This is the other side to the Donald Trump view of America. It shows the big contribution being made by immigration to the United States by often highly educated Indians and debunks with lots of facts the idea that immigrants are scroungers or even necessarily poor. Some of those people condemning immigration to the UK could learn from this analysis of the facts.
CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM
There are two people who changed my life as a journalist. One was Brian MacArthur, who took me on The Times Higher Education Supplement in 1973. The other was Peter Preston who appointed me as a reporter on The Guardian in 1976.
I still remember the first interview with Peter Preston for my job at the Guardian when he out of the blue suddenly asked what my politics were – probably not the politically correct question you might expect in applying for a reporter’s job.
” Disillusioned Labour “, I said.. “Aren’t we all ” came back the riposte.
PP was a man of few words but enormous depth. You could not always fathom what he was thinking but what you did know he was utterly committed to the newspaper, perpetually fascinated by stories and would defend you against the powerful who might seek to censor or even ridicule you.
He was utterly committed to press freedom both at home and abroad and not bothered or even remotely interested about becoming a member of the Establishment.
He also got me out of scrapes – both on a personal and professional level. After I joined the Guardian my wife, Margaret and I bought our first house. I had spotted a small ad for a four bedroom refurbished terraced house in Holloway which even in the late 1970s appeared to be too cheap at around £23,000. She was sceptical whether there was something wrong but it passed a survey and we got a mortgage. She turned out to be right when the joists which held the main staircase started to give way and cracks appeared. I asked for a mortgage to repair it but found the building society would charge extra interest to give me a loan. I mentioned this to Peter Preston and he offered me a £500 loan from the Guardian which I paid back from my salary – just in time to prevent the staircase collapsing.
In another instance rather the worse for wear I foolishly remarked to the Tory housing minister, then John Stanley, that their divisive housing policies could lead to a breakdown in society between rich and poor and end up with people kidnapping prominent people- citing how would Michael Heseltine ( then Environment Secretary) feel if someone kidnapped his daughter.
He interpreted that to mean that I knew someone in the IRA who would, contacted Heseltine, who called in Special Branch. An inspector rang the Guardian for my home telephone number and they refused to give it to him, saying they would contact me. When I got home later ( no mobile phones then) and found the message I rang the inspector and convinced him I was no terrorist. ” I am glad you rang I was just about to send someone around to batter down your door”, he said.
The next day Peter Preston wrote to Heseltine pointing out that there was difference between a Guardian reporter having strong views and being a terrorist and sought an apology for his over reaction. Heseltine declined to apologise saying he had to protect his family.
What neither of them knew is that our baby sitter for the night was a lovely middle aged Irish lady, who had a very strong Sligo accent. If she had answered the phone to special branch, I will leave it to your imagination to think what would have happened next.
PP was a amazing innovator. Others like David McKie, in his Guardian obituary, have much more eloquently explained the huge innovations he introduced to the design and content of the paper during his long editorship.
But on a straightforward reporting level he thought out of the box. In 1986 I was very nearly poached by the Independent, offering me first social services correspondent and then Whitehall editor. He responded with the idea of sending me down to the lobby with a brief that had never been held by anyone – to use Parliament as a base to investigate MPs, lobbyists and Whitehall – and not follow the day to day lobby events.
Never a supporter of the Westminster club, I think he really put me down there as an unguided missile to see what would happen. And when I started to get into trouble he always backed me.
He took on the Privileges Committee when they were considering removing me from Parliament over the leaking of the National Audit Office memo which revealed the ” Rover sweeteners” scandal – the secret bung given to then British Aerospace for buying ailing British Leyland.
He also neatly diverted Neil Hamilton MP – when he wrote to him a year before the ” cash for questions” scandal broke in 1994 – warning him about my activities and saying there was ” nothing worth printing ” about the story. The story which started when Mohammed al Fayed inadvertently revealed to him he had been paying MPs was one of his crowning glories.
He will always be my hero – despite the Sarah Tisdall scandal where he was forced by the courts to give away a then unknown source – because he backed reporting and was interested in news. His reaction to a good story was normally one word ” terrific”. When he said that you knew the story was home and dry.
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Nearly three years ago Parliament produced a damning report saying England was one of the worst developed countries in the world for litter and fly tipping. Worse than most of the rest of Europe, worse than Japan and worse than the United States and Canada.
Furthermore this situation has remained the same for 12 years under successive Labour, Coalition and Tory governments. And this is despite tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers money being poured into the former quango Keep Britain Tidy to provide leadership to tackle this problem.
The deregulatory coalition government of Tories and Liberal Democrats thought they would find a solution by abolishing the quango and turning it into a charity which now has to raise funds from cash strapped local authorities and big business.
