty-second son of Ibn Saud, born in 1932. He became a senior member of the House of Saud and was a close ally of King Abdullah. He was thoroughly familiar with international policy and law, and was also an expert on Middle East affairs. In September 2001, he was appointed director general of the Saudi intelligence agency, Al Mukhabarat Al A’amah. His eldest son has been Saudi ambassador to the UK and Ireland since 2005. The son ran up debts of more than £3m in an orgy of acquisition of luxury goods. Bell-Pottinger, who made shedloads of money doing a grand job with Sri Lanka’s image, handled PR for the profligate prince.

Constitutional Research Council

Richard Cook is the frontman for a shadowy organisation called the CRC, which helped to fund the DUP’s Leave campaign in Northern Ireland during the Brexit referendum in 2016. The CRC has also funded the European Research Group (which includes Jacob Rees-Mogg) and its chairman, the current (i.e. for this week) Brexit Secretary of State, Steve Baker. The CRC has no formal or legal status and refuses to name its members. There is no evidence that it generates income. It seems to exist merely to funnel money from dodgy sources into political campaigns. The un-Presbyterian life-style of the ambassador shows there is a lot of money slopping around the Saudi royal family.

Where Does the Money Come from?

Open Democracy is an independent global media platform partly funded by George Soros. OD did a lot of thorough research to eliminate wealthy donors from the list of possible benefactors of CRC. OD were fairly confident in saying who did not give the money to the DUP but are still appealing to readers for information who did give it.

As Fintan O’Toole put it: “The UK electoral commission is clear: ‘a donation of more than £500 cannot be accepted… if the donation is from a source that cannot be identified’. The legal onus is on the DUP to establish that the real donor was entitled to put money into a UK political campaign. If it can’t do that, it has to repay the £425,622. Since it has not done so, we have to assume it knows the true source is not, for example, a foreign government – which would be illegal.”

The DUP seems to be keeping company out of keeping with its Spartan and dour Presbyterian ethos. It gets worse. They recently embarrassed themselves by inviting Boris Johnson as their keynote speaker.

Windrush Part Three: Justice Denied

A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday May 10 2018.

For every horrific case of detention and the denial of rights there is a public policy decision that delivered the hostile environment in which such injustices thrive and become normal. David Lammy MP.

 

Motes and Beams

The British government, whether Conservative or Labour, never tires of criticizing Sri Lanka’s human rights record. Nearly ten years ago, David Miliband condoned horrible tortures while calling on Sri Lanka to let LTTE butchers off the hook. Today, Conservatives support calls for the release of Tamil political prisoners. I hesitate to engage in whataboutery, but the Windrush affair brings to light a lot of mote and beam stuff.

Former Labour Home Secretary John Reid famously said the Home Office as he found it was “not fit for purpose”. What is the purpose of the Home Office? The Home Office website says this: “The first duty of the government is to keep citizens safe and the country secure. The Home Office has been at the front line of this endeavour since 1782. As such, the Home Office plays a fundamental role in the security and economic prosperity of the United Kingdom.”

It has kept some of its citizens “safe” by detaining and deporting others without due process of law.

The Lies and Incompetence Continue

The Windrush issue is no longer hitting the headlines, but the lying liars are still lying. Immigration minister Caroline Nokes told the Home Affairs Committee on May 9 that she did not know of any wrongful deportations. Immigration Enforcement chief Hugh Ind said he knew of a ‘handful’ of cases. The truth is that the Home Office is now investigating 8,000 cases. The previous Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, was an embarrassment when up against the lethal forensic questioning of Yvette Cooper. On May 9, Nokes and two officials were not able to answer basic simple questions about the system. This is such an important issue and the people who are supposed to be in charge haven’t got a clue what’s going on.

Contempt for Rule of Law

As well as Yvette Cooper, David Lammy has been one of the most impressive of British politicians in recent months. The Labour MP for Tottenham has spoken with passion and reason about  knife crime, the Grenfell disaster (he described the fire as corporate manslaughter and called for arrests to be made) and the Windrush scandal. The British government criticized IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps in Sri Lanka but now hauls off innocent grannies in the middle of the night, puts them in detention centres and sends them off to the West Indies in handcuffs on secret charter flights. Lammy says “Each case is directly linked to a policy that ignores the principle of habeas corpus by imprisoning innocent people without reference to a judge, jury or evidence of guilt.“

Lammy voted against the 2014 Immigration Bill, the codifying of Theresa May’s “hostile environment”, and described it as “a stain on our democracy”.  He was born in Britain and his parents were from Guyana. Despite great adversity (his father deserted the family when David was a child) he has been successful. He is a Lincoln’s Inn barrister and a graduate of Harvard Law School (the first black Briton to be accepted at Harvard). In the debate, he quoted from the Magna Carta: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled. Nor will we proceed with force against him except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”

Hostility

The “hostile environment” policy on immigration was devised during the time of the coalition when Cameron was prime minister. It caused a fierce battle in the cabinet room between Home Secretary May and Nicky Morgan, then Education Secretary. Morgan had, along with the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, raised concerns that May’s new policy for illegal immigrants would turn teachers and health workers into immigration officials. Morgan questioned the very principle behind the “hostile environment” and expressed fears that it would turn teachers, health workers, employers and landlords into immigration snitches. There is something Nazi about the idea.

