Posts Tagged ‘corruption’

Barnet Spring – Save Local Democracy

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

Barnet Spring – Save Local Democracy. The pictures in this post are from a march in from Finchley to Friern Barnet Community Library on 23rd March 2013.

Barnet Spring - Save Local Democracy

Politics in the UK has always been a messy business, both at national and local levels and has become more so in recent years, particularly as the Conservative Party has been keen to promote anti-democratic practices honed in the USA as well as accepting large donations from wealthy sources of doubtful legality as recent controversies over Russian oligarchs have brought into public debate.

Barnet Spring - Save Local Democracy

The current problems have been exacerbated in particular by the Brexit debate, largely carried out through totally misleading promises and false information, which led to leaving Europe and an unhealthily large parliamentary majority in the 2019 election, with draconian laws now being enacted. As well of course as some rather large financial gains by some of those leading the lying.

Barnet Spring - Save Local Democracy

Corruption has always been at the heart of our political system, both at local and national level, and involving some members of all political parties. While we may have got rid of some of the more obviously dubious practices, those which are less obvious appear to have become industrial in scale, now no longer solely the province of individuals and families (particularly those royal and noble) but of companies, including the mega-nationals.

Clearly our electoral system – both at local and national level – has outlived its usefulness and this is reflected in low turnouts at polls as well as a general disillusion in the political system. We need to move to voting systems that more accurately reflect the people and away from one that effectively disenfranchises so many of us. Perhaps to a very different model of government which removes the idea of any permanent political class.

Reform in the UK has almost always been slow and piecemeal, when what we need are radical changes. After many years of debate we have just recently made minor changes to the system of leasehold, when what is needed is its complete abolition, with all leaseholders being granted freehold. Even probably the most radical change of the last century, the formation of the NHS was hamstrung at birth by concessions made – and has since been considerably nibbled and increasingly hollowed by creeping privatisation.

The march took place on a bitter day, where light snow turned into a small blizzard

The reorganisation of local authorities in 1965 was a muddled and half-hearted one, reflecting an unwillingness in national government to cede power to the regions while moving local government further from local people. The advances it could have brought were largely removed by Thatcher’s contempt for local authorities and in particular in London her abolition of the Greater London Council. It’s hard to walk or ride a bus across Westminster Bridge and not to feel rage at seeing the range of offices she sold off on the south bank.

Recently we have seen a backlash against the leader and cabinet model of local councils which gives control to the leader and a select group of councillors and in 2000 became (along with Mayor and cabinet for those authorities with a directly elected Mayor) the required method. In 2012 authorities were allowed instead to revert to the more democratically accountable Committee-based system which had previously been the practice.

As I wrote back in 2013, “Barnet Council in North London is widely seen as a blueprint for Tory plans to end local democracy and privatise nearly all public services, leaving the local authority merely as a commissioning body.” Barnet’s CEO Nick Walkley introduced the ‘One Barnet’ plans, known as “easyCouncil” in 2009 and negotiated contracts with companies such as BT and Capita worth around £1 billion.

As I commented:

This is a development that ends real local involvement in running local affairs, locking councils into lengthy contracts which seldom meet local needs, but which councils are powerless to change and which often involve huge legal costs for the councils when disputes arise. One contractor has already successfully sued Barnet for over £10m when their contract failed to deliver the anticipated profits, and another, running services for adults with disabilities is failing financially and is drastically reducing the level of service it will provide.

On Saturday March 23rd 2013 I joined with several hundred to march through freezing snow in Finchley against the privatisation of local democracy in Barnet and against cuts in public services . The march began in Finchley, with a number of speeches from an open-top bus, with speakers including Green Party GLA member Jenny Jones (now Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb), And Labour MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn. The march ended at the Friern Barnet People’s Library, closed by Barnet Council in April 2012, but rescued determined by determined community action aided by squatters and reopened officially as a community library in February 2013.

More on My London Diary: Barnet Spring – Save Local Democracy


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7 Years Ago in London

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

Seven years ago on Saturday 22 November 2014 I photographed four very different events.

Occupy Democracy at Supreme Court

Occupy Democracy activists had camped out overnight in front of the Supreme Court, watched by police who had fenced in almost all of the grassed areas in Parliament Square to prevent them being occupied. The activists were hoping to hold two days of workshops there, but things had not started when I left after taking pictures.

