Archive for the ‘Tories’ Category

Ralph Musgrave‘s economics blog makes a case for a program of time-limited payments to companies who hire the unemployed, although I’m not sure if Musgrave is thinking of it as a permanent feature of the welfare state rather than an emergency response to depression. I might quibble with a couple of aspects – for example, it seems possible to me that businesses might exploit it by churning workers every three months to collect the subbo as often as possible – but I think that could be mitigated with a bit of thought.

It’s all very sound, but it only misses one thing: the policy exists and it’s called the Future Jobs Fund, and it was about the first thing the coalition found to cut.

On the other hand, the archive is also full of bad ideas. I note that the pre-Queen’s Speech trailing is talking about “a British FBI” and stuffing everything you can think of into “a National Crime Agency”. This idea was repeatedly briefed out to the Sundays by David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, and John Reid, and its reappearance is a sign that the government is so directionless the circulation of bad ideas round the Home Office files is beginning to influence it. The last time they came up with it, the result was the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, and nobody seems to know what that’s for.

Further, after things like the old National Hi-Tech Crime Unit were rolled into it, fairly quickly it became necessary to re-create them at the police force level because they were no longer responsive to the needs of the police. Apparently, the problem this is meant to solve is that the immigration queues have got out of hand. John Reid decided to save the world by making immigration officers wear a remarkably, depressingly crappy uniform and putting up signs reading UK BORDER, as if wet feet or a big hole in the ground didn’t make it plain.

Now Theresa May wants to hurry up the queues by stuffing bureaucracy A into bureaucracy B. We are clearly at about 2007 in the last government’s timeline. Alternatively, perhaps we never left Late Blairism.

howizzhe!!!!?

Another thought, in the light of my last post and this one, is that the Murdoch wars have been effective because they get to the Tories’ System One, kinaesthetic, internalised skills, just in a context where they are unhelpful.

It’s cricket, really – it’s all about trying to identify the circumstances where the batsman’s initial, muscle-memory, trigger movements put him out of his ground. And once you’ve worked that out, it’s about keeping consistently at it. Line and length, line and length, until the percentages and the shameless psychological torture deliver.

Matthew Norman picks up on the prime minister’s tendency to turn puce and behave horribly, although surprisingly for a cricket obsessive he didn’t pick up the connection.

David Cameron goes trying to sell Airbus A330s. In his chartered Boeing. Chartered, eventually, from an Angolan company on the EU air safety blacklist.

So, that Total Defence plan. Not long after blogging about the weird way becoming an NHS Foundation Trust member is mostly about the staff discounts, my Google Alert tail-warning receiver lit up. Specifically, it caught the fact that the Haringey Clinical Commissioning Group was going to have a public meeting, so off I went with a little notebook of talking points.

My first impression (as I was on time) was the usual depressing one – they’re all 117 years old, there’s four of them, and Christ, they’re odd, and one of them’s reading something called God’s Word Made Plain. Why did I volunteer again? But the room filled up, and then filled up some more, and eventually we counted up 53 MOPs who turned out.

The original agenda was all about “how the CCG can communicate with the public”, but when it got communicating, the message from the public was that the public wanted no part of that. It turned out that the local “Patients Panel” hadn’t met for years. An effort was made to explain the new NHS structure, and at this point, astonishment and disbelief set in as the CCG vice chair and the (existing) NHS finance director tried to draw the organisation on a flipchart. (It reminded me of the enchanted PowerPoint presentation in one of Charlie Stross’s novels.) So, GPs were meant to commission everything, and the PCT and SHA had been shut down, with 54% cuts imposed on their staff, but to keep the wheels turning, they were reorganising as a cluster in the meantime. Then, the GPs would take over, but the GPs themselves couldn’t be in a position to commission their own work, so they would be commissioned nationally, while some other services would be carved out of local commissioning.