The knee jerk reaction of a Left minded blogger might be to persuade an incoming Labour government to push taxpayer’s money back to Keep Britain Tidy. But after an investigation looking at its precarious finances and its rather lacklustre approach to tackling the problem this would be the worst thing it could do.
The real problem is that successive gutless ministers of all parties (perhaps they have at the back of their minds that they could take lucrative directorships after leaving politics) won’t tackle the real cause of much of our litter – the products of big multinationals like McDonalds and Wrigley’s and the tobacco companies – who take no or little responsibility for the problem.
There is a parallel here with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – who connive with big multinationals to avoid paying their fair share of tax which would go a long way to providing better public services and a cleaner public space.
There is a simple solution here either these companies pay up for a clean up or the Government levies a tax on them ( not us) to employ someone else to do it. I bet the firms would come up soon with some innovative solutions to avoid either.
Now why have I concluded that Keep Britain Tidy is a no no solution despite being told by some people that its new director,Allison Ogden-Newton is much livelier than her predecessor, Phil Barton.
The charity has a guilty secret. It has a pension deficit of £4.5m for a closed scheme on a turnover of just £5m and assets worth £2.5m. For some private companies this could lead them to cease trading.
The 2015-16 accounts lodged with the Charity Commission say :
The report reveals that the trustees – who would be liable if Keep Britain Tidy went bust – certify it is a going concern. But to do this they have had to put aside £2m – equivalent to six months operating costs -to ensure that it stays afloat.
When I put this to the charity – who first ignored my request – I got this reply from Ms Ogden-Newton.
Clive Betts, the Labour chairman of the committee, also made this observation.
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This year my small news site received an extraordinary boost from a five year old post which appeared to have been regenerated by the Grenfell fire tragedy.
The Grenfell disaster showed the bravery of the London fire brigade in tackling such a grim scenario. Heroism and extreme tragedy side by side.
The post that got revived in the wake of the fire was the almost unbelievable story of how an Old Etonian baronet living in a semi in Wellingborough, Northants had got his hands on the management of London’s entire fire engine fleet for £2. It is probably still the most egregious act of privatisation in this country. He of course had to hand it back after a few weeks as he couldn’t run it.
The public authority had been powerless when the dodgy private company they gave the contract to maintain the fire engine fleet- Assetco London – handed over London’s fire service to the baronet as the directors realising the game was up and fled the scene.
The good news here – though it has never been reported by mainstream media- is the authorities in their own slow way are ensuring the perpetrators get their just deserts.
Grant Thornton , the auditors for Assetco, have been fined £3.5m (reduced to £2.275m after they co-operated with the Financial Reporting Council) and found guilty of no fewer than 12 cases of professional misconduct. The details are in this blog.
Robert Napper, the individual accountant responsible for auditing Assetco was fined £200,000, reduced to £130,000 after he co-operated with the inquiry. He had already retired but I traced him to an Oxfordshire village enjoying his expensive wines.
Now Assetco directors John Shannon, Raymond ” Frank ” Flynn and Matthew Boyle are to face a disciplinary tribunal by the Financial Reporting Council on January 15. The statement is here.
The press release reads:
“The Formal Complaint contains multiple allegations against each of Mr Shannon, Mr Flynn and Mr Boyle. The Formal Complaint includes allegations they acted dishonestly or recklessly; that they breached the fundamental principles of integrity and objectivity in the manner in which they prepared the financial statements; and that their conduct fell significantly short of the standards reasonably to be expected of members of Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI). The complaint covers a wide range of issues which pervaded AssetCo plc’s financial statements.”
Some idea of what was going on has already been covered on this blog. Don’t hold your breath that the London Evening Standard will cover the story.
The original blog attracted over 2,500 hits when it was published. This year it topped my ratings with over 14,700 hits – showing that readers are interested in such issues.
Altogether over five years it has received some 20,000 hits.
The other stories have been posted on both my blog and byline.com – so the figures on my blog will be a small proportion of the number of hits on the stories.
The second highest hit from readers tells the heroic story of a London Midland train driver whose quick reaction in nine seconds prevented a commuter disaster near Watford. It came out in an accident report and had over 5170 hits and can be read here.
Two stories about the plight of the Conservative Party also rated highly. A story revealing that membership of the Conservative Party had plummeted to 100,000 attracted nearly 5000 hits and one on changes to the Tory Party constitution attracted well over 1700 hits. The two blogs are here and here and on Byline here and here.
On my site it got 2600 hits – mainstream media have finally followed it up last week but put the blame on Jeremy Corbyn instead.
