Thursday, 12 May 2022

'Deep Deception' - Book Review: By Richard Turner

 

Helen Steel with John Dines

“Deep Deception: The story of the spycops network by the women who uncovered the shocking truth” by ‘Alison’, ‘Belinda’, Helen Steel, ‘Lisa’ and ‘Naomi’. London: Ebury Spotlight: 2022. ISBN: 9781529108316. 386 pages hardback.

Like many people, I read the startling stories of women who were deceived by undercover police officers who went on to have to intimate relationships with their political targets as the stories were gradually uncovered, in the newspapers. Most readers would have been shocked and angered by the actions of police officers which shattered the lives of the women involved. This extraordinary and powerful book of testimonies by five of the women shines a brilliant spotlight on the role of the police, their utter contempt for the women they used and abused, and the devastating effects on individual lives.

When the manipulative actions of the police began to be revealed, solely due to the bravery of the women, it was initially passed off as rogue officers. However the determination, resilience and perseverance of the women led to a slowly developing pattern of male police officers who used their relationships with women as part of their surveillance of perceived radical groups. This was very obviously not a case of rotten apples but a pre-conceived policy to purposefully inveigle trust from women who were seen as a disposable resource and a means of gathering intelligence with scant regard for the physical and mental well-being of the targets.

The key spycops involved in this scandal were: Bob Robinson (real name Bob Lambert); John Barker (real name John Dines); Mark Cassidy (real name Mark Jenner); Mark Stone (Mark Kennedy). There will indubitably have been others.

The remarkable detail that the spycops went to in order to establish their credentials is at times staggering. Each of these women are intelligent, they are not easily duped or blinded by love. They were deceived by the most elaborate of state agents who had created a completely convincing deep cover persona that fooled even the most cynical and hardened of activists. The lies told were astonishing and the brutal abrupt endings to relationships / surveillance were breathtakingly cruel.

The tenacity of the women to track down the men they had loved and then who abruptly disappeared are the keystones of this book. The book opens with the story of Belinda who was not really an activist at all but was targeted as a way to gain access to campaigners she knew. The testimonies of Helen Steel and Alison are remarkably similar stories until they finally met each other in 2003 and started to understand how their life stories had intertwined. It was that same year, 2003, that Lisa’s story starts; she was an environmental activist living in Leeds when she met a man called Mark Stone. In the same Cornerstone housing cooperative in Leeds, Naomi knew Lisa and also began a relationship with Mark Stone. At this stage, the book really does become hypnotic and difficult to put down as the depths of the police subterfuge become at times wincingly painful even to read.

The threads of the stories come together to start to reveal a network of undercover police officers based at the Special Demonstration Squad, part of Special Branch and the Metropolitan Police. The idea that undercover police officers could not only have sexual relationships with the women they were essentially grooming, but also develop long standing relationship and even have children together, as in the case of Jim Sutton, is difficult to comprehend even after the truths were exposed.

Among the grimmest stories was Helen Steel’s revelation about a woman called Rosa who was one of Jim Sutton’s victims. Rosa actually realised that Jim was an undercover police office but was manipulated and gaslighted by the most odious methods as she tried to believe his expressed contrition, became pregnant and was mentally abused to abandon her previous life to marry him … though he was still in the police force at that time. It was all about power and control.

One interesting aside throughout the book is the role of the legal team, including the very positive contribution of Keir Starmer who was one of the first legal to believe and support the women.

Stories about the spycops had begun to appear on Indymedia and in 2010 a trial of campaigners involved in the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station collapsed after the Crown Prosecution Service dropped charges rather than have to reveal evidence of undercover officers. The Guardian wrote about Mark Kennedy (Mark Stone) and the media began to quickly unveil the nature of spycops and the breadth of its operations.

After the public exposure of the undercover police actions in 2010, the victims, rather than finally seeing justice, were then faced with media intrusion, public scepticism at their naivity and anger at the cost of the collapsed trials and investigations, as well as vicious attacks by right wing journalists. Mark Kennedy (Stone) even sold his story to the Mail on Sunday newspaper, using Max Clifford as his agent.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) became involved in 2010 and in December 2011 proceedings began against the Metropolitan Police for sexual and psychological abuse. This meant the women had to go through psychological testing and again had their character repeatedly questioned. The Met finally admitted that Mark Kennedy was a police officer until 2010 but denied liability for his actions.

The final part of the book details the protracted legal battles against a police service that sought to hold hearings in secret, and myriad delaying and denial actions. Only in 2015, after several years, did the police offer to apologise and pay compensation on the proviso that the women could continue to campaign for the whole truth of the undercover policing exploitation of women.

The testimonies clarify the nature and impact of the exploitative relationships and gross abuse of power.

The Undercover Policing Public Inquiry has faced several delays and is not expected to be completed until 2024 at the earliest.

The five women who write this book are a small representation of the women who were cruelly, and often illegally, deceived. The scale of the police operation and their victims may never be fully revealed. Alison, Belinda, Helen, Lisa and Naomi were victims of the spycops, but their strength and survival means they have ultimately emerged triumphant. Their bravery and determination has uncovered a web of deceit that even the most cynical observer of police behaviour would have struggled to accept. Deep Cover is not only an extraordinary and at times heartbreaking book, but is destined to become a significant resource in challenging police accountability and behaviour.

'Brenda the Bulldozer' defies Labour plot to oust her from leadership of council!

 


In the recent May local elections, the Tories lost many council seats to Labour, including control of Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet. In Tameside, the Tories gained two council seats from Labour - Hyde Godley and Ashton Hurst.

The controversial issue of the Godley Green development which entails building 2,150 homes on green belt land, has proven to be a cause celebre in Hyde. It certainly is the main reason why Labour lost the seat to the Conservatives, who have dubbed Brenda Warrington, the Labour leader of Tameside Council, 'Brenda the Bulldozer'. The former cigarette worker, seems to have antagonised a lot of people when she declared of the development that she would "ram it down your throat." You might call it Brenda Warrington's, 'Gerald Ratner Moment'.

Now there are opponents within Tameside Labour, who are to plotting to oust Warrington as the Labour leader at the next AGM. One of the plotters, Councillor Ged Cooney, says he's been approached to challenge Brenda Warrington for the leadership. The council leader says she will not be "bullied, harassed or intimated " into standing down from the position she has held since 2018.