Justice for Shahzad & Shama

Pakistani Christians and others were protesting opposite Downing St calling for justice for the brutal murder in Pakistan of Shahzad Masih and Shahzad Masih , bonded labourers at a brick kiln, who were falsely accused of burning pages of the Quran, attacked by a Muslim mob, tortured and burnt alive.

There are around 4 million Christians in Pakistan, a little under 2% of the population and they face extreme persecution, with those who have converted from Islam at greatest danger. Christians are treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against in employment, where they largely do the lowest status jobs, and girls are at risk of abduction and rape, sometimes being forced to convert to Islam and marry their attackers. Christians are often accused of blasphemy, as in this case to settle civil disputes, with those accused being attacked or killed by Islamic extremist groups, whose criminal acts are largely ignored by the authorities.

Class War Griff Rhys Jones Mansion Tax

Class War went to the £7m Fitzroy Square home of Griff Rhys Jones who said he would leave the country if Labour levied a mansion tax, telling him to “f**k off now”, offering to pay the fare. Class War’s manifesto for the 2015 general election includes a 50% mansion tax.

No one came to answer the door when they put their leaflet through and after a few minutes making their presence felt outside, the walked around to the south side of the square to protest outside the outside the home of Guy Ritchie, another millionaire objector to a mansion tax. They put a few stickers on other places around the square, including the Magistrates Association and the gates to the private garden in the centre of the square, returned for another short protest outside Griff Rhys Jones’s house before retiring to the pub. Unfortunately I couldn’t join them as I had another event to photograph in Brixton.

Still No Justice for Ricky Bishop

Ricky Bishop, a fit young black man, died from unexplained injuries hours after being taken to Brixton Police Station on 22 Nov 2001. Family and supporters call it a modern day lynching and march annually to remember him and call for justice.

The marchers met up at Windrush Square and then marched slowly through the centre of Brixton to the police station, where a tree outside has been adopted as a remembrance tree for Ricky Bishop and the others killed there by police.

At the tree there were speeches, including a detailed and forceful presentation by Marcia Rigg of the battle she and others faced to get any proper investigation into the death there of her brother Sean Rigg in August 2008.

These two are not the only young black men to have died at the hands of Brixton police, but so far there has been no police officer bought to justice from the crimes they committed. The only real action by the police has been to remove all of the photographs and momentos placed by some of the families from the tree in front of the police station.


More on all of these on My London Diary:

Still No Justice for Ricky Bishop
Class War Griff Rhys Jones Mansion Tax
Justice for Shahzad & Shama
Occupy Democracy at Supreme Court


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Grosvenor Canal, Chelsea & Belgravia 1988

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

Grosvenor Canal, Grosvenor Rd, Chelsea, Westminster, 1988 88-4n-53-positive_2400
Grosvenor Canal, Grosvenor Rd, Chelsea, Westminster, 1988 88-4n-53

The Grosvenor Canal, now only vestigial, is one of London’s least-known canals, opened in 1824 when the Earl of Grosvenor decided to add a lock and turn what had been a tidal creek with a tide mill and feeding reservoirs for drinking water at Chelsea Waterworks (at right in picture) into a short canal, around three quarters of a mile long ending at a large basin, Grosvenor Basin. The lock needed two gates at the end where it connected to the river as the canal level could be higher or lower than the tidal river. The main traffic then on the canal was coal for the many houses in Westminster.

Victoria Station was built on much of this basin site in 1858, and when the station was expanded in 1902, the upper half of the canal was closed and the lower half sold to Westminster City Council who used it for barges carrying refuse. They closed more in 1925 to build the Ebury Bridge estate, but a short section was still in use, with barges taking Westminster’s rubbish onto the Thames, when I made this picture. It was then the last commercial canal in London. It closed in 1995 and has since been redeveloped as Grosvenor Waterside. More on Wikipedia

Savills, Sloane St, Sloane Square, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-4n-61-positive_2400
Savills, Sloane St, Sloane Square, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-4n-61

An estate agent selling the grand houses in the area with offices in a rather grand Grade II listed house on Sloane St, dating from the late 18th century. The listing text notes that the ground floor – reached up eight steps from the pavement – is in commercial use and describes the ground floor windows as wide, “with stucco fan motif lunettes above”.

Bourne St, Belgravia, Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-4n-62-positive_2400
Bourne St, Belgravia, Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-4n-62

A long white passageway with a charming lamp at the end hanging from wrought iron supports, behind a slightly more prosaic wrought iron gate. I wouldn’t have photographed it, not having a great love of the twee, but for the rather more practical lamp fitting at left with its cable housing leading rather nicely vertically down the wall to the curving shadow on the floor.