Stubborn May

Many Tories would love the government go beyond changing the name of the policy from “hostile environment” to “compliant environment” and would urge them to abandon the idea of deportation targets altogether. It is a hostage to failure – providing quarterly reminders that the government is not achieving its targets. However, what seemed to some as a virtue in May – her dogged determination to get a job done even if she did not much agree with it – is now seen as stubbornness where pragmatism might be more appropriate.

Is the deportation policy worth all the hassle? The NHS confederation said seven London trusts had reported that 53 doctors had been denied visas. More than 30 health trusts in the North-West have written to the Government demanding that around 100 junior doctors from India be allowed to work in their hospitals and health centres. There was a Financial Times story suggesting overseas students were wrongly deported over language tests. At time of writing, I had not been able to confirm this but there is a rumour going around that Home Office civil servants were paid cash bonuses to hit deportation targets.

New Brooms

A fifth of May’s Cabinet have departed since the June 2017 general election. None of these resignations has been Brexit-related. It is hard to find quality replacements from lower down the ranks. Look at the poor quality of the personnel handling Brexit. The new man taking the poisoned chalice of the Home Office is Sajid Javid, described as the first BAME to be appointed to one of the great offices of state. Like David Lammy, Javid overcame many disadvantages to become very successful. His father arrived in Britain from Pakistan, so the story goes, with just a pound in his pocket. He became a bus driver in Rochdale but the family moved to Bristol to run a shop. Javid was educated at a comprehensive and borrowed money to begin investing in shares at the age of 14.  He graduated in economics at Exeter University and then went into finance. His first job was with Chase Manhattan and he became a vice president at 25. By the time he left Deutsche Bank in 2009 to pursue a career in politics he was earning £3 million a year.

Casino Culture

The Conservative party spins Javid’s ‘emerging markets’ experience as, ‘helping raise investment for developing countries.’ The reality is somewhat different.  Bryan Appleyard wrote: “Mr Javid seems to have been one of those bankers who, in a just society, would now be languishing in a prison cell picking oakum and humming Emmylou Harris’s Broken Man’s Lament.”

He was at the heart of the credit trading business and was responsible for structuring an emerging-market synthetic CDO that incurred millions of dollars’ worth of losses for investors. A former Deutsche Bank colleague said Javid “is spinning his former career” to show himself as a sober investment banker. In reality, he was a structured credit trader at the heart of the business that precipitated the global financial crisis.

Javid defended his practice: “As long as investors understand the risk/rewards of an emerging-market CDO, they are very appropriate. Investors are getting a huge amount of leverage and they are comfortable taking the risk”. Moody’s downgraded the ratings when by May 2009, they discovered that losses on defaulted assets in the Craft EM CLO 2006-1 pool stood at $32 million. Arco Capital tried to take Deutsche Bank to court in September 2012 over the $37 million in losses it incurred by investing in the deal.

 

Javid left Deutsche Bank in 2009, just as the full extent of the firm’s credit-related losses were becoming apparent. In 2010, he ran for safe Conservative seat of Bromsgrove.

Javid’s Illiberal Record

Gary Younge (the veteran black Guardian journalist) thought it sloppy liberal thinking to hope that Javid’s appointment would make a difference. He described the new Home Secretary as: “a man who extols his own story as an example of what is possible, even as he actively seeks to ensure that this story should be denied to those who come after him.” Looking after number one and his like.

When the UK’s top tax rate was reduced, Javid spoke to Goldman Sachs bankers in person to ensure that bonuses at the firm in London weren’t delayed. In 2012, he urged Britons not to “slam the City,” saying it represented some of the best of capitalism. In Parliament he has voted for reducing the rate of corporation tax; for reducing capital gains tax.

He has voted consistently against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices; consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability; consistently voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits; generally voted against laws to promote equality and human rights; consistently voted for mass surveillance of people’s communications and activities.

He has voted against a right to remain for EU nationals already in living in the UK; voted against UK membership of the EU; voted for stronger enforcement of immigration rules; consistently voted for a stricter asylum system.

Will this man make the Home Office fit for his purpose?

Compassion and the Cruelty of Robots

Gaby Hinsliffe wrote in the Guardian that “The common thread in so many of the crises now engulfing Theresa May’s government is policy that completely fails to recognise the complexity of people’s lives: a sort of rigid, soulless, unthinking bureaucracy that leads to casual cruelty.” She called it the “dogged pursuit of bad ideas”.

