Sunday, 24 May 2020

"You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately... "

"By pretending that procedure will get rid of corruption, we have succeeded only in humiliating honest people and provided a cover of darkness and complexity for the bad people." - Phillip K. Howard, U.S. lawyer & writer.

Brexit, contrary to what some may say, is not over. In fact it is not a single event, it is a process that that will go on at least until Britain signs its final bilateral trade deal.

It is also, to my mind, not the final battle. Because, quite frankly, the gang who took us into the whole mess in the first place, or at least their sons and heirs, are still in charge. This is the real challenge Britain faces.

I find that any criticism I make of Boris Johnson is likely to be met with cries of "would you rather Jeremy Corbyn was in Downing Street?" Well, no actually. "Neither Tweedledum nor Tweedledee" is my usual response. The government and the opposition are, and have been for more years than I have been on this Earth, two sides of the same coin; in this case, the proverbial "bad penny".

There are many good men and women in every political party, and I am glad that circumstances have allowed me to meet, talk to, and even work with so many: but one lesson I have learned is that politics corrupts, and it is my belief that the party system we have in the UK provides the ideal conditions for the current state of affairs to continue unchecked. 

I can honestly say that those I have known who have had the strength and will to position themselves outside of the established party system are the ones who have stuck to their principles and actually stood out from the rest because of it. Scruples, however, do tend to cut political careers short. 

We British are proud of our parliamentary history, but can we really declare ourselves to be proud of our parliament?

When we think of our great past we hear in our minds the words of Churchill whose speeches many of us know by heart, having grown up in his shadow. 

But if I think of our leaders of today I hear Tony Blair's “A day like today is not a day for soundbites, we can leave those at home, but I feel the hand of history upon our shoulder...”. I can also remember well David Cameron's "cast-iron guarantee" of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, a promise that was quickly and quietly forgotten within days of him winning, largely on the basis of that fake promise, the 2010 general election. 

As for Boris Johnson, currently doing a splendid impression of H.G. Wells Invisible Man, stating that he would rather be "dead in a ditch"  than go and ask Brussels for a delay to Brexit - just three weeks before going to ask Brussels for a delay to Brexit - I think you might understand me when I urge you not to trust these clowns any further than you could throw them.

I think it is time to put them out of our misery.

Our bicameral system is creaking, not because of how it is structured, but because of who sits in the chambers.

We have in the UK what is known as a competitive elitist model of liberal democracy. In simple terms this means that the most charismatic member of the ruling elite gets elected to run the country for a term of up to five years. I am arguing that this is outdated not least because, to be blunt, those who currently make up the so-called ruling elite are simply not up to the job anymore. In fact, they are not up to much at all.

The alternative model is the pluralist one. This model, rooted in Marxism, has been seen in action in such political and economic basket-cases as the Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela, Cambodia, and is currently enjoying extended runs in Vietnam and North Korea. The weakness with this one is that once "the people" achieve power, those at the head of - yes, you guessed it, The Party - find their own scruples disappear with the wind. This one we don't even want to try.

As for the now dubiously named "upper chamber", the House of Lords, there have been efforts to reform; notably the 1999 act that abolished the right of hereditary peers to sit in the House.

However, under the auspices of the aforementioned Tony Blair - who once declared at a Labour Party conference that "Marx is dead" - the house was "democratised" in true Marxian fashion, and opened to all manner of hobbledehoys, ne'er do wells, and wannabe Arthur Daleys whose main contribution to public life had been - again you guessed it - contributions to the political party of their choice, which always works so long as the contributions are substantial, and they are made to a party with a 50/50 chance of getting into power. Again, whilst a second chamber is, I would argue, vital, I think we would be much better off without what we have today.

This brings me to the subject of the Monarchy. Monarchism is an outdated concept, but one which suits the British people well, and unlike the parliamentary system, appears to continue to work. Oliver Cromwell's warning was obviously well heeded.

Unlike the parliamentary and party systems, the British people trust the Monarchy. I would argue that this loyalty is engendered by a genuine admiration, indeed love, for one person, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Indeed, most of us have lived our entire lives to date during her reign, and could not imagine it any other way.

But one day, not too soon we hope, this will change, and it will be painful. Is Britain ready, or indeed strong enough, to handle that change? I would argue that no, with the way we allow ourselves to be governed it is not ready, and may not even survive in its current form.