Bourne St, Belgravia, Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-4n-63-positive_2400
Bourne St, Belgravia, Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-4n-63

White fences have had a particular attraction for photographers since an iconic image by Paul Strand at Port Kent in 1916, though I make no suggestion that this is anywhere in the same league. But it did seem an awful lot of white fence in a rather confined space.

Skinner Place,  Belgravia, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-4n-64-positive_2400
Skinner Place, Belgravia, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-4n-64

Skinner Place looked like something from a rather meaner part of London, perhaps somewhere in Bethnal Green mysteriously translocated into Belgravia (which would have increased its price by a large factor.) But it was the huge union flag blocking the end of the street that I really liked, along with the rounded block of flats behind.

Cranley Mews, South Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-4o-15-positive_2400
Cranley Mews, South Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-4o-15

The Henry Smith Charity was established on the death of Henry Smith (1549-1628) who lived and profited through interesting times, lending money to many landed families and amassing large landholdings from their misfortunes. He left detailed instructions for the administration of his estates, and the charity trustees in 1640 bought “a marshy estate of mainly market gardens just outside London, in the parish of Kensington.” According the the charity web site, “Nearly four centuries after we were first established, The Henry Smith Charity is one of the largest grant making charities in Britain; making grants of £39.8 million in 2020.”

Smiths Charity, corruption, Cranley Mews, South Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-4o-14-positive_2400
Smiths Charity, corruption, Cranley Mews, South Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-4o-14

I spent some time reading the notices in this picture, but ended up little the wiser about the eviction of Major Parson in the 1970s, and the corruption alleged to have been involved. Reading a post from David Swarbrick about a 1974 legal case did little to help me but may held my legal friends.

Click on any of the above to see a large version and explore more pictures in my album 1988 London Photos.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


The Deep State?

Monday, June 21st, 2021

Anyone who writes about “the Deep State” will surely be accused of being a conspiracy theorist, but if you start with Wikipedia’s description of “a type of governance made up of potentially secret and unauthorised networks of power operating independently of a state’s political leadership in pursuit of their own agenda and goals” it seems clear to me that many aspects of British life can only be understood in such terms. Of course I don’t mean illuminati or freemasons (though they may play some part); the networks and forces in this country are largely those often thought of as public servants, including the police, the civil service, the security services, along with the royal family, press and media barons and other major capitalists – and the City of London.

Many of their activities are also very public, though the agendas behind them usually carefully hidden. Some are authorised – such as the City of London Remembrancer, a lobbyist representing the City’s interests inside parliament and employing six lawyers to help influence government and members of parliament. Others brag openly about some of their acheivements – as in the 1992 General Election headline “It’s The Sun Wot Won It“.

Several official documents have made me think about the deep state in recent days. Perhaps most obviously is the report into the investigation of the 1987 axe murder of Daniel Morgan in the car park of the Golden Lion in Sydenham. I’ve not read the long report, but have been interested in the media coverage of it, which has centred on the accusation of “a form of institutional corruption” by the Metropolitan Police. It’s perhaps a new label for it, but it describes a culture of deliberate lying and misleading the public, feeding false information to the press, and protecting the team which has been so obvious in so many cases, notably that of a totally innocent Brazilian electrician who walked into a tube station and boarded a train on his way to work.

If you’ve relied on the mainstream press you are likely to have little idea of why Daniel Morgan was killed, and certainly know little or nothing of the involvement of the state, the press and others in the cover-up that followed. You can find out more by watching the DoubleDown News Video by Peter Jukes,
EXPOSED: Daniel Morgan Murder links Corrupt Cops & Murdoch Empire to the Heart of Government‘. It doesn’t give all the answers – and almost certainly the vital evidence related to the murder itself has long been destroyed – but it does make convincing links and raise much wider questions than the mainstream media.

A second fairly recent publication is into the Manchester Arena bombing, and as with most such reports it tells us what was already clear within days of the event about the failures of police and security – thanks to some good investigative journalism.

According to Wikipedia, Salman Abedi was born in Manchester to Libyan-born refugees given asylum here, as his father had been a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a Salafi jihadist organisation proscribed by the United Nations. Salman Abedi returned to Libya with his father to fight to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and when the war ended following the death of Gaddafi, he returned to the UK while his parents remained in Libya. He returned to Libya with his brother Hashem in 2014, again fighting for an Islamist group. The two brothers were rescued from Tripoli and returned to the UK along with other British citizens when the Libyan Civil War erupted.