The attempt to force Unison to rerun the election for the general secretary Dave Prentis also attracted a lot of readers. Again the public hearings by the Certification Officer received no coverage in mainstream media except the Morning Star. All the blogs received over 1000 hits – the largest being over 1850 hits for a blog publishing the statement of a former union official who accused the union of ” anti Democratic practices”. The link is here and here.
The issue is not quite over as a judge is due to hear the opponent’s case again for an appeal on February 8.
Three other issues made the top slots – the bonus payments to top DWP civil servants who set up the hated Universal Credit payments which I also wrote up for the Sunday Mirror; the scandal of 3.3 million pensioners who will have to wait years for the state pension and the prospect of two Tory Lord Chancellors facing legal action for institutional racism over the appointment of judges and tribunal members.
All this has to show that there is a public appetite for investigative journalism and the mainstream media are increasingly ignoring important stories by sticking to a narrow agenda. Much more to come in 2018.
CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM
Update December 21: Since writing this piece I have discovered that the Conservative Home website, had already raised objections to the power grab a few days after the convention. The link to their story is here .
It is good news for democrats everywhere that some Conservatives are challenging this. For avoidance of any doubt my Conservative source and myself were unaware of this when I published the story.
While the public and press have been absorbed in Tory battles over Brexit the top hierarchy in the Conservative Party have mounted an extraordinary power grab behind the scenes that strips their ordinary members of any meaningful say in the running of their organisation.
On November 25 the party held a convention in Birmingham attended by 100 invited people which rewrote sections of the party’s constitution. For policy nerds I attach the document sent out by Rob Semple, chairman of the Conservative Convention and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Board. I have also written about this in Tribune magazine.
Masquerading as ” small suggestions to bring us into the 21st Century “the convention agreed to rewrite the party constitution to remove references to constituencies altogether;limit the right of local associations to choose their own candidates and scrap the annual meeting of the Conservative Convention where people could listen and vote for candidates for top posts. Instead on line voting would be used for all top posts in the party.
The changes will go for final approval next March at a meeting of the Conservative Convention and will be put to MPs at a meeting of the 1922 Committee in Westminster the same month.
The Tories are hoping that by removing the word constituency from the constitution it will encourage people to form wider associations – which has had some success in Kent where six associations in the Thanet area have combined. But it also reflects the dire state of activists in some Tory constituency associations – where a number have now fallen to fewer than 50 members and operate from a P O Box address.
The change in selection proposed in the constitution gives power to the candidates committee of the Board of the Party – whose members are appointed rather than elected. The new wording is:“The selection of all candidates, including Parliamentary, Police Commissioners, Elected Mayors and local government candidates shall follow a process in accordance with rules and guidance published from time to time by the Committee on Candidates of the Board of the Party.”
Not surprisingly the proposals have been vehemently attacked by Tory members who quite naturally believe if they join a political party – they should have some say in its policies and be able to choose their own candidates.
John Strafford, chairman of Conservative Campaign for Democracy. said: “If these proposed changes are not voted down you might as well say The Conservative Party: The End”
“And if MPs don’t take any action to stop these proposals they will find the only activists campaigning for them at the next general election will be themselves.”
I did contact Conservative Central Office last week for a comment but there has been no response and there does not appear to be a press release.
And in addition the review into the failed General Election campaign by Sir Eric Pickles, the former MP and chairman – probably about to be made a peer by Theresa May – contains one extraordinary overlooked proposal.
It suggests the Tory Party – which wasted £4.5 million on consultants to the failed campaign this year – could hand over lock, stock and barrel – the running of the next campaign to a private company.
This frankly is an extraordinary state of affairs in British politics for the 21st century.
Two parties – Labour and the Liberal Democrats – will fight the next general election with the largest number of members and supporters they have had for ages- reflecting a democratic revolution.
The top Labour Party people will be elected by the membership – there is an election for the National Executive Party going on now. So will the candidates.
But the cash rich Conservative Party will basically turn itself into an unelected commercial organisation – where investors and private companies will decide the presentation of policies for the people.
The contrast could not be much starker. Labour will go into the next general election as a mass movement with a mass membership who can influence policy and decide on who stands for Parliament, the police and the local council.
The Tories go into the election as a small clique with their members little more than cannon fodder.
A libertarian academic suggested to me that the Tories had turned politics back four centuries – to the days when the Elizabethans and the Dutch Indies companies – used private investors to create a joint enterprise to rule parts of the globe and general populus had no say. What an achievement in 2017.
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Paul Settle, the former head of Met Police’ paedophile unit,, has given two interviews to the media in the last few days.
In the first to the BBC he describes how he has quit the Met at the very young age of 44 because he is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a career as a high flying policeman.