In a future post I may well write about a lobbyist, a former MEP who used to annoy me by knocking on my office door in Brussels to bring to my attention certain amendments that I had absolutely no interest in, who was then re-elected as an MEP, only to call for rules to prevent lobbyists knocking on office doors in Brussels. The person concerned has, as is the tradition, been well looked after by her party in a subsequent New Year's honours list....

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Dodgy headlines and lazy readers.

This is a classic example of how the public are deceived by totally misleading headlines, although I must say I believe it says more about the intellect of the general public - their readership - than it does about the newspapers themselves.

This dramatic headline from the Daily Express rests on two statements:

"Professor Anand Menon, Director of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative, said the European Union has already conceded there will not be an extension to the transition period beyond December 31 and will begin preparations for a no deal outcome."
“I think the EU is already assuming there will be no extension and starting to prepare for no deal.”

Regarding the first: the EU is still arguing for an extension, and of course at the same time it is preparing for a "no deal outcome". Regarding the second, the words "I think" and "assuming" are deliberately vague enough for the Express to build any headline it wants around them.

I monitor very closely how people interact with social media postings on EUtoday. I know exactly how to provoke reaction with a headline: with the right keywords, on any one article I can attract praise/bile from Brexiteers/remainers. Social media users more often than not respond by commenting on the headline alone without even opening the article.

They use the same criteria when deciding who to vote for at a general election, which might explain why the country is in such a mess!

Sunday, 10 May 2020

And the winner of the prize for Crap Policy Statement of the week goes to.... Grant Shapps!

"Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a £2bn package to help increase cycling and walking capacity across the UK, as commuters face new challenges of getting to work during the coronavirus crisis."
Some questions:
1. Of what conceivable use is this to commuters living 20, 30, 40, 50 or miles from the workplace, something that is quite normal in the UK?
2(a). Would it not be better to use this crisis as an opportunity to do something about the over-priced and horrendously over-crowded trains that commuters are currently forced to use?
2(b). Why, after many years of debate and several £ billions, is the government still procrastinating about HS2, which may or may not go ahead, while on the continent 200mph trains with a guaranteed seat are the norm? 
2(c). How is it that the country that built the first railway line - from London to Bristol - in five years can fall so far behind the rest of the world? Is it something to do with the people we elect to parliament? Is it something to with the fact that our industry has all been sold off to offshore based companies, and we no longer have the skills or the capacity to achieve anything?
3. How is it that the taxpayer can afford £2billion for what will in all likelihood be little or no more than an expensive consultation process that will achieve absolutely zero, but can do nothing about the growing numbers of people sleeping in shop doorways in the heart of our "great" capital? Does Shapps think cycle lanes are what they need?
The good news is that in all probability this is just another headline that will amount to no more than the others we have had inflicted on us by this government and by a press that over-inflates every word of speculation, and which cites, when it suits them, the man on the Clapham Omnibus as an "expert" who "told us".
At least we haven't had the "new 100% accurate testing kit on the way next week" headline for a couple of days now. Or have I missed something?"

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Lost & Forgotten: allied prisoners of war in Stalin's Gulag

As Europe commemorates the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the continent - VE Day - on May 8th, EUtoday publisher Gary Cartwright revisits a dark and forgotten episode of the war
Tens of thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers, along with their American compatriots, following their "liberation" from Nazi prison camps by the Red Army disappeared into the Gulag, Josef Stalin's own labour camp network.
(This article, which contains minor edits, originally appeared in the Summer 2010 edition of The Quarterly Review under the title "Gulag revisited".)

