Tag Archives: water cannon

Boris Johnson’s incompetence as London Mayor is finally revealed – long AFTER his departure

[Image: AFP Photo/ITV/Rex/Shutterstock/Matt Frost].

Boris Johnson was recently revealed to be a hopelessly incompetent foreign secretary. Now information has been released that shows he was hopelessly incompetent as the Mayor of London, too.

The facts about the uselessness of the water cannons he bought have been known for many months – the amount of money he wasted has not been revealed until now.

Do you still think the Conservatives are the party of financial responsibility?

As for Mr Johnson himself – he is an inept oaf whose time is spent either with his foot in his mouth or busily spending other people’s money.

Can anybody explain his popularity?

And, most importantly of all:

I

A few years ago, Boris Johnson’s administration at London City Hall spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ money buying water cannons.

The water cannons were apparently for protesting crowds, and turned out to be useless and a complete waste of money.

But apparently it was worse than that. Today, Sadiq Khan’s office reveals the full cost to Londoners of maintaining three unused water cannon:

  • Low Emission Zone compliance – £32,004
  • Re-painting – £19,035
  • Fitting CCTV – £19,376.70
  • Body work repairs due to corrosion   – £4,911.15
  • Supply and fit of 999 sirens – £3,109.20
  • Signage – £3,511.50
  • Installation of a Radio / CD player – £970.50

Yes, nearly a grand was spent just installing a radio / CD player to a bunch of water cannons. It beggars belief.

And that’s not even the worst of it.

Khan’s office reveal that more than £322,834 was spent on purchasing, fitting out and repairing the three machines.

This is all despite the fact they cannot legally be used in the UK and have ‘languished in storage’ for the past two years.

Source: Boris Johnson as Mayor of London spent £970 installing a CD player to water cannons

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For sale: Water cannon. Genuine reason for sale

The Evening Harold considers Theresa May’s announcement that Boris Johnson has wasted more than £300,000 on water cannons that he won’t be allowed to turn on the British public:

For sale, any reasonable offer considered.

Audi, BMW and Mercedes not quite cutting it at the golf club? Try out the Wasserwerfer 9000 and water the greens at the same time ‘Springwater durch technik’.

Due to circumstances beyond my control [!] offers are invited for three much-loved water cannon, unexpectedly surplus to requirements. Very low mileage. Finished in sparkling, completely unmarked Metropolitan Police livery.

Could be delivered in time for a Reggae-based August Bank Holiday street carnival.

Inherently dangerous so would suit minor dictator with political ambition, high-functioning sociopath or Alton Towers.

Interested? Then contact:

Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
City Hall
London SE1 2AA

(Note change of address from 2019: 10 Downing St, London SW1A 2AA)

Source: For sale: Water cannon. Genuine reason for sale | The Evening Harold

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Art imitates life: Coalition ‘welf’ policies get comic-book treatment

150328artimitateslife

Judge Dredd: The Cop. Script by Al Ewing; art by Ben Willsher.

Sometimes, when you’re a blogger, an article comes along when you think you’re doing something else – for example, catching up on a little light reading.

Yes, even hard-nosed political bloggers like This Writer have to kick back and have a little ‘me’ time now and then – in this case, with the Judge Dredd Megazine, issue 356, dated February 17, 2015.

In the lead story ‘The Cop’, we see title character Judge Dredd’s domain – the Mega City One of a future North America – struggling to cope with the effects of a disaster. Already you can see parallels with the Great Recession of 2007 onwards.

Citizens are encouraged to help clear damage from buildings, making them usable again, in return for food rations. No effort – no food. This is actually described in the story as a ‘Work Programme’!

Then the story focuses in on “those adults who are unable to work”; one such person is thrust out of the line of workers by a classic bully-type character. Ordered to explain what’s going on, the character – clearly in bad shape, his body withered and weak – states that he has a condition in which half his body doesn’t function properly. He explains that he reported for ‘disability testing’ (a Work Capability Assessment).

“I waited six hours an’ then they told me to come down here!” the pitiful creature, named Carmody, explains. “Said if I could wait that long, it meant it couldn’t be that bad–”

Captions provide us with Judge Dredd’s reaction: “More than credible. He’s heard stories like it a thousand times.” How many times have we heard or read similar stories about so-called healthcare professionals and their assessments?

“Admin call it ‘creative bureaucracy‘ saving… by the cold application of red tape and the occasional Catch-22. In the current climate, ‘criminal negligence’ might be more appropriate.” In comics, you see, there’s no space for diplomacy or political correctness; they say what they see. Criminal negligence is as good a description of Coalition Government policy towards the sick and disabled as any This Writer has seen.