One of the CCG doctors said of the re-org that “in terms of human pain it’s quite remarkable – managers are people too, you know”. Before the CCG took over, it would be allowed to have a “shadow budget” but no actual money, because it didn’t have an accountable finance function. And before it did, everyone would be sacked again. The national commissioning board would replace the SHAs, but would have four or possibly more regional branches that might be quite a lot like them.

The questions kept coming and eventually they abandoned the agenda in favour of just standing there fielding. It turned out that there was a 93 page national test that the CCG would have to apply, but nobody had seen a copy and nobody was clear about who set the test or how. There was a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, carried out by the cluster and the local authority, but how that fed into this process was a mystery.

On the question of specialist services that would be carved-out of local commissioning and reserved to the national level, the chair had to be told that it wasn’t right and it wasn’t OK to say that “normal people” wouldn’t need to know about it because a lot of them are psychiatric in nature. It turned out that they represent 40% of the budget. The service-user activists got angry. As well as a Health and Wellbeing Board, whose makeup a Lib Dem councillor told me was still being debated, there is a Mental Health & Wellbeing Board, but the GPs have yet to deign to meet them because after all they’re only nutters (I paraphrase, but not much).

It turned out that the NHS organisations being butchered have a variety of huge databases of information vital to the commissioning process. Nobody seems to know what will happen to this.

The specialist/local interface seems to be enormously crucial, and a completely undemarcated frontier. The GPs are hugely keen on “continuous follow-up”, but it’s far from obvious why anyone would want follow-up by someone who has no specialist knowledge of their condition.

The FD confirmed the following figures in my talking points: the Government has budgeted £25 per head per year for the CCGs and the Commissioning Support Organisations. Of this, the NHS North Central London cluster says it can do the CSO job for £15/head/year, which leaves £10*225 kilocitizens in Haringey or £2.25m a year in funds flowing to the CCG as such. The CCG plans to have CSO staff co-located with it, and in fact to rely on the CSO for pretty much all its day-to-day functions.

Apparently the Government arrived at the figure of £25 by halving the existing Londonwide figure and dividing by the population.

Anyway, my take-home points: CSOs are crucial (although we knew that). Status of staff – are they civil servants? Who has responsibility for the public money flowing through them? What happens to this database? Further, the frontier problem between central and local is important. And I’ve got to get on to some of these assorted boards.

I was really pleased by the turnout, and the degree to which the crowd were intelligently angry. A surprising number of people had evidently taken the time to brief themselves in advance.

Look what he’s up to now. It’s amazing how common the “that hillside is full of warbirds/jeeps/whatever” story is, and how geographically widespread. I worked on a north-west Australian cattle station that included an abandoned WW2 airfield, and more than a couple of people had wasted time and money digging into bits of it looking for them.

Near my dad’s home town in Hertfordshire, there was an old 8th Air Force base and relatives of mine knew about people who claimed there were whole P-38s, motorbikes, trucks, jeeps etc buried, although the status of the story was “you don’t want to listen to old Stick, he’ll believe anything”. Oddly enough, if they waited long enough they were almost right, because the Americans continued to use part of the site, and allegedly some of it was used for something spooky during Iran-Contra. There are similar stories I’m aware of about a couple of places in Yorkshire.

I presume it goes back to genuine tales of how much surplus kit there was sloshing about, and how much of it was basically thrown away, and perhaps to a deeper awareness of the wastefulness of war. It’s also very similar to the cargo cult – like the intersection of buried treasure and cargo cultism.

This comment at Inspector Gadget makes a lot of sense, and makes the various efforts by the Tories to convince their base (and themselves) that It’s The Miners All Over Again look even sillier.

I spoke to the owner of my local garage earlier today. He has 8 pumps on the forecourt, “as a rule” his underground storage is around 33% full, he orders a tanker delivery when it hits 10% full. If he were to completely fill his underground storage he estimates he would have 2 weeks supply at normal rates of consumption…. to do so would cost him nearly £250,000, which, unsurprisingly given the 2.12% profit margin on fuel, he doesn’t have on hand.