Forced Labour Camps in Russia: The Allied Connection.
Immediately after the Bolshevik revolution of 1918, the Russian penal system went through a radical reformation. The traditional "hard-labour" sentences were replaced by a two-tier system: the Vechecka "special purpose" camps, and those that were openly used for "forced labour". Although not on the scale of those that appeared during the Stalin era, the purpose was the same; as well as criminals, enemies of the State such as aristocrats, businessmen, and political opponents were incarcerated, often summarily. 
In July 1921, the Council of People's Commissars (SOVNARKOM) issued a secret decree defining the use, and the purpose, of "corrective forced labour". It had already been acknowledged by the state that the camps were of little use in terms of rehabilitation of prisoners, but were merely a means of obtaining very cheap labour. The decree of 1929 effectively institutionalised the concept of slave labour in the Soviet Union, and laid the ground for the subsequent Stalinist atrocities. By April 1930 the system was officially established, and in November that year the word Gulag was first used. 
During the early 1930s the camp network grew rapidly, and the numbers of prisoners rose as new "offences" were dreamt up by Stalin and his cabal. Article 58 of the Soviet penal code (1927), intended to criminalise political opposition, was updated in 1934 to include a number of new crimes, including "contact with foreigners" (article 58-3). 
After the Second World War, this article was used to imprison released Soviet PoWs, on the grounds that their failure to fight to the death was an "anti-Soviet" act. In July 1937, the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB, issued special order No. 00447, under which tens of thousands of inmates of the Gulag were executed for "continued anti-Soviet activity". This category of offence included such treasonous acts as becoming ill, or failing to work hard enough. 
A decline in the camp populations occurred during the Second World War due to high mortality rates - 25% of inmates died of starvation in 1941 alone - however numbers swelled to almost 2.5 million by the time Stalin died in 1953. 
Many of the new inmates were from territories newly annexed by the Soviet Union, and many more were former citizens who were forcibly repatriated after fleeing in the pre-war years. A tightening of property ownership laws also created a whole new range of offences, and new categories of "enemies of the state".
An amnesty followed Stalin's death, and the camps went into numerical decline. In January 1960, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) issued an order officially liquidating the Gulag. The Soviet Union is now littered with mass graves. 
At Kurapaty, near Minsk, as many as 30,000 citizens were executed by the NKVD between 1937-41. At Bykivnia, on the outskirts of Kiev, as many as 225,000 "enemies of the state" were buried in at least 210 mass graves. At Butovo, in the Moscow region, at least 20,000 political prisoners were shot, and buried near the village of Drozhino.
Although somewhat different to the Nazi concentration camp system- it's primary raison d'être was not extermination - the results were too often the same, and the penal system killed millions. 
Allied PoWs in the Gulag.
Rarely, if ever, talked about however has been the fate of those tens of thousands of Allied servicemen who were to disappear into the system. 
As many as 30,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers, "liberated" by the Soviets from German POW camps ended their days in the Gulag.
Iron Cage
In his book The Iron Cage (1993) Nigel Cawthorn refers to a London Evening Standard investigation that revealed at least 1,400 British soldiers had been taken, printing the names of 132.
It is a matter of record that British, French, Dutch, Belgian and American servicemen were held at a camp at Tambov, 25 miles from Moscow, from May 1945 onwards. According to The Moscow News (10-17 Feb 1991) some were still alive after 45 years in captivity.
The British government has appeared to be unwilling to shine a light on this matter, possibly in order to hide the true nature of its wartime "ally". However, the unexpected homecoming of one Frank Kelly of Lewisham in South-East London in 1953 was to prove somewhat awkward. 
Kelly had been held in a German PoW camp, Stalag Luft 4B, five miles to the north-east of the town of Mühlberg in the Prussian Province of Saxony, having been captured after the Battle of Arnhem, and following his liberation by the Soviets was to spend the better part of eight years in the Gulag.
169 Stalag Iv B
On his return home - his family had been told he was "missing, presumed dead" - he was quickly arrested and charged with being Absent Without Leave (AWOL); a charge that was quickly and quietly dropped.
Evidence suggests that Kelly served with the Highland Light Infantry, which provided several battalions to Operation Market Garden, the attempt to secure the bridge at Arnhem.
Soldiers of Misfortune: Washington's Secret Betrayal of American POWs in the Soviet Union by James D. Sanders, Mark A. Sauter, and R. Cort Kirkwood (1992) claimed that 20,000 US servicemen were also taken by the Soviets, and that "Starting in 1945, the Soviet Union became the second-largest employer of American servicemen in the world." 