The Judge decides that the sick guy has a good case and makes provision for him to receive food anyway. What happens next is something that would make the right-wing press proud.

“HE’S FAKIN’ IT!” screams a man in the crowd. “I seen that guy yesterday pullin’ the same scam! He’s a fake!

The caption points out what we already know: “The accusation’s obviously false. Dredd doesn’t need a lie detector to know that. But the mob hears what it wants.” Another parallel with the UK of the present-day.

The result? Instant riot – put down with rubber bullets – for which the Mega-City always has enough money: “Maitland in accounts had … made the budget adjustments. Feeding the cits was all well and good, after all — but first things first.” Boris Johnson’s water cannon, anybody?

Getting back to Carmody – who’s been injured and is just about to be carted off in an ambulance – it turns out he recognised the man who started the riot: “Suh-sure. He tuh-tried to sell me… I dunno, he cuh-called it insurance.”

And haven’t we just learned that the Tories want to introduce private health insurance into British industry?

Back to the captions: “The cits are angry, resentful, looking for someone to blame— anybody will do. So whisper in the right ear— make an accusation at the right moment that some poor sap’s not pulling their weight— and you’ve got a whole city ready to do your legbreaking for you.” As the right-wing press have been working hard to demonstrate over the last few years.

scrounger

Of course, this works equally well with the ‘chequebook euthanasia’ argument that has been put forward in this blog. Whisper in the ear of someone who’s depressed that maybe they should take the easy way out; relieve the burden on their relatives/friends and the taxpayer – and they’ll probably top themselves while the balance of their mind is disturbed. Isn’t that right, Iain Duncan Smith?

“Meanwhile, your own hands stay clean– an incitement rap at the very worst. It’s some smart thinking, all right. Organisation thinking.”

Okay, in the story, the bad guys are known as ‘the Organisation’. It’s a comic-book. In the real world, they mean the Establishment; the neoliberals whose thinking informs the government’s. As this blog has noted previously, the government’s hands stay clean if an ESA claimant goes out and commits suicide after a Work Capability Assessment – at least, that’s how ministers would like us to see it. “An incitement rap at the very worst.”

And in the meantime, down goes the benefit bill.

The script for this mini-classic is by Al Ewing. It seems clear that, like another comic scriptwriter called Al – Alan Moore – he knows the score.

It’s one of the great things about the comics counter-culture. It isn’t monitored and censored anything like as heavily as mass cultures like TV.

So comics get to say what people really think.

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Tories unleash flagship scheme ahead of conference – to abolish your rights!

Slavery in the UK: This image was part of a campaign against it - but the Conservative Party wants to extend it to include you.

Slavery in the UK: This image was part of a campaign against it – but the Conservative Party wants to extend it to include you.

One has to marvel at the twisted logic of modern Conservatives; right before their last party conference in the run-up to the general election, they can normally be expected to be trying to bribe us all with tax cuts and benefits (maybe they will come later).

Instead they are promising to remove the safety net that keeps us free of exploitation by – what a surprise! – the Conservatives and their friends.

It’s not a new plan – Vox Political reported on the policy back in March last year, when Theresa May announced that they would scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights if they win the 2015 general election. They aren’t saying anything different now.

Back then, she claimed it would be “in the national interest”, and now Injustice Secretary Chris Grayling is saying more or less the same thing, dressing it up as an attempt to return power to the UK.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “Decisions like ‘do prisoners get the vote?’ or ‘can you send brutal murderers to prison for their whole lives?’ seem to be outside our control. I want our supreme court to be supreme. Decisions that affect this country should be taken in this country.”

He did not mention all the other rights you are likely to lose if the Conservatives are allowed to get away with this.

The European Convention on Human Rights was co-drafted by the UK – in fact by the Conservatives’ greatest Prime Minister, Winston Churchill – just after World War II. It states that nation states’ primary duty is to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”.

VP commented in March 2013 that “the Coalition government has been reneging on this obligation – wholesale – since it came into power”. Look at the Department for Work and Pensions’ work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, and the thousands – possibly tens of thousands – of deaths related to it.

Article 4 of the Convention prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour, so removing it would give the Tories free hand to impose their Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes on us – despite the fact that these schemes are worse than useless at getting people into employment. The real reason for them is that they are a money-making scam to ensure the businesses involved support the Conservative Party.

Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial, which is something Mr Grayling has been working hard to take away from you for a considerable period of time. It’s where you get the right to a public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal within a reasonable time (the Coalition’s secret courts have removed this right already), and where the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is enshrined.