The problem is that “stockpiling fuel” at petrol stations isn’t a thing, because there is more storage capacity in cars than there is in petrol stations. Further, stockpiling it in cars isn’t much of a thing either, because most people drive them and you have to give 7 days’ notice of a strike. Put it another way – fill up all the petrol stations to capacity, and by the time the strike goes into effect, half of it will be gone. Therefore, you need only a week’s strike to get them dry – assuming no panic buying, which as we have seen is an unrealistic assumption, and also assuming evenly distributed disruption, which is crazily impossible.

The unavoidable conclusion is that the “private message” talking points handed out to be leaked are an exercise in whistling in the dark. As a result, I find this story hard to believe. It just seems to fit better in reality that Francis Maude did a bit of daft freelancing, No.10 spin doctors went with the cosplay David Hart story in an attempt to save the furniture, and then the fogey-right half of the Tories briefed this tale in pursuit of their beefs with David Cameron, than that they really are that flaky.

I mean, if they were, what would that say about us? (Mind you, this is the earliest case of “it’s like the miners all over again” I can find, from the 28th of March. But that’s Maude again, so it would also be consistent with The Most Able Man in the Cabinet having an idea.)

Also, calm down, jamiesphere.

Red Brick blogs on the new regulations regarding council tenants who want to take over control of their estates. Their view is that this will be much more likely, and therefore that the campaign to prevent the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham demolishing a lot of homes in order to redevelop Earls Court has taken a big step forward. Perhaps. LBHF, as Boriswatch has repeatedly shown, is a bit of a happy hunting ground for really weird Tories, and the final word is with the Secretary of State, aka Bradford’s second-worst political product Eric Pickles. Good luck with that.

But there is an interesting point here. I would argue that re-election is not really a concern for the Tories. They have fully internalised the so-called “50% + 1″ model dear to Karl Rove. The point is not to “win the centre ground” by triangulating, it is to scrape in by mobilising the base and demobilising the other lot. Then, one tries to change the conditions by making deliberately excessive and maximalist demands on the basis that whatever you ask for, you’ll probably get less, so it makes sense to shoot for the moon. Eventually, you’ll lose, but in doing so you will have pissed off the right people and hopefully changed the character of the terrain. Further, the new integrated Atlantic market for bullshit means that being a minister is no longer a life’s work, but rather an apprenticeship for much better rewarded punditry.

Think of it as an approach that isn’t about manoeuvring over the landscape, it’s about changing the landscape itself.

As a result, there is no strategic focus in terms of policy. Instead, there is a focus in terms of time. The point is to have a lot of things happening simultaneously in the hope that this will confuse the enemy – that’s you – and also in the belief that some of the bombers, or perhaps the bulldozers, will get through.

I see two responses to this. One is assymetric reaction – for example, throwing the kitchen sink at the Murdoch wars. There is no direct link between the NHS and Leveson, but you bet the sale of the News International papers would make it far easier to repeal the NHS Bill. This is why my blog is so obsessed by it. It’s an opportunity to change the terrain.

Another is total defence. If the attack is meant to be decentralised and localised to the NHS trust level, the defence can be as well. This is why you must read this seminal, classic post from Richard Blogger now and act on it. You can get a list of NHS foundation trusts whose membership is nationwide here. I just joined the one that covers my local mental health service – a likely early target – and now I am the NHS candidate for governor. Oh, yeah, and my local acute/general hospital. Go, read, work through the checklist.

(Title taken from faintly Orwellian-meets-Hazel-Blears but remarkably apposite Singaporean Ministry of Defence website. They used to have one that said “Total Defence. What will YOU defend?”, which is on point as well.)

So, I was at today’s NHS demo. Somebody had to be – I was shocked by how many people weren’t there. The streets were full of people who weren’t there. And there was a pretty standard demo pitched up on the pavement outside the Department of Health at Richmond House, 97 Whitehall. Speeches. Depression. Workers’ Liberty tried to sell me a paper. The last time I met that lot, they wanted to explain why the lesson of the Paris Commune was that you needed to be nastier to the Muslims. Anyway.