It is interesting to note that a US Senate Select Committee found that whilst 76,854 Americans were estimated to be in German PoW camps as of March 15, 1945, the actual number of Americans recovered from German PoW camps was 91,252. This suggests that amongst the numbers of those who were missing in action (MIA) and were subsequently presumed killed, were many thousands who were in captivity, but whose status had not been reported by the Germans to the International Red Cross. 
Vietnam and the Cold War: Yeltsin opens the files.
A US Department of Defence press release, dated 09 Dec 2003, revealed that Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Jerry Jennings had visited Moscow as part of the work of a joint U.S.-Russia commission set up in 1992 to explore the question of whether Americans were held in, or transported through, the former Soviet Union during WWII, the Cold War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. 
The cases of more than 200 airmen who went missing during the Korean War were discussed. It is widely held that downed American fliers, especially electronic warfare officers, were routinely sent to Moscow for interrogation and execution. On November 4th 1991, the Moscow-based journal Kommersant carried an interview with KGB Maj. Gen Oleg Kalugin (Retd.), who confirmed that after preliminary interrogations in theatre by Russian and Chinese personnel, PoWs were flown to Russia. The article concluded that the eventual fate of the servicemen was "unknown". 
It should be pointed out that during the period of the Yeltsin government, Moscow began to open its files, and US investigators were given access to these documents, and to Russian veterans. In fact, whilst the US Joint Staff stated that they "found no evidence that any previously unacknowledged Americans had been captured and imprisoned during the Cold War period by the Soviet Union, China or Korea", Yeltsin openly admitted in 1992 that a number of US airmen "lost" during the Cold War period had in fact been captured and imprisoned in the Soviet Union. In the same year, it was confirmed to investigators by officials in Kyiv that 10 files concerning US servicemen, including at least one who went missing on Ukrainian territory, were turned over to Moscow. 
Although the Gulag was officially disbanded in the 1960s, so-called free-labour camps remained in operation in Siberia, as a part of the Russian penal system, accommodating up to one million inmates. The Russians have a word - etapirovanie - which means "transport in stages". In 2005, Valerii Abramkin, head of the Moscow Centre for Prison Reform, was quoted in the Moscow Times as saying the time during which prisoners are in transit is used to "shock them and break their spirit."
Unable to communicate with the outside world, with up to 20 prisoners in a six-berth compartment, they are at the mercy of their guards. Abramkin told the newspaper that during stops, prisoners are often pulled out and made to lie down or kneel in the snow or dirt for hours while being beaten. 
A Labour camp in the far northern Siberian Yamal Peninsula, near the Arctic Circle, also remained in service, and possibly still does so: it was rumoured at the time that Mikhail Khordokovsky, the oligarch who fell out with the Kremlin after he sponsored pro-democratic political parties, had served at least part of his sentence there. 
Relatives have the right to know where loved ones are incarcerated, but there is no time-frame laid down within which this information must be imparted, so in reality many prisoners simply disappear into the system. 
Traditionally, NGOs would fight for the rights of such individuals, but Vladimir Putin has shut many of these down, of course.... 
Yamal, in the language of the indigenous Nenets people, means "end of the world". 
Postscript: This article came about as a result of research into the fate of the British & Commonwealth servicemen mentioned above. More than a year after the initial publication, during Dmitry Medvedev's Presidency, Russia introduced a freedom of information act. 
Using this I requested, electronically, that Moscow open the files on those men. I received a reply addressed to me by my job title and hand delivered to my internal mailbox in the European Parliament - I had not mentioned my employment at all in my request - which informed me that if Her Majesty's Government were to make a formal request the files would be opened. HMG did not respond to my pleas, and individual politicians who promised to help failed to deliver.
During the 1992 joint U.S.-Russia commission mentioned in the article, numerous witnesses came forward to testify to the presence of U.S. servicemen in the Soviet prison system. The evidence of Vladimir Trotseko is but one example:
I came across one witness statement which mentioned a sighting of U.S. servicemen in the 1950s who had been in the Gulag since the end of the First World War. This is highly plausible, as some allied troops did find themselves fighting alongside the Tsar's army during the 1917 revolution.
In January of this year, Paul A. Goble, writing for Euromaidan Press, drew attention to legislation signed off by Vladimir Putin that legalises the use of convicts as slave labourers:
Minutes of the 1st plenum of the commission, for those who are interested, can be found at:

Stalag Luft 4B image: By Dhr. J.H. Adam - This media file is part of the collection curated by Netwerk Oorlogsbronnen (external site) and donated in the context of a partnership program., CC BY-SA 4.0,

Monday, 4 May 2020

Corbyn's legacy: the Labour Party, terrorists, and Anti-Semitism

On Thursday morning, heavily armed German police took part in raids across the country. In Dortmund, Muenster, Bremen and Berlin they hit a number of Mosque associations - their target, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah, writes EUtoday publisher Gary Cartwright.
Hezbollah is now a proscribed organisation in Germany, as it is in the U.S., Israel, and the UK, with both its military and political wings criminalised. The EU remains on the fence somewhat, having proscribed just the military wing, which was also the case with Germany until now.
In February 2019 Britain's House of Commons passed a ban on Hezbollah, albeit without the support of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party.
An official statement from the party stated that "The Home Office has previously ruled that there was not sufficient evidence that the political wing of Hezbollah fell foul of proscription criteria, a position confirmed by ministers in the House of Commons last year. Ministers have not yet provided any clear evidence to suggest this has changed."
A spokesman for the party also said that because Hezbollah's political wing was part of a democratically elected government, such a ban would "interfere with diplomatic relations".
There have long been calls to ban the whole group with the distinction between the two factions derided as smoke and mirrors. Hezbollah themselves have laughed off the suggestion there is a difference. I've carefully considered the evidence and I'm satisfied they are one and the same with the entire organisation linked to terrorism.
Former UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid
Whilst not supporting the bill, Labour MPs declined to oppose the government on this occasion, and was passed without a vote. Corbyn's decision caused considerable discomfit amongst his backbenchers at the time.
It is now a criminal offence in the UK to show support for Hezbollah, punishable with a 10 year prison sentence.
Corbyn Adams Mc Guinness
Jeremy Corbyn has a history of expressing support for terrorists: photographs show the former Labour leader alongside Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, both of whom served on the Army Council of the Provisional IRA (PIRA).
The Marxist-oriented terror group killed some 1,800 people, including approximately 600 civilians between 1969 and 1994.
Sickeningly, the above image shows the trio in the House of Commons, just yards from where Airey Neave, Member of Parliament and highly decorated war hero, was murdered by the IRA in March 1979, an act that could only have carried out on the orders of the Army Council. 
After McGuinness' death in 2017 Corbyn expressed his condolences referring to the killer as "a great family man".
Corbyn's support for IRA terrorists - Both Adams and McGuinness have been jailed for their activities - is based on their shared Marxist revolutionary ideals. However, in the case of Hezbollah, the man who was leader of the Labour Party from September 2015 to April 2020 would struggle to disassociate his support from the myriad of antisemitic comments attributed to him.
Corbyn Chavez
Corbyn has also been linked with the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, another Marxist, who in a Christmas Eve speech in 2005 said, “The world has enough for everybody, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ…have taken control of the riches of the world".
In the aftermath of Chavez' inflammatory rhetoric synagogues were ransacked and vandalised, and government-controlled papers published cartoons with grotesque stereotypical caricatures of Jews, reminiscent of the Nazi Der Stürmer.
Suffice to say, when Corbyn's party was investigated by the UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2019 it was only the second political party to come under such scrutiny, the other being the far-right British National Party (BNP).
A damning 851 page report issued by the Labour Party itself in March of this year reveals the extent of the problem.
"This document tells an unhappy story. It is important to state that the fundamental issue it highlights is the existence of antisemitic ideas within our society, and the ways in which these have manifested within the Labour Party and on the left of British politics. It cannot be repeated too often that antisemitism has no place in society, nor in any democratic political organisation, least of all one committed to anti-racism and equality for all."
Whilst acknowledging the "existence of antisemitic" ideas within our society which have "manifested within the Labour Party"it does appear to attack the messenger, pointing out that half of all complaints received and evidence supplied came from one person, whilst spreading the blame to "the left of British politics" in general. Indeed, The Campaign Against Anti-Semitismsaid the report was leaked as an attempt to "smear whistleblowers".
Sir Keir Starmer, who recently replaced Corbyn as leader has stated his commitment to stamp out Anti-Semitism in his party.
However, it is also worth noting that he has launched an inquiry into the leaking of the damning report, and according the the Board of Deputies of British Jews two Labour MPs recently part in a conference call which included activists expelled from the party over alleged anti-Semitism, in breach of 10 anti-Semitism pledges that Sir Keir had signed up to during the Labour leadership contest earlier this year.
The extent of the problem the new leader faces is daunting indeed.
The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 - 2019 can be accessed Here

Monday, 30 March 2020

My book, Wanted Man: The Story Of Mukhtar Ablyazov, now available from Amazon in Russian language edition.

Wanted Man: The story of Mukhtar Ablyazov now available in Russian language edition

Wanted Man: The story of Mukhtar Ablyazov, A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU, by EU Today publisher Gary Cartwright is now available in the Russian language from Amazon.
“For those of us who have fought tirelessly for Human Rights, it feel like a punch in the stomach when someone uses mechanisms to slyly promote their own self interest.  Such action undermines the work of genuine Human Rights activists and deserves to be highlighted. I commend this book for doing just that.”
Nikki Sinclaire
Former Member of the European Parliament
Member of the EP Committee on Human Rights 2009/14 
Member of The EP Committee on Women and gender Equality 2009/14 
"Gripping... an expose of how money talks in the EU and in individual member states. Corruption is a growing problem and as always, as this book shows, the guilty remain at large, and the taxpayer foots the bill."
Colin Stevens, Publisher, EU Reporter.
The book can be ordered directly through Amazon.