Article 8 provides a right to respect for another person’s “private and family life… home and… correspondence”. This has been violated, of course, by the Tory-led Coalition’s recent Surveillance Act.

Article 10 provides a right to freedom of expression, so removing it would allow the Tories to censor the Internet and remove blogs such as Vox Political, leaving only their own propaganda.

Article 11 protects the right to freedom of assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. Obviously the Tories would love to ban the unions, but removing this would allow them the ability to ban anti-government demonstrations and it is probably why Boris Johnson bought his water cannons.

The Human Rights Act 1998 (brought in by the Labour Party) is the UK legislation that makes the European Convention binding on this country, meaning that breaches of it may be remedied in British courts, rather than the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is only appeals against the decisions of the British courts that go to Europe.

Grayling doesn’t like the idea of impartial foreigners ruling on whether his government’s politically-motivated human rights violations are legal.

That’s why he said; “I want our supreme court to be supreme. Decisions that affect this country should be taken in this country.” He wants absolute power over you.

Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney-General who got the sack during the summer, described the Tory attack on human rights as “incoherent”. It is widely believed to be one of the reasons he got the push.

The Tories are also determined to tie this policy in with anti-European Union rhetoric, even though the ECHR is nothing to do with the EU.

The Guardian‘s story on Grayling’s announcement includes a coda in which Savid Javid, our Sontaran* culture secretary, tried to reassure people that Britain could still prosper if it leaves the EU, despite the possible loss of hundreds of billions of pounds worth of trade deals (as reported in this blog previously).

But that’s another fact they’d rather you did not know. Misdirection is the only way forward for modern Conservatives.

Remember “There will be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS”?

*It’s a Doctor Who reference. Look up pictures of Javid and a Sontaran and you’ll spot the resemblance.

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Crimewave threat as police austerity means the innocent will suffer

Repression: Scenes like this could become commonplace in the UK as austerity forces police to stop investigating crime and people who try to protest are put down.

Repression: Scenes like this could become commonplace in the UK as austerity forces police to stop investigating crime and people who try to protest are put down.

How free do you feel today?

Whatever your answer, enjoy it while you can because new evidence has shown that funding cuts for the police are likely to result in public repression on a massive scale.

A report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has revealed that austerity is crippling the police service across England and Wales, meaning crime victims are being told to do their own detective work.

According to the BBC, “criminal damage and car crime were ‘on the verge of being decriminalised’ because forces had ‘almost given up'”.

Roger Baker, the inspector who led the review, tried to justify the failure by saying: “It’s not the fault of the individual staff; it’s a mindset thing that’s crept in to policing to say ‘We’ve almost given up’.”

In fairness, the report does say: “HMIC finds this expectation by these forces that the victim should investigate his own crime both surprising and a matter of material concern.

“The police have been given powers and resources to investigate crime by the public, and there should be no expectation on the part of the police that an inversion of that responsibility is acceptable.”

The report also found:

  • People received a different response from the police for the same kind of incident, depending on where they lived – so policing is now a postcode lottery.
  • Attendance rates at crime scenes varied from 39% in Warwickshire to 100% in Cleveland – postcode lottery again.
  • About a third of forces were failing to identify vulnerable and repeat victims – a gift to criminals.
  • There was “inadequate” use of technology by the police.
  • Some forces were losing track of named suspects because they did not have effective systems in place.

Enter ACPO, the sinister Home Office-funded Association of Chief Police Officers, to justify the withdrawal of law and order under the Coalition government’s austerity programme.

“The reality of austerity in policing means that forces must ensure that their officers’ time is put to best use and this means prioritising calls,” said Sir Hugh Orde, ACPO’s president.

ACPO has already anticipated that the effects of austerity may give rise to widespread public protest – which is why it lobbied the government for permission to use water cannons on the streets of the UK.

Vox Political stated in January: “This would be of no use at all in quelling violent criminal activities like the riots in 2011 – the police chiefs have already admitted that water cannons would have been ineffective in halting the “fast, agile disorder” and “dynamic looting” that took place during August 2011.

“ACPO is an organisation that has tried to put ‘agent provocateurs’ into legitimate protest groups and promoted ‘kettling’ to stop peaceful protests (as used in the student protests early in the current Parliament), among many other reprehensible activities.

“Considering its track record, it seems clear that ACPO wants to use water cannons against legitimate political protests, on the assumption that the increasing imposition of ideologically-imposed austerity on the country by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives will lead to more political protests, as people across the UK finally realise that the Tories and their corporate lobbyist friends are actually working against the wider population.