 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has often had harsh things to say about Sri Lanka. In a recent speech he could have been thinking about what we are seeing in the UK. “The indifference of a large part of the business community worldwide, who would still pursue profit even at the cost of great suffering done to others. The indifference of a large segment of the intelligence and security community, for whom the pursuit of information eclipses all the rights held by others, and who describe challenges to terrible, discriminatory practices as treachery…. Our world is dangerously close to unmooring itself from a sense of compassion, slowly becoming not only a post-truth but also a post-empathetic world. “

 

 

 

 

 

Windrush Part Two: Brilled and Grilled

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday May 3 2018

 

Sir Alan Duncan, foreign office minister, was brave, foolhardy or arrogant enough to allow himself to be interviewed by Andrew Neil (known to Private Eye as Brillo Pad). Duncan had the gall face to try to ingratiate himself with a flippant approach.  Duncan blathered about “administrative cock-up”, “quirk of history”.

Brillo would have none of that. “Not a quirk, it happens because of an uncaring government that’s prepared to lock up people in a detention centre who’ve lived here all their lives … you took away their right to work, you took away their right to welfare, you took away their right to a pension. How were they meant to live?” He finally impaled Duncan with: “The government has required people to produce four documents for each year that they have been living in the UK. Could you produce such documents?” The little man admitted that he couldn’t. Most of the people who were threatened had lived in the UK and paid taxes for decades. They were firmly in the system. Big Brother could easily prove their bona fides without documents.

It Weren’t Me Guv

Baroness Warsi claims to accept some responsibility because she was part of the government, but it was not really her fault. What could she do? Warsi said that there was bitter opposition in cabinet to some of the policies May pursued while she was Home Secretary between 2010 and 2016. “We were wedded to unrealistic targets, targets that we still haven’t met unfortunately a decade on, and yet we continue to remain wedded to targets. And what we ended up with was, I think, the unintended consequences of the policy we are now implementing.”

Lies

In spite of what Baroness Warsi said, current Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, told MPs: “We don’t have targets for removals”, adding “that’s not how we operate”. Her chief immigration official Glynn Williams also told MPs such targets did not exist. A 2015 report soon emerged showing there were targets. “We were gobsmacked by what she said, and that she stuck to her guns,” a Home Office source told the Guardian. “It is inconceivable that Amber Rudd did not know about the targets.” At one point, Rudd was telling the Commons she would scrap removals targets that she had the day before said did not exist.

Rudd had leadership ambitions and had been trying to undermine Theresa May and construct an image of herself as the good guy. She herself has been embarrassed by a document obtained by the Guardian in which she set out her “ambitious” plan to increase removals and focus officials on “arresting, detaining and forcibly removing illegal migrants” while “ruthlessly” prioritising Home Office resources for the programme.

You Just Can’t Get the Staff

Rudd  tried to blame her civil servants, portraying them as faceless bureaucrats who misinterpret the spirit of the government’s intentions. Dave Penman is the head of the FDA, the trade union for senior civil servants. He says: “The Home Office is not a sentient being, so this was implicitly a criticism of her staff. If she’s serious about understanding why this might be the case, she would do better to consider the political strategy and rhetoric adopted by her government over many years, rather than suggesting it is individual civil servants who have lost their focus.”

Unintended Consequences

The Guardian on April 29 published a private letter from Amber Rudd to Downing Street sent in January 2017 in which she sets an “ambitious but deliverable” target for an increase in enforced deportations. She said that she was refocusing work to achieve the “aim of increasing the number of enforced removals by more than 10% over the next few years”. Home Office sources told the Guardian that Immigration Enforcement has been working all year to reach the target of 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18. They were worried about failing. To meet the goal, they needed to deport 250 people a week, but were “only” deporting about 225 a week. Poor show! “At the Home Office we work in a target culture. The civil service is completely target-based. That’s all we do. It is shame-faced nonsense for Amber Rudd to say otherwise.”

Rudd has now done the “decent” thing and resigned but she is still lying in her resignation letter to the prime minister and May is supporting her lies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WindrushPart One

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday April 26 2018.

 

A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect. WEB Du Bois.

Hostile Environment

The Queen recently announced that Prince Charles will take over from her as Head of the Commonwealth. Anitha Sethi shook his hand recently at a Commonwealth function. Her ancestors were from Guyana and her skin is brown. The future Head of the Commonwealth said: “Where are you from?” She said “Manchester”. The Prince retorted jovially: “Well, you don’t look like it!” The Commonwealth summit was meant to project an image of a ‘global Britain’ open to the best and brightest once the UK is free of the shackles of the EU. future.

When the Queen formally opened the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on April 19, revelations relating to what has become known as “the Windrush generation” were casting a cloud over the proceedings. A large number of people who went  legally to the UK have found themselves wrongly caught up in the “hostile environment” Theresa May said in 2012 that she wanted to create for illegal immigrants. Legislation passed in 2014 required employers, NHS staff, private landlords and others to demand evidence of people’s citizenship or immigration status. An estimated 50,000 people face the risk of deportation if they had failed to formalise their residency status. Many have lost their benefits, jobs, homes and access to health care.