The Labour leader claims that her long time ally, Councillor Oliver Ryan, has been forced to switch allegiances by a prominent MP, to avoid his political ambitions being destroyed. According to Labour sources, the MP is Angela Rayner. Councillor Ryan, who some believe, wants to be selected as the prospective Labour candidate for Burnley at the next General Election, denies the allegation.

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

The Man Who Invented The Lock-On Protest - By Christopher Draper

 



The Curious Case of the Man who Invented the Lock-On Protest

by Christopher Draper


For more than a century lock-on protests have proved an effective non-violent way of publicising and challenging injustice. That’s why the current government is so determined to imprison practitioners. Most people assume suffragettes came up with the idea but twenty years before they first chained themselves to railings a now forgotten anarchist invented and enthusiastically practiced the technique…

The Metropolitan Police were so struck by Robert Whittall Harding’s ingenuity that for many years his locks, chains and political manifesto were exhibited in Scotland Yard’s “Black Museum”. As a middle class, individualist, pacifist associate of Henry Seymour, Auberon Herbert and Albert Tarn, Harding was exceptional in his fearless law-breaking. Born in Peckham, south-east London to Henry Harding and his wife Mary Ann, Robert initially worked in his father’s Southwark Bridge Road timber yard. Although never wealthy and employed as a clerk for most of his life, Harding was fortunate enough to inherit a trust fund when his father died in October 1880. From his youth, Robert was a dissenter, active in the “Freethought” movement. Called as a witness in a September 1881 court case, Harding refused to swear on the bible, “on conscientious grounds”, but agreed to affirm. He briefly dabbled in business, partnering David Shea in a Southwark “Glass Works” enterprise but this was dissolved in August 1882, a few weeks before Robert married, in Brixton, Clarice Annie Madeline Jaques, an engineer’s daughter. They had no children of their own but soon after marriage adopted Irish orphan, Maude Whayman.

During 1886-7, when Harding was living in the East End and employed as an “engineer’s clerk”, he discovered anarchism through his involvement with the National Secular Society (NSS) which regularly hosted political dissidents at its lecture halls. Proclaiming himself a devotee of “the Quaker belief in, “Resist not evil but overcome evil with good””, every Saturday night over the summer of 1887 he lectured outside Limehouse Town Hall on, “Why I am an Anarchist”. Disturbed by the plight of “the Chicago Anarchists”, in October he unsuccessfully appealed to H A Barker, Secretary of the Socialist League, to be included as a speaker at the SL’s forthcoming London rally for the men’s release. Robert appreciated the irony of his request as he was certainly no socialist. His brand of ethical anarchism emphasised individual liberty and rejected compulsory socialisation of private property. The following month he again explained, “Why I am an Anarchist”, to an audience at the Secular Hall, Newington Green Road followed by an identical address delivered at the NSS Hall, Turnpike Lane. From these quiet beginnings Harding burst into public prominence “in defence of free speech” on Sunday 4 December 1887 with an imaginative response to police persecution of street corner agitators. The press provided extensive coverage of this historic event;

“Shortly before two o’clock an extraordinary scene took place in St Martin’s Lane. An apparently respectably dressed man of about 30 years of age was seen carrying several yards of iron chain and proceeded to the front of St Martin’s Vestry Hall, which is protected by some strong iron palings. The man was Robert Harding, a clerk, residing at 42, Gough Street, Poplar and who described himself as a “peaceful anarchist and humanitarian”. He was accompanied by a friend who set to work in a very businesslike way and chained Harding to the palings. The chain was passed over his shoulders, down his middle and around his legs, and finally the ends were passed round Harding’s hands and locked. These singular proceedings for a time only attracted the attention of a few passers-by but a number of the E Division police constables came up and asked the meaning of what was going on, “Surely you are out of your mind” said Sergeant 11E. “Oh no, I’m not”, said Harding; “I came here from a sense of duty to protest against the way the rights of Englishmen are taken away. I have done this to illustrate how Englishmen are chained. My object is to give you some idea of the principle of peaceful anarchism”. The police sergeant told Harding that he was obstructing the roadway and he would have to remove him. “That you may do”, replied Harding, “if you can”. The crowd were much amused at the difficult position in which the police found themselves, for on their endeavouring to remove the chains they found they were most firmly fastened. The sergeant shook them and brought from Harding the observation, “Your object is to hurt me” and this caused a few of the bystanders to shout, “Don’t hurt him.” Harding seeing he had some few sympathisers in the crowd said he particularly asked the attention of those present to what was going on. The police continued their efforts to try and sever Harding’s chains and after a short time forced one part of the chain over the top of the palings, whereupon Harding said as the police had succeeded in doing this he would undo the other part; and the key was searched for with which to open the lock. Harding said he would make a speech while the police were endeavouring to release him. He said Government was tyranny and popular Government was no less a tyranny than any other Government. The police told him he must desist from speaking and Harding answered that if the lady of the house to which the palings were attached told him to go away he would do so. That was a bye-way in which they were in and he asked the crowd to stand aside and let people pass. That lock was at last opened and the chains were removed from Harding who exclaimed, “Mind I don’t give in; understand that I am ready to die for free speech with a smile on my face.” Harding was then taken into custody by Sergeant E11 and Police Constable E342 and removed to Bow Street police station. Police constable E231 followed, carrying the chains and was accompanied by some of the crowd. Harding’s friend also went to the station, stating it was his intention to offer bail for him. The prisoner, when brought before a magistrate, was dismissed.”

Harding’s tactic worked. He publicised the free-speech cause, attracted the support of bystanders and readers and his prosecution was dismissed. The police got their revenge the following February when Harding repeated the stunt in Trafalgar Square, as Inspector Joseph Peters of A Division “illegally retained the chains, three locks and copies of Harding’s manifesto”. Magistrates then refused to instruct police to return Harding’s equipment which they triumphantly exhibited in their “Black Museum”.