“ACPO’s report on water cannons makes it clear that “it would be fair to assume that the ongoing and potential future austerity measures are likely to lead to continued protest” and “the mere presence of water cannon can have a deterrent effect”.

“The Home Office response? ‘We are keen to ensure forces have the tools and powers they need to maintain order on our streets. We are currently providing advice to the police on the authorisation process as they build the case for the use of water cannon.’”

What we are seeing is – as mentioned in another VP article published today – when austerity is imposed on a service provided for everybody, that service degenerates.

In the case of policing, this means crimes go unpunished as our political leaders force constabularies to focus increasingly on keeping us under control.

We have already seen police officers checking bus tickets rather than investigating crime. Note that the VP article on this subject provoked a flurry of justificatory comments on our Facebook page, from readers who exhibited a concern that we should not let the evidence convince us that anything was amiss.

ACPO has stated that austerity – such as that which is preventing the police from investigating crime – is likely to stir up public protest.

And ACPO – which, let us remind ourselves, is Home Office-funded – has, in a clear conflict of interest, advised the Home Office to allow the use of water cannon on British streets to put down any such protests, whether they are justified or not. Has it been paid by the Home Office to tell the Home Office what the Home Office wants to hear?

Innocent people exercising their right to protest against injustice will be arrested – while criminals will remain free to vandalise their property and steal from their cars, possibly at the same time.

That’s Tory-run Britain for you: The criminals run amok while the innocent are imprisoned.

Now how free do you feel?

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The summer is heating up – but are the Conservatives melting down?

Swivel-eyed loon: And Jeremy Hunt is a member of the government, not a grassroots Conservative association.

Swivel-eyed loon: And Jeremy Hunt is a member of the government, not a grassroots Conservative association.

The Conservative Party is eating itself from within. It is therefore an odd time for members to go into Labour marginal constituencies, trying to undermine support with a loaded questionnaire.

That, however, is exactly what we have seen this weekend. But then, what did you expect from the Party of Doubletalk? The Nasty Party? The Party that sows Divisive-ness wherever it can, while mouthing platitudes like “We’re all in it together”? The Party that claims it is responsible with the nation’s finances, while threatening to run up greater debts than any of its rivals ever did?

Let’s start on financial responsibility: Sir Mervyn King, who retires as Governor of the Bank of England next month, has warned that the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme for new mortgages must not be allowed to run indefinitely. The scheme has the state guaranteeing up to 15 per cent of a mortgage on homes worth up to £600,000, and is intended to run until 2017. Sir Mervyn’s fear is that the government will expose the taxpayer – that’s you and me – to billions of pounds of private mortgage debt. He said the UK must avoid what happened in the USA, where state-backed mortgage schemes had to be bailed out.

This particular scheme has already run into flak from those who claimed it was a “second-home subsidy” for the very rich. The new criticism raises fears that the Conservatives are actively engineering a situation that will create more unsustainable debt – and we all know what they do to resolve that kind of problem, don’t we?

They cut. Most particularly, they cut parts of the public services that help anyone who doesn’t earn at least £100,000 per year.

And no – before anyone pipes up with it – nobody receives that much on benefits.

For doubletalk, let’s look at Michael Gove. The Education Secretary was heckled and jeered when he appeared before the National Association of Head Teachers’ conference, where members passed a motion of no confidence in his policies.

The BBC quoted Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT: “What I think he’s failed to pick up on is the short termism of the targets and the constant change, [which] means that people no longer feel that they’re doing the job that they came to do, which is to teach children.”

Mr Gove said he had been “delighted with the warmth and enthusiasm” that had greeted some of the government’s education policies.

But he went on to say there would be no change of course: “What I have heard is repeated statements that the profession faces stress, and insufficient evidence about what can be done about it. What I haven’t heard over the last hour is a determination to be constructive. Critical yes, but not constructive.”

Doubletalk. At first he was saying one thing when we know he means something else entirely; then he went on to ignore what he had been told – by the experts – because it did not support his policy.

Meanwhile, of course, the Conservative Party is eating itself alive over Europe. There are so many angles to this, it’s hard to know where to begin!

We know that Conservative backbenchers tried to amend their own government’s Queen’s speech with a motion regretting the lack of intention to legislate for an in/out referendum on membership of the European Union, and we know that 116 of them voted in favour of that motion. That wasn’t anything like enough for it to pass, so David Cameron didn’t have to worry about resigning (as suggested in previous articles on this blog).