Even before 2012, people were being deported in murky circumstances. According to The Scotsman, since 2010, more than 7,600 people have been forcibly, fitted with restraints and escorted by security personnel, sent to Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana, Sri Lanka and Jamaica on charter flights in secret, in the middle of the night.

Welcome to Britain

In June 1948, the ship Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Dock, east of London, with 492 migrants from the West Indies. They were responding to an advertisement in a Jamaican newspaper offering cheap transport for anybody wanting work in the UK. Acute labour shortages led Britain to encourage mass immigration and the British Nationality Act of 1948 gave UK citizenship to all people living in British colonies with full rights to settle in the UK. Successive governments wooed workers from the Commonwealth and even the white supremacists’ hero, Enoch Powell, when he was Minister of Health recruited thousands of black employees into the NHS. The transport system would not have operated without Caribbean personnel.

Where Are You From?

Leighton Joseph Robinson had been living in Britain since he was six. He went back to Jamaica for the first time for his 50th birthday. He was stopped at the airport and was told that he did not have the correct paperwork to get into the UK. He was stuck in Jamaica for 21 months, separated from his family in Northampton and living in squalid accommodation. When he returned to the UK   he was evicted from his flat because he owed £4,500 for unpaid rent and council tax.

Albert Thompson, 63, arrived in the UK from Jamaica as a teenager in 1973, and has lived there without a break ever since.  He needs radiotherapy for his prostate cancer but an administrator at the Royal Marsden Hospital told him unless he could produce a British passport he would be charged £54,000 for the treatment. He was evicted because of suspicion about his status and he was homeless for three weeks.

Paulette Wilson once worked in the House of Commons restaurant serving meals to MPs. More recently, she has made and served meals to homeless people at her church. She is a 61-yer-old grandmother who has lived in the UK for over 50 years. She left Jamaica when she was ten and has not been back since. She received a letter saying she was going to be sent to Jamaica. This meant she lost her housing and sickness benefits and she was rendered homeless. She spent a week at Yarl’s Wood detention centre before being sent to the immigration removal centre at Heathrow. Her forced removal from the UK was only prevented by the last-minute intervention of her local MP Emma Reynolds and the Refugee and Migrant Centre in Wolverhampton. Many organisations dealing with such cases say that cuts in legal aid make their job very difficult. Ms Wilson will have to report again to the Home Office in December. The application to process leave to remain documents costs more than £240, money she does not have.

A Times editorial said that the prime minister’s policies had their foundation in “the corrosive assumption that immigrants are a problem rather than a benefit.” More next week on what this issue says about multicultural Britain and the moral standing of British politicians.

 

Long Spoon Required

This article appeared in slightly different form in Ceylon Today on Thursday June 15 2017. The article was submitted on June 11 so I have amended it slightly to take account of further developments.

https://ceylontoday.lk/print20170401CT20170630.php?id=23308

Pact with the Devil

 

As I write, Theresa May is barely holding on to the prime minister’s job despite her utter humiliation in the unnecessary general election she called in response to bad advice.Many Conservatives are out for her blood. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer whose services  she dispensed with is enjoying the opportunities that his new post as editor of the London Evening Standard affords him to rub salt into her wounds.

 

 

She went from having a majority of 17 to scrabbling around for the support of the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party to keep the Conservative Party in power. The DUP is the party founded by the Reverend Iain Paisley. It has fundamentalist views on homosexuality and abortion as well as climate change. More worryingly it has had ties with terrorist organisations.

Ian Paisley marched at the head of masked loyalist paramilitary ranks during the 1974 Ulster Workers Council strike. Peter Robinson, who was DUP leader and Northern Ireland’s first minister until last year, was an active member of Ulster Resistance. One of the things the group did was collaborate with other terrorist organisations such as the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association to smuggle arms into the UK. There was a major arms find in County Armagh in November 1988 but some UVF and UDA weapons have never been found.

Peter Robinson

The murder of Colin Horner, in a North Down supermarket car park in front of his three-year-old son last month revived community fears of loyalist violence and racketeering. DUP leader Arlene Foster, who met the senior UDA leader Jackie McDonald days after the killing, was criticised for failing to condemn loyalist violence robustly enough.

May attacked Jeremy Corbyn for his alleged ties with the IRA and is now allying herself with a party founded by former Northern Irish loyalist terrorists.

Who are the DUP MPs?

DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr has made many positive comments on Sri Lanka including telling the House of Commons: “In many aspects, Sri Lanka has made more measurable gains post-conflict than Northern Ireland.” However, he has also said that he believes that homosexual “relationships are immoral, offensive and obnoxious.” There have been questions about the probity of his dealings with some property developers. He has consistently drawn attention by his high expenses claims as an MP. He is a friend of Donald Trump and has invited him to visit Northern Ireland for the Open golf championship at Portrush in 2019.