Despite police persecution, fines and short periods of imprisonment Harding repeated similar street protest for years, with various innovations introduced along the way. Sometimes he wore boards bearing slogans, sometimes he distributed leaflets but always he amused onlookers and upset the police. The authorities attempted to lock him up as a lunatic but, “he was examined by a doctor who failed to find any signs of insanity and he was allowed to go”. He never bowed to authority and appearing once more in Bow Street Court in December 1888 “defendant entered the dock with his hat on his head and turning his back on the magistrate placed his right foot on the seat and faced the public in the court”. Refusing to comply with court etiquette Harding was forcibly removed from the dock. As the police gave evidence, “the defendant, with his face turned towards the public in court, was apparently engaged in reading a newspaper”. He never agreed to magistrates’ requests to go quietly and typically replied, “As soon as I am at liberty I shall hold a meeting”! Harding gave his last high profile demonstration outside Parliament in December 1893 when he was prosecuted by his old tormentor, Inspector Peters who, “deposed that the prisoner walked up and down in front of the House carrying cardboards, sandwich-fashion (produced). On one side was written “No coercion either by bomb throwing or majority voting”, and on the other “Stop the bomb shop at Woolwich and the other fools will stop their miserable tricks””. Harding denied obstruction but Mr Shiel, the magistrate was unimpressed, “It is not the place to parade with nonsense and tomfoolery of this sort…I will fine you 40s. or 14 days.”

Harding was a compelling and entertaining “itinerant street lecturer" who in 1888 produced a number of persuasive anarchist tracts for direct distribution and the following year contributed closely argued essays to Henry Seymour’s “Revolutionary Review”. One leaflet revealed “Mr Harding is in Politics a peaceful Anarchist; in Religion, a Humanitarian; on the Drink Question, a Teetotaler; and in the Food Reform Movement, a Vegetarian”. Harding regarded socialism as inherently forceful and became an outspoken critic. In 1893 he toured England on behalf of the “Anti-Compulsory Taxation League”, in August asking a South Shields Free Library audience, “Can we have Freedom under Socialism?” Whilst his prime target was state socialism he also sniped at the naïve optimism of anarchist-communists. He insisted the ethical dimension of politics mustn’t be displaced by mechanistic materialism. He feared the pursuit of equality could be gained at the cost of individual liberty. In Bradford, Sheffield, Leicester and Loughborough he argued “Individualism versus Socialism” with spirited socialist opponents but it was growing increasingly difficult to continue the debate within the British anarchist movement which had largely gone over to anarchist communism.” 

On Sunday 9 September 1894, Harding mounted the Deptford anarchist group’s soap box on the Broadway during an ILP election meeting, and proceeded to present the, “Fallacies of Voting - counteracting finely the rubbish that was being spouted at the vote-for-the-right-man-that-is-me meeting. Audience enthusiastic”! Harding’s activism declined with the nineteenth century but WWI revived his pacifist instincts and in June 1916 he lectured at the Southgate Road, Brotherhood Hall on “Hymns of Hate; or the Religion of Love” and the following month on “Spiritual Life from a Rationalist Point of View”. His lectures at the hall continued into 1918 and in December 1923 Freedom published his essay, “What is Anarchism and Why are we Anarchists?” By then Robert and Annie were living at and running a newsagents shop at 41, Elthorne Road, Upper Holloway. Robert moved round the corner to 19, Prospero Road after Annie died in 1934 and handed the shop over to their adopted daughter Maude who’d by then married gent’s hairdresser, Thomas Dayson. There was no obituary when Robert Harding died, aged 80, at Prospero Road on 9 September 1940, his unique contribution to pacifist tactics and libertarian ideas already forgotten.

In February 2019, after extensively researching Harding’s life I wondered if history might belatedly acknowledge his pioneering role by relocating his three padlocks, chains and manifesto from police custody to the “Peoples’ History Museum”, Manchester. As a first move I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Metropolitan Police requesting copies of any documents they held relating to these historic artefacts. Initially the Met offered nothing but on appeal confirmed that, “We do have a very small entry confirming that the exhibits were in the museum” and provided a copy of this original catalogue entry card, “However, they are no longer in the collection and we have no record of when or how they were disposed of”!

  

Monday, 9 May 2022

Wiil the election of Sinn Fein lead to the break up of the UK

 

With the election of Irish nationalist, Sinn Fein, as the biggest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont, and the prospects of a future Sinn Fein government in Dublin, demands for Irish unification will increase. 

Given that Brexit has led to the annexation of Northern Ireland (N.I.), from Britain by putting a border in the sea, which has left N.I. in the E.U. single market, while Britain has left it, it seems likely that at some time in the future there will be a referendum on Irish unification on the island of Ireland. Already, many people in N.I. hold both British and Irish Citizen passports and there is no real physical hard border between the two countries to speak of. Even the hard-line Unionist, Ian Paisley jr, the D.U.P. MP for North Antrim, who opposes unification, is advising his constituents to apply for a Republic of Ireland passport. Following the Brexit referendum in 2016, he said on Twitter: "My advice is if you are entitled to a second passport then take one. I sign off lots of applications for constituents." In the 2016 Brexit referendum, N.I. voted 55.8% to remain in the E.U. and the Republic of Ireland is in the E.U. Scotland also voted by a majority to remain in the E.U. 

 In May 1998, a referendum in the Irish Republic led to the removal of the 62-year old territorial claim to Northern Ireland. Article 2 of the Constitution of Ireland, as amended, now grants the right to be "part of the Irish nation" to all those people born on the island of Ireland." The Belfast Agreement recognises the right of the people of the island of Ireland, to bring about a united Ireland subject to the consent of both parties. With election of Sinn Fein, complications over Brexit, and demands for Scottish independence, are we now witnessing the inevitable break up of the United Kingdom.

Spycops public inquiry restarts

 