After a while some people from Occupy London and a couple of other orgs turned up to join in. Not long after this there was some sort of interaction with the police (I heard later that they asked us to leave the pavement), and as a result the demo moved onto the street and formed a block across it. Very quickly, a couple of carriers appeared from the Parliament Square side with TSG cops aboard (one of whom, presumably in charge, was out and about talking to the ordinary bill). After some parley – I don’t know the details – they suddenly moved off towards Parliament Square. I expected them to re-appear behind us, but it didn’t happen. Instead, traffic was diverted at each end of Whitehall.

So we stood and sat there, singing our songs and waving our banners. There was more police coming and going, but no real change. Occupy started to work through their standard occupying procedure of holding a meeting and getting a human microphone going.

About 1530, a police carrier appeared from the direction of Trafalgar Square and delivered a slack dozen TSG men, who formed a line across Whitehall between the levels of Richmond House and Downing Street. The demo, which had been facing towards Westminster, swung around to face them. At this point I was seriously worried that the next move would be a line moving up from Westminster to form a kettle. The police deployment was quite thin and extended, whether because this lot were the first to arrive or because they deliberately wanted to filter people through the line.

At 1536, I tweeted (so probably a little earlier), the demo started moving towards Trafalgar Square, partly pushing forwards and mostly moving around the flanks of the police line. (This is a fair characterisation, I think, as is this.) The police moved back towards Downing Street and then towards the Women’s Monument, and there was some sort of outbreak of shouting on the Downing St side in front of the Cabinet Office, where a lot of people were trying to get by between the police line and the buildings. I passed by on the other side close to Alanbrooke’s statue (my twitter feed says this was 1600). This is the widest point of Whitehall, and the police line now had demonstrators on both sides.

From this point on, the demo moved fairly quickly up Whitehall. Ahead, I saw a police 4×4, possibly a senior officer’s vehicle, parked in the middle of the road, which suddenly moved off with squealing tyres. That sounds dramatic, but in truth the pace was little more than a brisk walk, and nothing violent had happened so far.

Approaching the top of Whitehall, a choke point where the street narrows before entering Trafalgar Square, I looked back and saw that beyond the demo, and the police, and the demonstrators who were on the other side of the police, many more police had arrived. I think I saw between five and eight carriers.

At the top of Whitehall, the demo started to pass into Trafalgar Square. I was one of the first in the retreat at this point. Due to the demo, and to an “event” in the Square, there was very heavy traffic on all the streets around it. As we emerged from Whitehall, the next vehicle to move forwards from the direction of the Strand and Northumberland Avenue was a police van, specifically one of the red Transit minibuses used by Met Diplomatic Protection and anti-terrorist branch units. (Wail Qasim identified them as such at 1606.) It was, for the record, in the traffic jam rather than parked off the street, and everyone was inside with the doors and windows shut.

One of the Occupiers immediately lay down in front of the van, I think to stop it or any traffic blocking the exit from Whitehall. Other demonstrators gathered around it. There was a hiatus as they realised that they had kettled the cops, and the cops realised that something unusual was going on. Then, one of them got out of the vehicle, with his H&K rifle slung, apparently intending to talk to the people. It can only have been at this point that the now-famous photo was taken. Like everyone else, as far as I can make out, my first thought was “Er, armed police?” (as my Twitter feed records at 1604).

Nothing very much happened. I was one carriageway from the van, and I don’t remember that anyone raised their voice between the police or the protestors around their van. However, I presume they radioed for help, as the first TSG unit now caught up in a real hurry, eventually forming a line (very tight and concentrated this time) in front of the van.

People now began to gather on the mini-roundabout facing them, which seemed to me to practically invite the creation of a kettle around it as more and more police were still appearing. As a result, this didn’t last and the demo moved on across the Square and into the Strand. By the level of Charing Cross, I had the impression that the demonstration had melted away, which struck me as a smart move. In fact, according to Twitter, some of us pressed on up Aldwych and encountered quite rough treatment from the police.