Sammy Wilson has been accused of condoning calls that Catholics should be “expelled, nullified, or interned.” Nigel Dodds attended the wake of paramilitary leader John Bingham with DUP founder Ian Paisley Sr. Emma Little-Pengelly is the daughter of Noel Little who was one of three men arrested in Paris in April 1989, along with a South African diplomat and an arms dealer. During her 2017 general election campaign, she received the endorsement of the three biggest loyalist paramilitary organisations.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was part of Official Unionist leader David Trimble’s negotiating team during the Good Friday Agreement talks in 1998. He came to oppose his leader’s stance, however, criticising the lack of a link between IRA weapons decommissioning and Sinn Fein’s being allowed into government. Donaldson joined the DUP in 2003 and is Northern Ireland’s longest serving MP.

In 2005 David Simpson ousted David Trimble from his parliamentary seat. He opposed same-sex marriage and lobbied to have creationism included in the science curriculum in Northern Ireland schools. Gregory Campbell has called for the reintroduction of the death penalty and described homosexuality as an “evil, wicked, abhorrent practice”. Jim Shannon was voted the least sexy MP in 2011.

Funding from Saudi Arabia

The story about the DUP’s shady financial links with Saudi Arabia is too convoluted for me to cover fully here and many facts remain uncovered. Two days before the Brexit referendum last June, the Metro freesheet carried a four-page glossy propaganda supplement urging readers to vote Leave. It cost £282,000 and was paid for by the DUP, even though Metro does not circulate in Northern Ireland. The DUP eventually admitted that money came from a much larger donation of £425,622 from the Constitutional Research Council which is linked to the Saudi royal family. The name of Peter Haestrup crops up in connection with this funding. He is a Dane who has repeatedly been linked to a gun running case described by Indian authorities as “the biggest crime in the country’s history”. All the DUP bigwigs claim to be puzzled by all this. The donation seems to be illegal under UK electoral law. If the DUP were   forced to return such a large sum of money it might bankrupt the party.

Cash for Ash

Arlene Foster, the current leader of the DUP, is a divisive figure in Northern Ireland. The “cash for ash” scandal indicated that the DUP were corrupt or at best incompetent and arrogant. A renewable energy incentive scheme for Northern Ireland ran out of control and cost the public purse £500 million. Concerns of fraud were raised initially in 2013 and again in 2014, when a whistle-blower contacted Foster to raise concerns about the scheme. The scheme worked by paying applicants to use renewable energy. The rate paid was more than the cost of heating, however, meaning applicants were making profits simply by heating their properties.

The plan was overseen by Arlene Foster when she was Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment. She signally failed to introduce proper cost controls, allowing the plan to spiral out of control. Foster said that calls for her resignation were purely “misogynistic”. Foster was succeeded as minister by Jonathan Bell who said in an interview that DUP special advisers and Foster “intervened” to prevent the closure of the scheme. He also claimed that Foster tried to “cleanse the records” by hiding her involvement in delaying the scheme’s closure. Bell was suspended from the DUP. An audit indicated that there were serious fraud issues at 14 of the sites

The affair ultimately caused Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness to resign in protest as deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland in January 2017 after ten years in office. McGuinness’s resignation meant that Foster was removed from her role as First Minister, which in turn caused the Executive Office of Northern Ireland to fall. The fall of the executive, though triggered by cash for ash, was the inevitable consequence of the DUP’s unwillingness to embrace the vision of a shared and equal society in the north of Ireland which underpinned the GFA.  The DUP has continued to adopt a sectarian approach to most issues undermining the carefully crafted agreement designed to allow a more normal society and body politic to take root and flourish.

Whither Peace?

May’s courting of the DUP augurs badly for power-sharing talks at Stormont. The uneasy peace brought by the Good Friday Agreement owed a lot to the fact that the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland were both part of the EU so that the border between the six and 26 counties no longer signified. Thanks to Brexit this will no longer apply. Sinn Féin have argued that because the Northern Ireland electorate voted by 56% to remain within Europe last year the area should have special designated status. The DUP are very much in favour of Brexit and will use their influence to insist there would be no post-Brexit deal that could decouple Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

The hard border between the six counties and the 26 counties will reappear. It will now also be the land border between the EU and the UK. The success of the GFA depended on the London government being neutral between the nationalists and the loyalists in Northern Ireland. May’s Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire undermined that neutrality. May’s Faustian pact with the DUP will make any pretence of neutrality ludicrous.

There are many who think this anxiety reflects scaremongering and suggest that the DUP’s fundamentalist views cannot affect the rest of the UK. Historian Ruth Dudley Edwards has written many pieces lately advising people to calm down. “The DUP leader – a rural solicitor who saw her father and several friends injured by IRA attacks – has with good grace sat in government with ex-IRA people and their apologists. Her wish-list is, she says, utterly in the national interest. Theresa May can count herself lucky.”

Nevertheless, many people in the UK and Ireland are feeling a sense of betrayal and despair. I lost respect for John Major because of rail privatisation and Edwina Currie. Perhaps Major has not been given enough credit for his contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process. Noe Major is worried. “A fundamental part of that peace process is that the UK government needs to be impartial between all the competing interests in Northern Ireland. The danger is that however much any government tries, they will not be seen to be impartial if they are locked into a parliamentary deal, at Westminster, with one of the Northern Ireland parties. The last thing anybody wishes to see is one or other of the communities so aggrieved that the hard men, who are still there lurking in the corners of the community, decide that they wish to return to some form of violence.”