As the much delayed public inquiry into undercover policing restarts hearings this week (Mon 9th May), those spied on by the UK Spycops met at the weekend at the the ‘Undercover Policing: Trade Unions and Social Activism’ conference held at the HQ of UNITE the Union to demand action on the glacial progress of the UCPI, seven years after it began. Photos available via Jess Hurd: https://jesshurd.com/clients/2205UndercoverPolicingGallery/
Dave Smith from the Blacklist Support Group (both core participants in the public inquiry) opened the conference by stating that "institutional racism, institutional sexism and anti-union bias is central to the worldview of those at the top of the UK's political policing units". 
Veteran anti-racism campaigner, Mark Wadsworth was interviewed by Suresh Grover from the Monitoring Group (both core participants in the inquiry)
Wadsworth told the conference how he was spied on while campaigning with the family of Stephen Lawrence, including when he arranged the meeting with Nelson Mandela to meet Doreen and Neville Lawrence. Wadsworth concluded: "We do not expect justice from the British state investigating itself, but we will be using the public inquiry as a platform to shine a light on the undemocratic nature of the British secret state". 
The disgraced undercover policing units are being investigated for highly abusive conduct ranging from the theft of deceased children’s identities and instigating sexual relationships with activist women, to spying on members of Parliament and grieving families of murder victims - often victims that died at the
hands of uniformed police. The next round of evidential hearings in the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) will begin on Monday, hearing evidence from unit managers for the period 1968-1982. The inquiry has been plagued by delays resulting from the obstructive and secretive approach taken by the police[1] Nevertheless, there is a growing body of evidence that units such as the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) were running unlawful, anti-democratic, secret political policing operations without proper oversight or control.
Kate Wilson, who recently successfully sued these units for Human Rights violations commented:“The Investigatory Powers Tribunal findings in my case included violations of the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. The evidence coming out of the UCPI shows that those practices were not the exception, they were the rule. Thousands of people had their rights violated in this way during five decades of secret political policing. We need to understand how and why that was allowed to happen and to go on for so long. We must not forget that he police are a hierarchical organisation. The problems start at the top, and we should therefore be paying very close attention to what the managers have to say.”
In the closing session, Lois Austin from Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance stated:
“Our people were fighting for a fairer, greener, more equal world, and they were treated appallingly by the British state. This is not just about uncovering the truth. We have a score to settle”
One of the guest speakers, John McDonnell MP reflected:
“We have exposed the terrible suffering that came from police spies that abused women activists and provided information to the illegal blacklist. Now the government has passed the Covert Human Intelligence Source Act to make the very same criminality by undercover police, and even rape, torture and murder, perfectly legal. The potential threat to democracy is even worse now. The trade unions and social movements need to respond at scale”
It is vital to keep the pressure on to ensure the truth about these unlawful police practices is subjected to proper public scrutiny. There will be a demonstration at 9am on 12th May outside the Thistle Hotel in Marble Arch, where the public screening of the witness evidence will take place. Core participants and witnesses to the UCPI will be accompanied by a digital advan, showing a short film by Police Spies Out Of Lives, pulling no punches as to their perceptions of the Inquiry to date. Video released on Twitter today: https://twitter.com/out_of_lives/status/1523559953520218112
Note to Editors:
The conference was co-organsied by: Blacklist Support Group, Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, Police Spies Out of Lives, The Monitoring Group, The Haldance Society and UNITE the Union. 
Blacklist Support Group
blogwww.hazards.org/blacklistblog

Friday, 6 May 2022

Rail conductor sacked for questioning 'White Privilege'.

 



Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998, guarantees the right to freedom of expression. It says that this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority regardless of frontiers. But it seems that this right doesn't apply if you're employed by West Midland Trains.

Last March, a train conductor, Simon Isherwood (see above), was sacked when he was overheard questioning notions based on the idea racial or skin privilege, during online diversity training. The webinar that Mr Isherwood voluntarily attended, included the controversial subject of 'white privilege'. He was overheard to say to his wife, " I couldn't be arsed because I thought, you know what, I'll just get fucking angry. You know what I really wanted to ask?... and I wish I had, do they have black privilege in other countries, so if you're in Ghana...? After some of his work colleagues, complained, Mr Isherwood (60), was sacked for gross misconduct for breaching the company's policy on equality, diversity and inclusion. He's now taking the company to an employment tribunal with the backing of the Free Speech Union.

The concept of white privilege, or white skin privilege, refers to the idea that people have basic rights and benefits simply because they're white. It suggests that they have societal advantages over non-white people. The term white privilege has become particularly fashionable since the tragic death of George Floyd and is considered by some, to be politically controversial terminology. It's seen to be particularly alienating to disadvantaged white communities who may be experiencing severe hardship and to reinforce racist attitudes.

Simon Isherwood is not the only person to have difficulty in comprehending, or to have a desire, to challenge fashionable politically correct notions such as 'white privilege'. Most English people would probably see white privilege in terms of social class privilege and not white skin privilege. What are termed concepts, such as white privilege, are really just an opinion, a way in which some people, perceive the world in which they live, and are therefore open to challenge and debate. People like Simon Isherwood, have every right to be sceptical about these types of issues and they have the right to freedom of expression, regardless of how much people dislike their opinions.

We are not nodding dogs, who are expected to bow to the whims and fancies, of a pious self- righteous clique of politically correct dipsticks. The French have a term for this, which they call 'Mouton de Panurge' or 'Panurge's Sheep'. It describes an individual or group that will blindly follow others regardless of the consequences and do the same thing as others, in order to follow the fashion. But as the philosopher Herbert Spencer, wisely pointed out, we must at times, resist the tyranny of fashion.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Boris Johnson plans to axe free prescriptions!

 


When Boris Johnson was told that a 70-year-old pensioner called Elsie, was eating one meal a day and spending most of her day traveling on the buses to reduce her heating costs and to keep warm, he told GMB TV presenter, Susanna Reid, that's why he'd introduced the 'freedom bus pass', so that people aged 60 and living in London, could travel free on the buses throughout Greater London.

Tomorrow, many OAP's will be going to the polls in the local elections. All voters should bear in mind, that under the Tories, people aged 75 or over, are no longer entitled to a free TV license unless they're receiving Pension Credit. The Tories passed responsibility for this to the BBC, who immediately said they couldn't afford it. This year, pensioners, did not see their pensions rise in line with average earnings or inflation, because the Boris Johnson's government suspended the triple lock pensions calculator which broke a Tory Party manifesto pledge to guarantee the triple lock. Pensions were increased by 3.1%, which is well below the current inflation rate of 7%, so their pensions are falling in value and not keeping up with the cost of living. 

The Tory government are also planning to axe free prescriptions for those age 60 who live in England. They currently receive free prescriptions that now cost £9.35 per item. Prescriptions are free in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, irrespective of age. You also receive a free bus pass at 60 if you live in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, but not in the rest of England, which under Johnson's Tory government, ought to be renamed MUGSBOROUGH!

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Daily Mail accuses Angela Rayner of salacious behaviour in the House of Commons.

 


I can well understand that Angela Rayner feels insulted and demeaned by being likened to a piece of white working-class trash, by the Tory Daily Mail. They say she keeps opening and crossing her legs in Sharon Stone, 'Basic Instinct' style, to district priapic Boris Johnson on the front benches, in the House of Commons.

What I find less convincing, is that she says it's blatant 'classism', 'sexism', and 'misogynistic,' to have described her as a teenage single mother and a former care worker. If this is so, then why has Angela Rayner, been banging on about this, ad nauseum, for as long as I can remember?