Coronavirus: Former UK police chief wants to taser and shoot citizens who leave home for non-essential reasons.

Police forces across the UK appear to be confused and divided over the rules and the sweeping powers afforded by the emergency laws, and are seemingly unaware of the distinctions between "guidance" and "legislation", writes Gary Cartwright.
Guidance from the National Police Chiefs' Council states people must stay at home except for medical reasons, essential shopping, or for once-daily exercise. 
Police, apparently taking this "guidance" as "law" then took full advantage of their new self-assumed authority, using the new emergency powers within the first 12 hours of them being ratified by MPs. £60 fines are being slapped on citizens who may, in the opinion of the officers concerned, be acting in a way contrary to government guidelines. However, these people are acting in accordance with government legislation. 
Nowhere in the fast-tracked Coronavirus Bill, rushed through legislation after just two days of debate in the upper chamber, does it restrict citizens to once daily outdoor exercise, for example. However, the police appear to enacting their own interpretation of the bill.
Forces in Derbyshire and Lincolnshire have been spending their time, and tawpayer's money, flying drones in order to track and shame dog walkers and ramblers, who have committed no criminal or civil offence, before posting online, leading to charges of "overzealousness" from politicians, lawyers, and human-rights group.
Derbyshire Police, not content with playing with drones, were last week informed that people were continuing to congregate beside the water near Harpur Hill, Buxton.
In an act of wanton environmental vandalism their response was to dump black dye into a picturesque blue lagoon in the Peak District in order to stop Instagrammers posing for snaps during the coronavirus lockdown.
In a Facebook post Buxton safer neighbourhood policing team said: "No doubt this is due to the picturesque location and the lovely weather (for once) in Buxton. However, the location is dangerous and this type of gathering is in contravention of the current instruction of the UK Government. With this in mind, we have attended the location this morning and used water dye to make the water look less appealing."
In the absence of officers on the beat, police chiefs are now encouraging Britons to snitch on neighbours they suspect of breaching the coronavirus lockdown rules put in place to protect them and the rest of the public.
Humberside, West Midlands, Greater Manchester, and Avon and Somerset Police have created a mixture of "hotlines" and "online portals" where people can submit tip-offs if lockdown infractions occur.
Concerned citizens are being asked to fill out an online form, presumably of the type used to reports household burglaries that are never investigated, specifying the nature of the alleged violations.
The parents of young adults who break coronavirus lockdown rules should be sanctioned, according to Ken Marsh, the head of the Metropolitan Police Federation, who has said that the parents of older teenagers should be forced to pay £60 on-the-spot fines if they were caught ignoring government guidance.
Ken Hurley
Former Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Hurley, however, who also held a senior position with the City of London Police and has served with the Royal Military Police, during an interview with Iain Dale on LBC radio revealed that he wants to shoot transgressors. He suggested that officers should be able to shoot people with electric tasers, baton rounds, or "something else", if they leave home for non-essential reasons.
Police should be able fire tasers and plastic bullets at people who fail to comply with Britain's lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, a senior former officer has suggested.
The retired policeman, who rather worryingly was also Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner between November 2012 and May 2016, during which term of office he declared that he wanted to "batter and break the legs" of a man convicted of a stabbing, started by saying Britain's bobbies should follow the example of India's paramilitary police, who routinely beat suspects with long sticks.
I'm moved by what I'm seeing in India where police are literally beating anyone on the street with long sticks. Now this may sound absurd, but my experiences with dealing with the street in London, you can't even properly police many of the estates. I think we're talking about warning people, potentially issuing them a fine. If they don't comply, because you don't want to touch them (and become infected) taser them on the spot. If they still don't comply, fire baton rounds at them. If they still don't comply, fire something else at them that makes them comply permanently
Kevin Hurley
Hurley, whose role as founder and CEO of Inspiration Security Solutions Ltd, which provides services for investigative, intelligence, risk and security issues led to allegations of "conflict of interest" with his public role, described the new powers given to police to fine people £60 who are outside their homes for non-essential reasons as "weak, insipid and unenforceable".
Elsewhere, within hours of the new legislation being enacted, the new powers were by London's Metropolitan Police to fine a bakery owner £80 for criminal damage after she put chalk lines outside her shop to keep her customers safe from coronavirus.
An officer told the flabbergasted woman that she had graffitied the pavement and if police failed to punish "crimes like these" there would be "anarchy", adding: "I can't help the law. We're also fining people for congregating - is that wrong too?"
The owner responded "This is not graffiti, it's chalk, it washes off. Would you rather all my customers don't stand two metres apart? I'm doing it for people's safety - to stop the spread of coronavirus", to which the officer replies: "It doesn't matter. It's criminal damage". The officer then threatened a further fine if the chalk was not removed immediately.
Britain's police forces have come under mounting criticism in recent years for their lack of visibility on the streets, for the knife crime epidemic that is sweeping the nation, and for their refusal to investigate, let alone solve, household burglaries of theft from motor vehicles. 
As the country faces a public health crisis which, at the time of writing has claimed more than 1,000 lives, and threatens long-term damage to the economy, the police appear to have got off to a very bad start, and now face further losing credibility with the citizenry.
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Monday, 28 October 2019