Many British voters will be thinking it was bad enough getting Brexit and Theresa May. They are also getting a gang of ignorant bigots with connections to terrorists, fraudsters and Trump. What fresh hell is this?

 

 

Ad Hominem, Mr Corbyn

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Tuesday August 4 2015.

Colman's Column3

I had vowed that I would take a break from writing Colman’s Column until the Sri Lankan parliamentary election was over. However, I have been drawn into discussions about another election, the election of a new leader of the UK Labour Party. The discussions brought out a few issues about the nature of political debate and critical thinking in general, which also have relevance to the Sri Lankan polity. It reminds me of the depressing nature of the responses to Rajiva Wijesinha’s contributions to the Sri Lankan debate; hardly anyone provides a cogent argument against Professor Wijesinha’s points, preferring instead personal insults that would seem immature in a kindergarten.

Jeremy-Corbyn_3365555b

Surprisingly, the leading contender for the Labour Party leadership as I write is Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing MP for Islington in north London. Although an MP since 1983, Corbyn has previously shown no discernable interest in power or leadership, preferring to espouse human rights causes. He has been a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Amnesty International, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Stop the War Coalition. He has been writing a weekly column for the Communist Morning Star since 1983.

I have been a life-long Labour Party supporter. I have never voted Conservative and can envisage no circumstances (a huge bribe or severe torture might be inducements) in which I would ever do so. My sympathies lie with the left of the Labour Party and I would  be a natural Corbyn supporter. I sympathised with the views expressed by novelist Will Self in a recent TV interview when he said many young people were attracted to Jeremy Corbyn because he offered real socialist alternatives to the tired old middle of the road tactics.

Nevertheless, I have a big problem with Corbyn. It is the history of Islington Council and child abuse. John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw, wrote an open letter to Corbyn about this and said that Corbyn’s behaviour in relation to the Islington care homes scandal made him unfit to be leader of the Labour Party.

From 1994 to 1997, I was a ministerial advisor on child protection for the Department of Health. I have seen the files. I know what was going on. There were serious and credible allegations that some care homes for children in Islington operated as brothels, with small children hired out for sexual abuse.   Islington Council doggedly tried to obstruct the investigation. The main culprit was Margaret Hodge (former minister for children – the irony!) who now chairs the Parliamentary Accounts Committee but was then leader of Islington Council. She was strongly supported in her obstructionism by Jeremy Corbyn.

The reaction from Corbyn’s supporters to Mann’s charges was disappointing and depressing. Someone whose intelligence, knowledge and compassion I deeply respect asked if “the author” had written a similar open letter to Harriet Harmon and Patricia Hewitt. Both were former leaders of the National Council for Civil Liberties who both became Labour ministers. The NCCL earned criticism during the Islington scandal for seeming to be sympathetic to the Paedophile Information Exchange, an organisation campaigning on behalf of child molesters.  This is what rhetoricians call the tu quoque move; in Northern Ireland they call it “what-aboutery”. The technique involves avoiding dealing with a specific charge by shifting attention to another alleged crime.

Others sought to smear John Mann by saying he was smearing Corbyn. They accused Mann of digging up ancient history to undermine Corbyn’s campaign. One cried in horror that Mann was trying to influence the vote – surely trying to influence the vote is legitimate in a democracy?

As recently as November 2014, Corbyn in effect lied to the House of Commons. He implied that, although there had been instances of sexual abuse of children in Islington, the council had investigated and done their best to put things right. In fact, he knows fine well that Islington Council fought tooth and nail to avoid an investigation. When a report was prepared, they blocked its publication for 20 years. Does the Labour Party want a leader that lies to the House of Commons? What is worse is the foolishness of trying to cover this up. It has been all over the internet for many years.

A Channel 4 report claimed that senior Labour politicians knew what was going on in Islington as early as 1988. Liz Davies, a social worker, became alarmed at the number of children coming to her with stories of abuse. Every morning there was queue of children outside her office. They told of sinister adults preying on children who were lured into private houses or abused in care homes. Davies’s colleague, David Cofie, reported his concerns direct to Hodge. Davies asked for more resources to tackle the problem, but Hodge turned the request down. Davies and Cofie continued their investigations and wrote 15 separate reports. Their warnings still went unheeded, even as they uncovered appallingly serious allegations.

It was Hodge’s successor as council leader, Derek Sawyer, who commissioned the White Report. Ian White was Director of Social Services for Oxfordshire. His report was a damning one and blamed the failures of Islington social services on extreme left wing culture fostered by Hodge and Corbyn. More than 30 care workers were involved in abuse. All but one went on to work with children elsewhere.