So that was my experience. Everyone seems to be furious that armed police were seen on the demo. I’m not sure that they were used, and I wouldn’t want this to detract from getting after, for example, this bloke or this one.

However, I think the real reason for this is that the Met usually has a group of armed officers and their vans based at Charing Cross nick, as it’s close to various ministries, the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, and some embassies that get armed police protection. The van could have either been coming from Charing Cross to start a shift, or perhaps on the way back via Northumberland Avenue. They didn’t seem to be particularly aware something unusual was going on, and they were sitting in a van in a traffic jam rather than being deployed in any tactical fashion. My twitter feed records this view at 1608, as do some others.

Yet another piece of Tory zombie legislation – neither alive nor dead, staggering mindlessly on, dragging its tattered amendments through the Lords, long past knowing why it keeps going – is the legal aid cuts bill. This article turns up a variety of useful information, notably that they want rid and want to force probably useless insurance on you at enormous profit for the insurance business, like so:

Last week the justice minister Jonathan Djanogly admitted the government would promote BTE insurance as a way of funding legal expenses and predicted the cost of such cover would come down.

Labour says annual premiums could be £150, amounting to a tax on justice that would reap big profits for the insurance industry. An internal industry analysis shows insurers stand to gain £1 in profits for every £2 of premium payments.

But there is something missing. Djanogly. Djanogly. An unusual name, hard to forget, isn’t it? Here he is, getting caught not telling anyone that he personally stands to trouser that 50% profit margin referred to in the quote.

All right, he claims he doesn’t have any influence on the family holding company’s investment policy, but then this is irrelevant. They’re already in the insurance business and need only hold still while it rains money. The problem is that he has influence over government policy. (Past coverage: here.)

I thought it might be interesting to establish some timeline information about News International e-mail disclosures and deletions, in the light of this piece in the Torygraph. As we know, the Telegraph is now opposed to the Osborne/Gove Murdoch group in the Tories, so it has no reason to carry water for Murdoch.

31st September 2004 – According to News International Chief Information Officer Paul Cheesborough, NI archived e-mail up to this date was deleted.

2005 – NI solicitor Julian Pike will later say that e-mail exists up to 2005. See 23rd March 2011.

Kickoff – 2006. 1st police inquiry into Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman. Police raid Wapping, only search Goodman’s desk, by agreement with NI management.

29th November 2006 – Goodman and Mulcaire convicted.

“Early” 2007 – 2,500 e-mails disclosed to Harbottle & Lewis in parallel litigation (Goodman’s employment tribunal).

29th May, 2007 – Harbottle & Lewis write to NI, saying they reviewed them and found nothing.

31st September 2007 – E-mail from before this date was meant to be deleted (see January, 2011). NI operates a policy of flushing e-mail every three years, clearly.

December, 2007 – James Murdoch becomes the boss.

2008 – First civil litigation against NI, NI becomes bound to preserve evidence.

April, 2008 – James Murdoch authorises Gordon Taylor’s payoff.

November, 2009 – E-Mail Deletion Policy announced internally.

eliminate in a consistent manner across News International (subject to compliance with legal and regulatory requirements) emails that could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation in which an NI company is a defendant

November, 2009 – reports of frequent outages in the e-mail archive system.

January, 2010 – It is decided to destroy all archive e-mail before this point.

April, 2010 – HCL deletes three data sets. One is a public folder on a production (rather than archive) server “owned by a user who no longer needed the emails”.

May, 2010 – NI exec demands to know if e-mails destroyed.

May, 2010 – 200,000 delivery status notification messages deleted, plus 21,000 messages in an outbox, during recovery from system failure.

June, 2010 – NI solicitor, Julian Pike, will claim, falsely, that all e-mail before this point has been destroyed. See December 2010.

29th July, 2010 – “How come we still haven’t done the e-mail policy?” i.e. the deletion has not yet happened.

July 2010 – William Lewis joins NI.