He told the BBC:”Most of my career was dealing with serious crime and it was not uncommon for me to see things that most people would regard as horrific. I’ve probably dealt with 100 murders,” he says.
But eventually things which had happened years before started to haunt him – an IRA bomb attack in Wood Green, London in 1992 and his work to help identify and repatriate Britons killed in the 2004 Thailand tsunami.
“It is really difficult to understand because for the best part of 20 years it never affected me, then out of nowhere it started to affect me in a very nasty and intrusive way.”
He started to have nightmares where he would wake up feeling the heat from the bomb blast.
“In the case of the tsunami, I could smell the bodies when I woke up. It was quite a rapid descent. You begin to dread going to sleep so you stay up later.”
He says he initially turned to alcohol to help him get to sleep, but quickly found that made matters worse so sought intensive treatment instead to try to help him overcome debilitating symptoms which he says have reduced him to a shadow of his former self.
Even after treatment he still finds it hard to go out or be in a crowd.
Sirens and some loud noises can trigger gut wrenching and exhausting episodes of hyper arousal, an intense anxiety which can last for weeks on end.
“On two occasions I was preparing to kill myself. But whilst I was at my lowest point I decided I needed to try to make the best of a bad situation. I don’t think I’ll ever recover fully.”
One would feel extremely sorry for him – if not for an interview in the Daily Mail two days later – which skates over his state of mind – where he follows the paper’s agenda of rubbishing any paedophile case involving anybody remotely important. The interview is one of three in the last two weeks all on the same theme.
In it- and he has done this before – he aggrandises the role of Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, describing the Met Police’s as being “terrified ” of him ( I doubt that myself.)
Mr Settle told the Mail :: ‘The management at the Yard were absolutely petrified of Tom Watson. They were scared of what he could do to their careers.
‘They hung me out to dry. It was about their self-preservation. I was an expendable DCI and their careers were more important to them.
‘I was quite emphatic that the allegations against Lord Brittan were nonsense.’
He is particularly angry that Tom Watson contacted the DPP over an historic allegation that Lord Brittan had raped a young woman.
The Mail said: He was ‘disgusted’ to learn that a month earlier, Mr Watson had written directly to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, asking her to review the decision and demanding that Lord Brittan – who was dying of cancer – be interviewed. The letter was forwarded to Met chiefs. ”
Yet the CPS did decide that a different approach should have been made and I am sure not just because it wanted to appease a Labour MP, then a backbencher. And Brittan was interviewed though there was not enough evidence to bring charges.
Mr Settle also believes ” Nick” who is a child sex abuse survivor should be prosecuted for bringing forward such allegations which did involve prominent figures and accusations of murder as well as child sex abuse and led to the Operation Midland investigation.
“If the evidence is there, he should be charged. He has done more harm to victim rights’ than anyone in modern criminal history.’
He also has told the Mail that he believed he lost his job because of his stand.
‘I was hounded out at the Met purely because I stood up and said ‘we should not do that’. But I can look myself in the mirror. I did the right thing.
‘However it was patently obvious that having exposed the failings of senior officers – and the level of indecision that existed and some would say incompetence – that I had no place in the organisation.’
‘I have been vindicated in the end but I have lost the job I love.’
Scotland Yard disagree. A spokesman is reported by the Mail as saying : “The Met does not believe that Mr Settle was “hounded out” of the organisation.”
To my mind there is one big unanswered question in all this. Given the high profile role and all the complexities of the Westminster paedophile investigation – why was a man who was in such a bad mental state – drinking himself to sleep and having nightmares because of previous police duties – ever put in charge of it in the first place.
He would have difficulties in dealing with such graphic and difficult allegations and putting such prominent people through the mill.It strikes me that the main criticism of the Met must be whether it followed its ” duty of care ” to its own staff, not any suggestion that it hounded him out of office.
Today I am putting up on my website a documentary film released today made by the Backto60 campaign who have interviewed women now in their early 60s who suddenly found that they weren’t going to get their pension when they retired at 60. Some of them sadly have committed suicide, some have thought of committing suicide.
They are angry at both the coalition and present Tory government decided to change the pension age without any notice so they can plan. They are the people who have worked all their loves and brought up families, often sacrificing their opportunity to work. Some have even put extra money into their pension, only to find they won’t get it until they are 66.
The government shows no sign of giving in to them – in fact ministers like David Gauke, the works and pensions secretary, have frozen other benefits instead- and if the Tories had a majority now would be pressing to end winter fuel allowances, free bus passes and the triple lock that guarantees pensions will rise by 2.5 per cent a year.
There is a contribution from Ken Loach, the radical film maker and pensioner himself, who made the searing film, I, Daniel Blake, about the trials and tribulations of being on social security after you have lost your job.