Vladimir Bukovsky: Death of a Dissident

I was saddened to learn of the death of Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, but to be frank he had been very ill for a long time, and so it was to be expected. It was only his incredible strength that carried him this far, I am sure.

I first met Vladimir in 2004 at London City Hall - which we ironically nicknamed "Ken's Kremlin" - at a cocktail event. I was to meet with him on numerous occasions over the years.

I greatly admired him for the fact that he withstood more than a decade of imprisonment and so-called "psychiatric treatment" in a variety of Soviet hell-holes and he never once broke.

He was actually instrumental in one of the most interesting episodes in my career in politics. In early 2006, over a nice dinner at Rose Blanche, in Grand Place, Brussels, he told me a very interesting story. And so we hatched a plan....

A follow up meeting was arranged in June of that year, at the Victory Services Club in London, and so I came to be introduced to former Deputy Head of KGB, Oleg Gordievsky. I had never met such a high ranking KGB officer before - at least not knowingly - and so I was intrigued. What a lovely chap he turned out to be.

After 15 minutes debate between Oleg (who was somewhat suspicious of Chilean Merlot) and Vladimir as to which red wine to order, before arbitrarily settling on a gin & tonic, patiently answered most of the 101 questions I had for him, and he told some very interesting stories (His autobiography Next Stop Execution is well worth a read).

We were joined by London MEP Gerard Batten, and we got down to business. Via telephone, the discussion was joined by former spy Alexander Litvinenko, and it started to get very interesting.

To cut a (very) long story short, the plan we had hatched over Flemish beef stew and a bottle of Georges DeBouef Morgon (I never forget a good dinner) came together, and Romano Prodi was outed in the European Parliament, live on TV, as a former KGB asset just days before the Italian Presidential elections. Job done!

The story ended sadly, however, as Litvinenko was murdered by the FSB, on Vladimir Putin's orders, in London just five months later.

Vladimir Bukovsky will always remain, I am sure, the only person I have ever met who watched Stalin's funeral from the roof of a hotel overlooking Red Square. As a 10-year old boy he witnessed the crush that led to the deaths of over 100 mourners - just one of the many horrors of the Soviet era that was to be covered up for many years.

Such wonderful characters are becoming increasingly rare, sadly...

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Nigel Farage's Brexit Party "Biggest Earners" in the European Parliament

The 28 MEPs from Britain’s Brexit Party have collectively declared outside earnings of between €2 - 4.5 million euros (£1.7 - £3.9 million) per year, making them the highest earners in the European Parliament, Transparency International said on Thursday (Sept 26th). 
The party, founded by former UKIP leader and career politician Nigel Farage, won the most British seats in European elections this year. It says Britain should leave the EU without a deal.
Transparency International, a watchdog which monitors EU lobbying and outside activities of members of the European Parliament, published its report on Thursday on MEP's self-reported income from second jobs and other sources. 
The head of the Brexit Party’s delegation, Nathan Gill, said it topped the list because it had selected representatives who are successful outside of politics. 
“Our MEPs are not reliant on their MEPs salaries,” Gill said, adding that party chairman Richard Tice had pledged to donate his entire European Parliament salary to charity. 
Each MEP is paid €8,700 per month as a base salary and €4,500 in tax-free allowances for working in the EU parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg. This is in addition to multiple pension funds, private medical care for MEPs and their families, and assistants allowances that are routinely abused by "employment" of kin. Whilst the latter practice was banned after 2014, there were cases of "you employ mine, and I'll employ yours". Farage's former paid assistant, Ray Finch, on being elected to the European Parliament in 2014 promptly employed his former employer's wife as an assistant, thus circumnavigating the rules.
Nigel Farage himself had previously been outed in the Parliament by then MEP Nikki Sinclaire who drew attention to the fact that Farage was paying both his wife, Kirsten, and his "former" mistress, Annabelle Fuller, from his taxpayer-funded parliamentary allowances.