In the ironically named, House of Commons, Angela Rayner is something of a rarity, if not a collectors item. She's one of few MPs to have come from a working class background and to have worked as a manual worker, and she should be proud of the fact. As an institution, the Palace of Westminster, is largely a racket for the middle and upper classes and hardly representative of the country at all.

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

The shooting of Patrick Lyoya.

 

Patrick Lyoya

The shooting of Patrick Lyoya, reminds me of the case of Walter Lamar Scott, a 50-year old black man, who was shot fives times in the back by a local police officer, Michael Slager, in North Charleston, South Carolina, in April 2015, after he stopped Scott because of a broken tail light on his car.

In both these cases, the suspects ran away but posed no direct threat to the police officer. Patrick Lyoya grabbed the taser and it was alleged that Scott had also done the same. Another similarity is that both victims were carrying passengers in their cars. Michael Slager finished up being given a twenty year prison sentence for the killing of Walter Scott.

Why Patrick Lyoya decided to do a runner, isn't clear, but I'm sure he wouldn't have liked being tasered. Walter Scott, seemingly did a runner because he thought he was about to be arrested for non payment of child maintenance, as there was an arrest warrant out on him. These sort of shootings appear routine in gun happy America. The police stop you over a suspect car registration plate or a broken tail light, and the next thing the incident escalates into you being shot dead.

Early Day Motion calls on Garrick Club to revoke ban on female members.

 


The exclusive gentleman's club, The Garrick Club, in Covent Garden, has not allowed women to join since it was founded in 1831. There have been repeated calls for the club to end its 'archaic' ban on female members. In 2015, members of the club voted 50.5% in favour of allowing female members, but a two-thirds majority, is required to change the rules.

In 2020, Emily Bendell, the founder of the lingerie label Bluebella, sent a legal letter to the Garrick Club to complain about its rules which she claimed amounted to sex discrimination, under section 29 of the Equality Act 2010. Now, a small group of MPs, including Stella Creasy, Daisy Cooper, Caroline Lucas, and John McDonnell, have jumped on the bandwagon and are supporting an early day motion calling on the Garrick to revoke its ban on female members.

Under the existing law, if you own a private club, such as a gentleman's club, you can limit membership to people who share a certain protected characteristics, if this is a requirement of club membership. This can include physical or mental disability, gender, sex, sexual orientation and ethnicity.

The early day motion, is not the first time there have been attempts to ban men-only drinking dens on the grounds of discrimination. Yet, what many find curious, is why arch-feminists, like Stella Creasy, and Emily Bendell, should find men-only clubs discriminatory and objectionable, but not women-only London clubs like, The AllBright, in Mayfair, The Wing, Grace, in Belgravia, Marguerite, and the University Women's Club. On this issue, Creasy and Bendell, show a certain aspect blindness and partiality.

If The Garrick Club was forced by law to admit women into membership, then you might find, women-only clubs would have to do the same. Likewise, it could also apply to Stella Creasy's campaign for a law making misogyny (prejudice and hatred of women), a criminal offence. Not only would this be difficult to enforce, it would open up a legal minefield and demands for a law against misandry (prejudice and hatred of men).

Tories rally to defend beleaguered Boris over "Partygate."

 


It's fascinating to see Boris and the Tories, wriggle about like a maggot on the end of a fishing hook, as they try to defend their beleaguered leader over the "Partygate" affair. The excuses become more ridiculous and embarrassing by the day. Initially, Boris denied there had been any parties, even though he attended them. Then he told us that he'd been reliably informed that all COVID rules and regulations had been complied with at all times. Now, he tells us, that although he humbly accepts the findings of the police that he broke the law, he didn't think he he'd broken the law, and had acted in good faith at all times. But as Dean Swift, famously said, where "Falsehood flies, truth comes limping after it."

We all know that ignorance of the law is no excuse. In issuing the fine, (F.P.N.), to the PM, the police are saying that there is a reasonable belief that you broke the law, that you knew you were breaking the law, or ought to have known, that you were breaking the law. Johnson was recently asked during an interview if he fully understood his own laws that he'd made for others, during the COVID epidemic, but he dodged the question. Not only does Boris Johnson not comply with his own laws, but he's the first serving Prime Minister, to have been found to have broken the law, while in office. He's also accused of lying to, and misleading Parliament. Despite his fine, and there may be others in the pipeline, Johnson says it's time to get on with the job.

Some Tory MPs in Parliament, who previously called for Johnson's resignation, have now changed tack, insisting that because of the war in the Ukraine, Johnson should not resign. Although British people were unable to attend funerals or visit loved ones during the lockdown restrictions, the Brexit minister, Jacob Reese-Mogg, even described "Partygate" as "fluff" and "fundamentally trivial", a mere distraction. Other have compared Boris's fine for breaching Covid lockdown restrictions, to a minor traffic violation. It looks like Vlad the Impaler, might have thrown Boris Johnson another lifeline with his invasion of the Ukraine. As Shakespeare says, "Busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels."

Monday, 11 April 2022

The Zong Massacre 1781

 

The Zong Massacre

The Zong massacre is a reminder of the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade.

On 29 November 1781, the crew of the English slave ship the 'Zong', sailing to Jamaica, began to throw its cargo of African slaves overboard because of a lack of drinkable water. The slave ship was owned by a group of Liverpool merchants. Some 132 slaves were eventually thrown overboard over a period of two days, and left to drown. The ship owners argued that this became necessary so that others could survive, but another reason, was that it allowed them to cash in on their insurance policy.

The insurers refused to pay out and this led to a legal action and court cases. As the slaves were classed as cargo, and not human beings, the case was not about mass murder. The courts had ruled that the killing of slaves was legal in some cases. The ship had been carrying 442 African slaves which was twice the number the ship was capable of safely transporting. It was discovered that the ship had also sailed 300 miles past its destination of Jamaica. Initially, the Zong massacre had little impact in Britain, but some years later, it became an example of the horrors of slavery and became a catalyst for the abolitionist movement.

I certainly didn't learn about this horrific case from attending an history class at an English state school. Like many white people of my generation, who went to school in the 1950s and 6Os, I was educated as a little imperialist. I first heard about the Zong massacre from watching the 2013 film called 'Belle', which was inspired by the painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle, who was the mixed-race daughter of the nephew of William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, and Lord Chief Justice of England. Lord Mansfield ruled on this case in England's Court of King's Bench in 1786.