The White Report  was completed in 1995 and received a good deal of attention in the media at the time. However, the text was not published until 2014, in heavily redacted form.  Islington Council has been covering up for over 20 years. They shredded every incriminating file, sacked whistleblowers, slandered victims. One of the victims, Demetrious Panton, was sexually  abused from 1978 and his allegations were ignored for ten years. Margaret Hodge said he was mentally ill. He is now 46, a PhD in philosophy and a successful lawyer and, ironically, an advisor to the Labour Party. Hodge eventually apologised for what she had said.

Despite what he told the House in November 2014, Corbyn was deeply complicit in the cover-up. The heroes were the investigative journalists of the London Evening Standard who provided much solid evidence to the Department of Health, which enabled us to force Islington to take action.

At the time I am writing  this article, Corbyn has not responded personally to Mann’s specific charges. An anonymous spokesman issued an official statement: “This is a new low in the leadership election. Jeremy Corbyn has a long record of standing up for his constituents.” It is noteworthy that the statement makes absolutely no attempt to address Mann’s very specific points.

Corbyn promised social workers that he would pass their concerns on to the Secretary of State for Health. There is no indication that he did so. Rather than supporting fellow MP Geoffrey Dickens in his campaign to have the scandal investigated, Corbyn complained to the Speaker about Dickens visiting Islington. On February 17 1986, Corbyn called Dickens “irresponsible” in the House and asked him to unreservedly withdraw his allegations about child brothels in Islington and to make a public apology.

Home Secretary Theresa May has been trying to establish a wide-ranging inquiry into historic child sexual abuse. Two chairpersons have been forced to resign, one because her brother was  a former  minister implicated in cover-ups, another because she was a friend of Leon Brittan, one of the senior politicians under suspicion. The Statutory Inquiry opened on 9 July 2015, chaired by Dame Lowell Goddard QC, a New Zealand High Court judge who had no ties to the UK bodies and persons likely to be investigated.

Mann concludes his open letter to Corbyn: “Your carefully worded excusing of Islington Council in the House of Commons equally demonstrates why it is inappropriate for you to attempt to lead the Labour Party at the critical time of the Goddard Enquiry, as child abuse is the issue that will haunt this Parliament.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Sleaze Part2 Butler-Sloss Inquiry

This article appeared in the July 16 edition of Ceylon Today.

 

Colman's Column3

Last week I wrote about calls for a public inquiry into allegations that the UK Home Office had colluded in a cover up of paedophile activity in Parliament and government. There has been strong criticism of the role of Leon Brittan, who was Home Secretary at the time when 114 files relating to child abuse went missing. At the time I wrote that article, UK prime minister David Cameron was steadfastly arguing that an internal Home Office inquiry combined with ongoing police investigations would be sufficient.

Since then, on 6 July 2014, the current Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced that an expert panel will have the power to scrutinise the behaviour of political parties, the security services and private companies amid allegations that paedophile networks operated with impunity in the 1970s and 1980s. It will also investigate the handling of the information given to the police and prosecution service about the allegations at the time. May added that this review would look into the Paedophile Information Exchange group. Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the NSPCC will head this review which will report within ten weeks to Mrs May and to Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General. Wanless was previously the Big Lottery Fund’s chief executive and worked at the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

May raised the possibility of converting it into a full public inquiry and giving the panel the authority to subpoena witnesses and has since announced that a public inquiry will be led by retired judge Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss. There has been much criticism, mainly on the grounds of her age and connections, of the appointment of the appointment of Lady Butler-Sloss.

NPG P1029; Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss (nÈe Havers) by Christian CourrËges

Brother’s Keeper?

Lady Butler-Sloss’s family connections are indeed somewhat embarrassing. Her father, Sir Cecil Havers, was the high court judge who passed the death sentence on Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in Britain. In a 2010 television interview, his grandson, the actor Nigel Havers, revealed that his grandfather had written to the Home Secretary recommending a reprieve, but had received a curt refusal. Sir Cecil subsequently sent money annually for the upkeep of Ellis’s son.

Gerry Conlon recently died at the age of 60. Daniel Day Lewis is to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth. One of Day Lewis’s memorable performances was as Gerry conlon in Jim Sheridan’s film In the Name of the Father. In the film Daniel Massey plays the prosecuting QC, Sir Michael Havers, who is unnamed. Gerry Conlon spent 25% of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Gerry Conlon was one of the Guildford Four, who were convicted in 1975 for the IRA Guildford pub bombings of 5 October 1974. After their arrest, all four defendants confessed to the bombing under torture by British police. There was never any evidence that any of The Four had been involved with the Provisional IRA. Collectively, the Four and the Maguire Seven served a total of 113 years in prison and one of the Maguire Seven, Giuseppe Conlon, Gerry’s father, died in prison, convicted on the basis of discredited forensic evidence. Havers represented the Crown in the trial and appeal of the Guildford Four and also of the Maguire family. In the case of the Guildford Four, the Director of Public Prosecutions was found to have suppressed alibi evidence that supported Gerry Conlon and Paul Hill’s claims of innocence. The DPP suppressed confessions by Provisional IRA bombers, known as the Balcombe Street Gang that they had carried out the Guildford and Woolwich bombings. In his submission to Sir John May’s 1989 Inquiry into the Guildford and Woolwich bombings, Labour MP Chris Mullins cast doubt on Havers’s integrity. “He is, therefore, probably the person who can lay claim to the most detailed knowledge of this affair. I respectfully submit that any inquiry that passed without the benefit of his experience would be deficient…The only hope of sustaining the original convictions was to rewrite the script from top to bottom. This Sir Michael and his colleagues proceeded to do with ingenuity and relish.”