According to Transparency International, many parliamentarians have not updated their declarations in years and there is no way to know how accurate they are. 
“It’s self-reported, they can do whatever they want,” said Raphaël Kergueno, Policy Officer at Transparency International EU. 
Parliamentarians have to adhere to a code of conduct with respect to financial interests, and an advisory committee is in charge of examining possible violations. In the whole year of 2018 the committee audited only five parliamentarians, according to a parliament report. 
“This is why the system is problematic, because they don’t take it seriously,” Kergueno said.
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Monday, 29 July 2019

World4Brexit: Nigel Farage launches US based fundraising scheme

Nigel Farage has reportedly launched a Brexit lobbying group which can spend unlimited amounts of money pushing pro-Brexit messages while keeping the names of its donors secret.
“Pushing pro-Brexit messages”, of course, also means furthering Farage’s personal career.
World4Brexit is registered in Michigan USA for tax purposes and is registered as a ‘501(c)(4)’ group - a not-for-profit group which can accept donations of up to $5,000 and keep the names of donors secret. 
Farage is on record as stating that all money raised by the group would be “above the board and legal”
Donald Trump's former advisor Steve Bannon, who heads Brussels-based far-right organisation The Movement, is expected to give "informal advice" to the campaign group. Interestingly, Farage’s former assistant in the European Parliament, and who was named in the British media as his live-in mistress, one Laure Ferrari, is identified in legal documents obtained by EU Today as one of two nominees for the role of Secretary-General of The Movement.
Previously, she was appointed by Farage to the role of executive director of the Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE), an entity set up in the shadow of of the ADDE. 
Following an investigation into IDDE, the UK Electoral Commission also opened an investigation into whether UKIP accepted "impermissible donations" from the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE), a pan-European political party established in 2014, which included members from UKIP, as well as the controversial Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), one The Sweden Democrats, whose members, in the early days of the party's existence, openly adopted Nazi regalia.
According to the Guardian, UKIP stood to receive around £1million per year from ADDE and £580,000 from IDDE.
 The European Parliament advised the commission that "it has formally concluded that both ADDE and IDDE used EU grant funding for the benefit of UKIP in breach of its rules and therefore, these expenses were declared as non-eligible for the financing”.

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Farage’s new Brexit Party also quickly attracted from the Electoral Commission over the source of its income, stating that “the fundraising structure the [Brexit] Party have adopted, coupled with insufficient procedures, leaves it open to a high and ongoing risk of receiving and accepting impermissible donations, and being unable to maintain accurate records of transactions.” 
Of course, it it appears to have been set up that way. Bob Posner, chief executive of the Electoral Commission, speaking at a hearing of the UK Parliament’s sub-committee on disinformation, told MPs that the party was open to a “high risk” of fraudulent donations via Paypal.
MPs were told that the Brexit party had not been collecting data concerning Paypal donations “systematically” and noted that its funding structure was based around attracting money from small donations, which “does have risks attached to it”.
In June, the Commission asked the Party to check £2.5m it has received in donations to ensure it has come from legitimate sources. The Commission will oversee these checks, it is reported.
Many will be asking, “is World4Brexit another of Farage’s money making schemes?”
This will also of course raise yet again questions about the possibility of Russian funding that have dogged Farage in recent years. His relationship with Bannon has attracted attracting speculation: The Movement, of which Farage has spoken positively, comprises mainly of far-right populist parties that have either sought, or received, Moscow geld.
Despite having launched only in July of this year- the first posting was on the 12th -  World4Brexit’s Twitter account, which appears to be a sort of online photo album for Farage himself, as of the morning of the 29th shows an impressive 4,687 followers. However, many of the accounts of these followers appear to be fake - either paid for followers or part of a “follow me” scheme. Its all about appearances….
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