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

B.F Skinner - "We Can't Afford Freedom."

 


The psychologist B.F. Skinner (1904-90), who is associated with the theory of 'Behaviorism', is not a person that I particularly care for. Nevertheless, his theories of human behaviour have been extremely influential in the field of psychology. He believed that 'free will' was an illusion and that all human behaviour was determined by our environment and could be conditioned, controlled, and manipulated, by a system of rewards and punishments. One of his favourite experimental animals, was the pigeon, which he placed in the "Skinner box." He even taught pigeons how to play ping-pong. His utopian novel called 'Walden Two', published in 1948, describes a fictional utopian society in which people are trained to become ideal citizens through the use of 'operant conditioning'. 

The book derives its title from Henry David Thoreau's book also called 'Walden', which espoused the virtues of self reliance at the individual level. Members of Skinner's fictional utopian society, believe that they are exercising free will, but in reality, they are part of a dystopian psychological experiment that is controlling their behaviour. Skinner believed in the rule of the expert - 'technocratic rule'. He wrote: " We must delegate control of the population as a whole to specialists - to police, priests, teacher's, therapists, and so on, with their specialized reinforcers and their codified contingencies." I'm sure many authoritarians would welcome this. Many governments are already using 'Nudge theory', as a means to drive behavioural change in individuals and groups.

In later life, Skinner published books suggesting that society's emphasis on autonomy and individual freedom, were the source of many of its ills. He argued that a more scientific approach to society could eliminate war, crime, punishment, and other forms of social strife. Skinner's critics, argued that his approach dehumanized people by neglecting their personal freedom by seeking to control their actions. In the 1970s, Skinner was hanged in effigy outside the Psychology Department at Indiana University with these words attached to the effigy - "BF SKINNER, WE CAN'T AFFORD FREEDOM."

Radical psychologist, Thomas Szasz, who reviewed Skinner's book 'On Behaviorism' which was published in 1974, wrote: "I believe that those who rob people of the meaning and significance they have given to their lives, kill them, and should be considered murders, at least metaphorically. B.F. Skinner is such a murderer. Like all such murderers he fascinates, especially his victims."

Monday, 4 April 2022

Johnson accused of blaming junior officials for "Partygate".

 



Putin's invasion of the Ukraine effectively threw a lifeline to Johnson, but now that media interest in the war is waning, the press have put the spotlight back on Boris Johnson and the police investigation into 'Partygate'.

The Metropolitan Police are investigating 12 events during 2020 and 2021, where it is thought that lockdown rules were broken. The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is known to have attended six of these events. Some of these parties took place at 10 Downing Street.

The police have issued 20 fixed penalty notices to people who attended these events, including officials working in Downing Street. Previously, the Prime Minister, told Parliament that "all guidance was followed completely in No 10." Although the police have been issuing fines to those who are believed to have broken the law, it's astonishing that Johnson, still refuses to accept that the law has been broken. Nor will he confirm that he will resign, if he's found to have broken the law.

The Met have been accused of focusing their attentions on "low hanging fruit" - junior officials. A former senior aide to the Prime Minister, Dominic Cummings, has now accused Boris Johnson of encouraging attacks on junior officials in order to protect himself and his wife Carrie. He says senior officials have "turned a blind eye" to his behaviour. In a recent blog, Cummings wrote: "It is deeply, deeply contemptible that not just the PM but senior civil servants have allowed such people to have their reputations attacked in order to protect the sociopathic narcissist squatting in the No 10 flat."

If the Prime Minister or his wife are not fined for breaching lockdown restrictions, when others in their charmed circle have been, critics are likely to say that the police investigation looks bent, and that there is one law for powerful figures like Boris Johnson, and another law, for the rest of us. During lockdown restrictions, the police issued thousands of fines to those they believed broke the law. The crux of the matter is whether Johnson broke the law, and then lied or misled Parliament, and if his position as Prime Minister is now untenable. The "sociopathic narcissist', seems to be hanging on by the skin of his teeth.

Friday, 1 April 2022

Union say that P&O have got away with it. Seafarer's throw the towel in!

 


The sacking of 786 crew members working for P&O Ferries, who've been replaced by cheaper agency worker's, shows how easy it is for bosses to get rid of British worker's. The UK has one of the least regulated labour markets in the developed world and some of the strictest anti-union laws.

It seems astonishing, that despite Britain's lack of employment protection, the RMT union urged its members to vote to leave the E.U. in the Brexit referendum in 2016. They naively asserted that leaving the E.U. would end the attack on seafarer's and offshore worker's, and the attack on worker's rights. The TUC, said that British worker's were better off in the E.U.

In Brexit Britain, we saw P&O crew members sacked without notice and ignominiously marched off the ships, by security guards wearing balaclavas and carrying handcuffs. They were then replaced by cheaper agency worker's, who according to the RMT union, were being paid as little as £1.80 an hour. Peter Hebblewaite, the chief executive of P&O Ferries, admitted to deliberately flouting British employment law, but said he would do so again, under similar circumstances.

The union's representing the sacked seafarer's, the RMT and Nautilus, are now saying that P&O have gotten away with it. Seemingly, all but one of the sacked P&O ferry worker's, have accepted redundancy packages, which include gagging clauses and which prohibit, the seafarer's from taking further action.

Despite all the grandstanding and fine words and condemnations by the government, their threats against P&O have come to nought. Although the Tory PM, Boris Johnson, told Parliament they would take P&O to court to defend the rights of British worker's, the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, admitted: "The government are not in a position to take further action." Shapps said it was for the Insolvency Service to consider whether to disqualify Peter Hebblewaite, and government plans to get British ports to enforce the minimum wage against ferry operators, have been described as 'unworkable'.

Despite the shabby treatment of British seafarer's, the owners of P&O Ferries, the Dubai-based DP World, who recently announced record profits of £751m, now stand to benefit from around £50m of tax breaks, by playing a leading role in free ports at London Gateway, and Southampton. Ministers have ignored calls from MPs, to exclude DP World, from running UK free ports.

Although P&O sacked almost a quarter of its British staff, regional media in France - where it's more difficult to sack worker's, and where worker's are more militant, and more politically savvy, - said that no French employees had been affected. The RMT vowed to continue the fight, but said that P&O seafarer's had a gun at their heads, and could have lost all their redundancy pay. Louise Haigh, Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary, said that if P&O were seen to have escaped without consequences, "it would give a green light to bad bosses across the country."