4th August, 2010 – “Everyone needs to know e-mail before January 2010 will not be kept” i.e. still not deleted.

6th September, 2010 – Sienna Miller’s lawyers demand that e-mail be preserved.

9th September, 2010 – IT employee says “there is a senior management requirement to delete this data as quickly as possible but it need to be done in commercial boundaries”. i.e. data still there, and contractual issues with the IT outsourcers holding up the process.

September, 2010 – unspecified deletions of “historic” e-mail in connection with system stability problem.

October 2010 – News International papers move. Hard disk drives in NI workstations (not just the NOTW) are replaced and destroyed, but serverside e-mail is backed up at least in part.

December, 2010 – NOTW Scottish Editor Bob Bird tells Sheridan trial that the archived e-mail has been lost en route to HCL in Mumbai. This is entirely false.

December, 2010 – Julian Pike, solicitor for NI from Farrar & Co., tells the High Court that no e-mail exists beyond six months ago. This is also false.

January, 2011 – Paul Cheesbrough, News International IT chief, says archived e-mail back to 31st September 2007 has been destroyed. This is false.

January, 2011 – HCL are asked to destroy a particular database, refer NI to system vendor.

January, 2011 – NI executives demand destruction of 500GB of e-mail held at Essential Computing, Bristol. See 8th July 2011.

January 7th, 2011 – Miller’s lawyers release information about their case to NI in discovery.

January 12th, 2011 – NI managers order a halt to deletion, and give instructions to preserve e-mail.

Later in January, 2011 – 3 e-mails given to police. New police inquiry begins.

February, 2011 – some e-mail is lost in a software upgrade.

March 23, 2011 – “Don’t tell him!” Pike apologises to the High Court, admits that no e-mail has gone missing in India, admits that archives exist back to 2005. Pike blames Tom Crone, who claims that he was misled by another, unnamed NI executive.

June, 2011 – Information Commissioner abandons inquiry into e-mails disappearing from NI. NI had claimed that the data had disappeared en route to India.

July, 2011 – (i.e. in full crisis mode) an NI exec travels to “the company storage facility” and removes 6 boxes of unspecified records regarding themselves (possibly same person who spoke to Crone).

7th July, 2011 – Evening Strangler first reports NI bribes to police.

8th July, 2011 – Key Guardian story. An NI executive, not named but apparently identified by police, demanded the destruction of 500GB of archive e-mail in January 2011, around the time of the resumed police inquiry. First mention of another IT outsourcing company, Essential Computing, in the UK.

Police believe they have identified the executive responsible by following an electronic audit trail. They have also attempted to retrieve the lost data. The Crown Prosecution Service is believed to have been asked whether the executive can be charged with perverting the course of justice.

At the heart of the affair is a data company, Essential Computing, based near Bristol. Staff there have been interviewed by Operation Weeting. One source speculated that this company had compelled NI to admit that the archive existed.

The Guardian understands that Essential Computing has co-operated with police and provided evidence about an alleged attempt by the NI executive to destroy part of the archive while they were working with it. This is said to have happened after the executive discovered that the company retained material of which NI was unaware.

This seems to be a critical moment

10th July, 2011 – William Lewis of NI discovers 2007 e-mail dump to Harbottle & Lewis, finds evidence. Only finds 300 out of 2,500 messages – rest still unaccounted for.

July, 2011 – Management & Standards Committee starts functioning with managers from News Corp outside the UK, cooperating with police.

July, 2011 – New York Post staffers ordered to preserve documents. Probably reflects News Corp strategic decision to cooperate

July, 2011 – some e-mail is deleted by HCL due to inconsistency between systems after a migration.

September 7th, 2011 – HCL representatives tell House of Commons that NI demanded deletion of e-mail on 9 occasions starting in April, 2010.

September 13th, 2011 – A large quantity of e-mail is discovered at News International.

October, 2011 – Computer forensics work begins on supposedly deleted e-mail archives.

December, 2011 – “Data Pool 3″ e-mail archive is successfully restored from backup.





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