In the Yorkshire Ripper case in 1981, Havers attracted controversy at the outset of the trial, when he said of Sutcliffe’s victims in his introductory speech: “Some were prostitutes, but perhaps the saddest part of the case is that some were not. The last six attacks were on totally respectable women.”

More to the point, Sir Michael was the attorney general under the Thatcher government and was accused of a “cover-up” when he refused to prosecute Sir Peter Hayman, a former diplomat and member of the Paedophile Information Exchange. Hayman was the deputy under secretary of state at the Foreign Office, and was reputed to be a senior officer in MI6, the foreign intelligence service.

havers

Should being sister to Mrs Thatcher’s most senior law officer disqualify Lady Butler-Sloss from heading an impartial inquiry?

Husband’s Keeper?

When Lady Butler-Sloss was appointed by Tony (now Lord) Newton to head the Cleveland Inquiry, the News of the World (17 July 1988) did a feature on her husband Joseph Butler-Sloss, who was then a circuit judge in Kenya. In a taped conversation, he confessed to using prostitutes A Nairobi court colleague said: “The wife comes through the front door and his girls go out the back. He is very discreet with her around because he doesn’t want scandal.”

Her Own Record

She was the first female Lord Justice of Appeal and, until 2004, was the highest-ranking female judge in the United Kingdom. In 2002, she chaired the Crown Appointments Board charged with the selection of a new Archbishop of Canterbury. She is Chairman of the Advisory Council of St Paul’s Cathedral. She once stood as a Conservative candidate for election to Parliament.

Her main qualification for heading this inquiry would probably be her previous work on the Cleveland child abuse scandal in 1987. Dr Marietta Higgs and Dr Geoffrey Wyatt diagnosed 121 cases of suspected child sexual abuse in Stockton-on-Tees. Higgs used a reflex anal dilation test, which on the scandal’s 20th anniversary Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson described as “not reliable”. The children were subject to place of safety orders, and some were removed from their parents’ care permanently. Dr Higgs continued to examine them while they were in foster care. She subsequently accused foster parents of further abuse and many were arrested. Courts dismissed cases involving 96 of the 121 children alleged to be victims of sexual abuse and 26 cases, involving children from twelve families, were found by judges to have been incorrectly diagnosed.

In The Cleveland Report was established, Baroness Butler-Sloss stated that the problems of child sexual abuse had become more recognised in the early 1980s which caused “particularly difficult problems for the agencies concerned in child protection”. She went on to state: “In Cleveland an honest attempt was made to address these problems by the agencies. In Spring 1987 it went wrong.”The public inquiry found most of the allegations of sexual abuse were unfounded and all but 27 children were returned to their families. The two doctors were criticised for “over-confidence” in their methods.

People on various sides of the debate were unhappy with the Butler-Sloss Cleveland Report. Anti-patriarchal witch finder Beatrix Campbell said: “Her report contributed to the myth that children were the victims not of sexual abuse but of crazed doctors and social workers.” Anti-zealot the late Richard Webster wrote: “Through no fault of her own Justice Elizabeth Butler-Sloss had, in effect, been compelled to produce her report in the dark. She simply did not have the benefit of the very scientific research which would have revealed the true scale of the Cleveland scandal and the real dangers of the child protection ideology and the paediatric zealotry which had led to it.”

Should She Stand Down?

Lady Butler-Sloss will not be working alone. She will have a panel of independent experts and the review will be conducted in the glare of publicity. However, can we expect transparency from an inquiry presided over by a member of the House of Lords whose members she would be investigating?

She was Chairman of the Independent Security Commission  which  reviewed “vetting of those who belong to the Royal Households, those working with them, or who otherwise gain access to Royal residences”.   She would have overall a responsibility for vetting  Jimmy Savile. She is an intelligence insider. She must have known knew Savile was a paedophile.

How About an International Inquiry?

In the five years since Sri Lanka comprehensively defeated the barbarous Tamil Tigers, UK ministers have been persistently calling for an international inquiry into alleged war crimes and human rights violations. As there is strong evidence that UK ministers have been buggering orphans for decades, would it not be the best plan to appoint an internationally respected figure to conduct an independent inquiry? Someone not intimately connected by ties of blood and influence to the likely perpetrators?

 Postscript

Since the article was published, Lady Butler-Sloss has decided to stand down saying it has : “become clear to me that I did not sufficiently consider whether my background and the fact my brother had been Attorney General would cause difficulties.”

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