Monday, 28 March 2022

Arsonists set fire to historic library building in Hyde!

 


Described by Tameside Councillor, Oliver Ryan, as one of the jewels in the crown of Hyde, the library in Hyde (see above), built in 1899, has remained empty since 2015 when it was relocated to cramped conditions in Hyde Town Hall. Youths recently broke into the library building and set fire to it. They should be made aware by the authorities that arson (criminal damage by fire), carries a maximum life sentence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971. Had there been people inside the building, it would have been arson with intent to endanger life. 

The library in Hyde, is just one of a number of historic public buildings in Tameside, that have been left to fall into dereliction and decay by the structural vandals called Tameside Council. Brenda Warrington, the Labour leader of the council, has been nicknamed the 'Bulldozer'. The Town Hall in Ashton is also in a parlous state as well as the John Nield Conservatory in Stamford Park, which is a Grade 11 listed building. The council wanted to demolish the Conservatory which led to a campaign to save it, by irate park users. 

Saturday, 26 March 2022

UNITE appoint heavyweight lawyers to lead the investigation into collusion in blacklisting

 UNITE have today announced the appointment of two legal big hitters to lead the independent investigation into possible collusion by union officials in blacklisting their own members. Nick Randall QC from Matrix Chambers and John Carl Townsend from 33 Chancery Lane officially start on 11th April. John Carl Townsend, was the lead barrister at Guney Clark and Ryan solicitors, representing blacklisted workers during the High Court trial that resulted in a public apology from the UK's 8 largest construction companies. 

UNITE General Secretary Sharon Graham said: 

“Under my leadership, Unite is committed to uncovering the truth about allegations of union collusion with blacklisting. The workers affected and their families deserve to know the truth and I hope that this QC-led independent inquiry will get to the bottom of what really happened.”

Randall and Townsend are assisted by Thompsons solicitors, who have already collated documentary evidence and taken witness statements from many blacklisted workers and others. UNITE have also appointed the Public Interest Law Centre to oversee the searches of UNITE's internal documentary and electronic database.  All the lawyers involved in the independent investigation have a long history of exposing institutional wrongdoing in the High Court.  
Blacklist Support Group statement on their facebook page:
"Blacklisted workers have long demanded action that any investigation into union collusion in blacklisting must be completely independent from Unite and their own legal team.
The Blacklist Support Group applauds the appointment of such heavyweight and independently minded lawyers. It is a clear indication that this investigation will not turn a blind eye to any evidence that exposes an unhealthy culture within Unite or its predecessor unions.
The collusion investigation is neither mudslinging, nor a whitewash - this is a robust independent process to uncover the truth. The Blacklist Support Group repeats our call for anyone with evidence of union collusion in blacklisting to make contact with the investigation team."
Blacklist Support Group

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

RMT said leaving the EU would improve workers' rights.

 


The sackings at P&O are just the latest of a number of fire and rehire disputes. They're occurring with monotonous regularity in Britain. The response from the Tory government is always the same - shocked and appalled, outraged, it's bad business practice, platitudes. Yet, they've blocked attempts to ban the practice of 'fire and rehire' to cut worker's pay and conditions, which is perfectly legal in this country. So what does that tell you? Boris Johnson said leaving the E.U. would improve worker's rights and the RMT union said it would improve the pay and conditions of worker's.  

It doesn't seem to have occurred to Mick Cash and the RMT that whether we remain in the EU or leave, Britain would still have a capitalist market system. Brexit always was a right wing project which was about deregulating the British economy to undercut our European neighbours and competitors, and to give Britain a competitive edge. 'Britannia Unchained', a race to the bottom. Apart from the RMT, did anybody seriously believe that leaving the E.U. would end the attack on worker's rights and improve pay and conditions. It's laughable! Cameron's Tory government were 100% behind TTIP and the neo liberal agenda. The Tories have been attacking worker's rights for decades and Labour never repealed most of it. Secondary industrial action (strikes in solidarity with other worker's) are illegal in this country as well as general strikes. The UK has some of the strictest anti union laws in the developed world and you can't blame that on the E.U.

Its been noted that the practice of fire and rehire is illegal in France, Spain, and Ireland, which are all E.U. countries. If the P&O worker's would have occupied those ferries, they would have been in a much stronger position. Now, they're bringing in agency worker's from Eastern Europe, to replace them, working for as little as £2.60 an hour. You can expect more of this and you can't blame it on the E.U. It's happening in Brexit Britain.

P&O recruiting replacement staff from India on £1.80 an hour.

 


When P&O sacked 800 seafarer's, almost a quarter of its British staff, they sent in security guards wearing balaclavas and carrying handcuffs, who marched the sacked seafarer's off their ships. The staff and their union the RMT, were not given prior notice of the mass sackings and P&O did not give the government the legally required 45 day's notice. Failure to do so, is a criminal offence. However, the Tory Business Minister, Paul Scully, now says that although the sacking of 800 P&O staff is an "absolutely egregious situation", the sackings could be "entirely legal", because P&O's parent company, (DP World), is not flagged in the UK. 

The RMT union, who campaigned to leave the EU in 2016, believing that Brexit would end the attack on seafarer's and worker's rights, now say that many of the replacement seafarer's for P&O sacked staff, have been recruited from India and are working for as little as £1.80 an hour. 

When we left the EU, the British government entered into an agreement with the EU, in which they agreed not to reduce employment rights below the standards existing on 31 December 2020. So far, there has been no divergence from EU employment rights. The problem has more to do with a lack of legal protection for worker's in this country. The UK has one of the least regulated labour markets in the developed world, and some of the strictest anti-union laws. Most of these Tory anti union laws, were never repealed by Labour governments. 

We have seen a series of industrial disputes involving what is called 'Fire and Rehire', where worker's are given the option of agreeing to cuts in pay and conditions, or losing their jobs. This practice which is occurring with monotonous regularity in Britain, is illegal in France, Spain, and Ireland, but perfectly legal in Britain. The government of Boris Johnson recently blocked attempts to make this practice also illegal in Britain. The Tories see deregulated labour markets and fewer employment rights for British worker's, as giving Britain a competitive edge over our European competitors. All this is happening in Brexit Britain.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Oleg-arch Deripaska; Every mansion tells a story - By Christopher Draper.

 


“Law is but the declarative will of conquerors, how they will have their subjects to be ruled.”