Various reports about the danger posed by Salman had been made to the authorities, but these appear to have been ignored. Possibly this was because of his earlier activities in 2011 and 2014 which seem likely to have been facilitated by our security services, perhaps as some have alleged, with government backing, particularly in the war against Gadaffi.

Finally I’d like to mention the failure after 4 years to take any effective action over the guilty parties behind the Grenfell Tower, some of whom are said to have spent millions on lawyers to help them evade justice. Slowly, tediously slowly we are hearing damning testimonies from a few of those responsible as Phase II of the inquiry continues, now in Week 41, with some of the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation giving evidence this week.

The pictures with this post come from the ‘Day of Rage’ march for Grenfell which took place seven days after the fire on 21st June 2017. The media had a field day over the title, with a fantasy extravaganza imagining violent insurrection, although it was organised by a group with a long history of peaceful protests, mainly over the UK’s iniquitous and illegal treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. And I think as usual police fed them some lurid lies.

At the time it was already clear that the fire was a result of the systemic failure to care about the provision of safe social housing; it wasn’t then clear exactly how many had been killed, as there were a number of Grenfell residents who were not recorded on any official lists.

The march was entirely peaceful – as journalists who knew anything about it had been sure it would be. It did briefly block traffic in Whitehall outside Downing St and went on to do the same for a short while in Parliament Square. I don’t think there were any reports of the actual event in mainstream media.

Four years later, the prospect of any prosecutions over the crimes that led to the fire still seems remote. But four years ago we knew who should be in the dock, and I wrote this comment back then:

People want answers, while Theresa May seems to be trying to focus just on one small technical matter of the nature of the cladding. But it is obvious that the cladding would burn and would spread fire – and for that reason there were regulations about where it could be used and how it had to be applied to be safe. But these regulations were not enforced. When they should have been tightened they were not. Inspections were privatised and there was no strict quality control. RKBC paid for a consultant to help them avoid proper fire inspections. Government ministers cut essential safety regulations as a matter of policty calling them ‘red tape’ , and failed to implement the recomendations made after earlier fires.. Structural modifications were approved for Grenfell that cut the number of exits from two to one. Gas supplies were improperly fitted to save costs. Fire doors were apparently removed, plastics which produce toxic cyanide fumes on burning are permitted…. No sprinkler systems, no water available to fight fires in the top floors and so on. Many of the faults that were a port of the disaster at Grenfell are common to many other high rise buildings, particularly those which are a part of our social housing stock.

More pictures: ‘Day of Rage’ march for Grenfell

Algerians protest

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

Protests have been taking place every Friday in Algeria for 16 weeks as I write this, and the protest I met in London came close to the start of this peaceful call for change.

The protests in Algeria were triggered in the middle of February when the wheelchair-bound President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 82 on the day of this protest, announced he would stand for yet another term in office in the April elections. People took to the streets to say he had to go and to call for a civilian-led replacement to the military regime.

Bouteflika was coming to the end of his fourth 5-year term in office, heading a repressive and corrupt military government and has hardly been seen in public since a stroke in 2013. Algeria has seen few benefits from its huge earnings from oil and gas exports, much of which is unaccounted for, and almost a third of young people are unemployed.

Although police have used tear gas and violence against the protests in Algeria, unlike in the Sudan the regime (and protesters) have tried to avoid escalation, probably fearing a repeat of the civil war the country suffered in the 1990s. The regime probably fears that many of its soldiers would refuse to carry out orders to attack the protesters.

So since February there have been attempts to conciliate the protesters. In April Bouteflika was forced to resign, and some of his close associates arrested, with the speaker of the parliament Abdelkader Bensalah  being elected as interim President. The protests are now calling for him and others associated with the old regime to also go, including the head of the army, Ahmed Gaid Salah.

I hadn’t been aware that this protest was taking place, and was walking towards Trafalgar Square for another event when I saw the march moving off in the distance and ran to catch up with them. I always take care to read (and photograph) the banners and placards at protests, and with these (at least those that were in English) I was soon clear what this protest was about. Usually when I plan my diary I also do at least a little research about the events and causes, but this time I had to do this after the event.

Algerians say no 5th term for Bouteflika


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