Gerrard Winstanley, 1650

Shortly after midnight on Monday 14th March 2022 four anarchists entered the £50 million, 5 Belgrave Square, London SW1, mansion of Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, declared it “liberated” and available for occupation by refugees fleeing Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Despite Deripaska having been recently “sanctioned” by the Conservative Government and London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan suggesting his property should house refugees, the British State sent nine vans full of riot police and a JCB cherry-picker to evict and arrest the anarchists who’d exposed the insincerity of the politicians’ promises. For decades politicians of both major parties welcomed oligarchs with open arms. Deripaska has owned the Belgravia building, once described as “the most expensive terraced house in the world”, since 2003 and just twenty-five miles south west of London he also owns “the Duchess of Windsor’s favourite abode”, a £20m country house he bought in 2001 – and every mansion tells a story…

Oleg the Oligarch

Deripaska, like thousands of fellow oligarchs, grew obscenely rich ripping apart the remnants of the USSR and feasting off its formerly socialised assets and in 2012 he admitted in court to paying protection money to maintain his share of the swag. After assessing his fortune, in 2008 Forbes calculated Deripaska was the richest man in Russia and ninth wealthiest in the world. The neighbourhood of his Belgravia mansion constitutes such a popular home for laundered Russian loot it’s known, locally, as “the oligarch’s quarter”. Belgrave Square was originally built in the 1820’s for the 2nd Earl of Grosvenor, with Deripaska’s number 5 the grand residence of Sir George Murray (1772-1846), “Secretary of State for War and the Colonies”. The building is listed at Grade 1, the highest official level of historic and architectural merit. From 1935 until 1958 it was the London home of notorious socialite and Tory MP “Chips” Channon” and subsequently became the HQ of the “The Institute of Directors”.

Asked by journalists how they’d entered Deripaska’s prestigious and supposedly secure Belgravia mansion the anarchist squatters cheekily suggested “the spirit of Nestor Mahkno” had let them in. Mahkno was a Ukrainian anarchist whose guerrilla army fought against both Austro-Hungarian and Bolshevik (not to mention Deniken’s White Russian) forces in an ultimately unsuccessful struggle (1918-21) to free their homeland from colonial rule. Systematically starved into submission by Stalin, Ukraine eventually gained its independence in 1991, with the break up of the Soviet Union. With the aid of oligarchs, both at home and abroad, Putin’s kleptocracy has since determined to reconstitute the old Russian Empire. Although anarchism’s influence is now much reduced, memories of Mahkno’s ideas and actions still inspire many in his homeland. When the Ukrainian band, “Dakha Brakha” held a concert followed by a Q&A in north Wales, just before the Covid lockdowns, they denounced

Putin and responded enthusiastically when I asked if they knew of Mahkno’s campaign, informing the audience they’d made a special pilgrimage to Nestor’s grave when performing in Paris.

“A Gentleman’s Refuge”

The history of “Hamstone House”, Deripaska’s country mansion, is deeply rooted in the long, ancient and cynical traditions of British class rule. It’s beautifully situated on St George’s Hill, now a luxurious enclosed estate near Weybridge, Surrey, where “Residents also enjoy manned security on the main entrance gates, as well as CCTV, vehicle recognition and card access to several of its other entrances”. Past residents of the 974 acre estate include the likes of Cliff Richard, John Lennon, Kate Winslet and Elton John but after Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008 offered a “Golden Visa” to overseas millionaires the estate became an oligarch’s playground with more than a quarter of the properties now owned by wealthy Russians. Perhaps Deripaska should keep paying his protection money for despite the extensive security arrangements in November 2012 estate resident and “whistleblowing” 44 year-old Russian oligarch, Alexander Perepilichnyy was found dead “in suspicious circumstances” whilst apparently out jogging near his home.

St George’s Hill was laid out in its present form in 1912 by developer Walter George Tarrant. Tarrant created, “A gentleman’s refuge for captains of industry on London’s doorstep” and according to upmarket estate agents Churchods, “It is comforting to know the same vision still exists today.” Three centuries earlier, in the midst of the English Revolution, a radically different vision drew Gerrard Winstanley and a ragged band of “Diggers” to St George’s Hill…

Slaying the Dragon?

Despite the defeat of the monarchy, Winstanley’s Diggers had grown weary of Cromwell’s promises of “levelling up” society. Cutting off King Charles I’s head had provided republican generals and gentry with an opportunity to grab the rich spoils of Crown land but once victory was assured they had no wish to appease the poor. Landless Diggers, or True Levellers, as they called themselves took direct action and in April 1649 “liberated” St George’s Hill, planted crops and built shelters for themselves and their animals. Poor families were invited to join Winstanley’s squatters and around England other Digger communities emulated their example.

Unfortunately, in 1649 (as in 2022) the government promised “levelling up” but exacted swift retribution on activists who gave direct effect to such hollow promises. Troopers were sent to arrest the Diggers, tear down their homes, seize their animals and burn their crops. Cromwell’s sham “Commonwealth” demoralised his followers and royalty returned with little opposition. Crown lands were restored and in the eighteenth century, St George’s Hill housed the king’s son, the “Grand Old Duke of York” (1763-1827). St George’s Hill then passed to Lord Brackley (John Francis Granville Scrope Egerton -1872-1944) who, in 1910 sold the estate to W G Tarrant.

From Diggers to Oligarchs

Hamstone House is said by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner to be, “The best country house on St George’s Hill”. Built in 1937 for Danish concrete contractor Herman “Peter” Tygesen Lind, the house incorporates polished elm planking from London’s old Waterloo Bridge which was then being replaced by Lind’s construction company. The stylish façade of the Grade II listed house incorporates art-deco design

aspects of the famed Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso wristwatch referencing the marriage of Lind’s daughter into that fashionable family.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a wartime visitor as in 1943 he planned the construction of the concrete Mulberry Harbours to be fabricated by Lind’s company. Following the 1981 death of Lind’s wife Alba, Hamstone House was sold to a Saudi Prince before being bought by Deripaska in 2001.

True Levellers

For centuries political leaders have deluded the lower orders with promises of levelling up but as this brief historical enquiry into Deripaska’s properties indicates, politicians’ allegiance to the world’s rich and powerful is ubiquitous and enduring. One carefully organised, well publicised direct-action is worth a million votes. The spirits of Gerrard Winstanley and Nestor Mahkno are alive and continue to inspire and open doors for the dispossessed. The 430 mansions on St George’s Hill might not be as secure as their pampered owners might think…

CD. March 2022