Next thing we knew, the Telegraph‘s political editor, James Kirkup, told us a government figure close to the Prime Minister had said the backbenchers had to vote the way they did because they had been ordered to do so by grassroots Conservative association members, and they were all “mad, swivel-eyed loons”.

Downing Street has denied that anybody said such a thing, but Kirkup has tweeted “I stand by my story” – and anyway, the damage has been done. Conservative association members were already at loggerheads with the Parliamentary party and the government, we’re told, because they believe their views are being ignored.

(One wonders what those views might, in fact, be. This could be one case in which ignoring the will of the people is actually the more sensible thing to do!)

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has said the Conservatives are “united” in their view of Europe – but then, Jeremy Hunt – as Health Secretary – told Parliament that spending on the NHS has risen in real terms since the Coalition came into office, and we know from Andrew Dilnot, head of the independent UK Statistics Authority, that this is not true.

Lord Howe, on the other hand, has accused Crime – sorry, Prime – Minister David Cameron of “running scared” of Eurosceptics and losing control of the party. This is the man whose resignation speech, which memorably included a comment that being sent to deal with the EU was like being in a cricket team whose captain had broken his bat, signalled the end of Margaret – later Baroness – Thatcher’s career as Prime Minister.

Who do we believe, the silly youngster or the boring old guy? That’s right – we believe the old guy who already brought down one Prime Minister. Perhaps he can do the same to another.

Meanwhile, we were told on Sunday that members of Parliament are all set to receive a pay rise of up to £20,000, starting in 2015, the year of the next general election. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has been considering an increase of between £10,000 and £20,000, with the lower figure most likely – despite a consultation revealing that some MPs (all Conservative) thought they were worth more than £100,000 per year.

Backbencher pay is around £65,000 per year at the moment. This means the pay rise they are likely to get is 15 per cent, while those Conservatives who wanted £100 grand expected a rise of 54 per cent.

Average pay rises for working people over the last year were less than one per cent.

Do you think this is appropriate remuneration for the political organisation that said “We’re all in it together?” Because I don’t.

And this is the time the Conservative Party decides to float a proposal for a two-tier benefit system, in a survey sent to residents of marginal seats held by Labour.

One question asked whether benefit payments should be the same, regardless of how many years a person has paid National Insurance or income tax. If people answered ‘no’, the next question asked what proportion of benefits should be dependent on a record of contribution.

This is insidious. If benefits become dependent on contribution, that means young people without a job will not qualify for benefits – they won’t have paid anything in, so won’t be able to take anything out. Also, what about the long-term sick and disabled (don’t start about fraud – eliminating the 0.4 per cent of fraudulent claims does not justify what the Conservative-led Coalition is already doing to 87/88 per cent of ESA claimants, or what it has started doing to PIP claimants)? Their claims are likely to continue long after their contributions run out.

This is, I think, a trick to allow rich people to get out of paying higher tax rates. Think about it – rich people pay more, therefore they subsidise public services, including social security benefits, for the poor. Get people to support benefit payments based on the amount of money people pay in and the rich get a nice fat tax cut while the poor get their benefits cut off.

Fair? All in it together?

There’s a lot of doubletalk, so sections are headed “helping with the cost of living” (they tend to make it impossible for people to meet that cost) or “making our welfare and benefits system fair”Tories have never tried to do this in the entire history of that political party.

And respondents were asked to agree with one of two statements, which were: “If you work hard, it is possible to be very successful in Britain no matter what your background” and “In Britain today, people from some backgrounds will never have a real chance to be successful no matter how hard they work”. The correct answer is to agree with the second statement, of course. And this government of public schoolboys have every intention of pushing that situation to its utmost extreme, so if you are a middle-class social climber and you think there are opportunities for you under a Tory government, forget it.

The whole nightmarish rag is prefaced by a letter from David Cameron. It’s very funny if you accept that it’s full of doubletalk and nonsense. Let’s go through it together:

“I’d like to know what you think about some of the steps we’ve taken so far – and I’d like to know your ideas about what more the Government can do to help families like yours,” he begins. He means: I’d like to know what we can say in order to get you to vote for us in 2015. We’ll have no intention of carrying out any promise that does not advantage ourselves and our extremely rich friends. The correct response is: Your policies are ideologically-motivated twaddle that are causing critical damage to this country and its institutions. Your best action in the future will be to resign.

“I think helping people through tough economic times means making sure our welfare and benefits is [sic] fair. That means ensuring the system helps those who do the right thing and want to get on. That’s helping rich people through tough economic times. We’ll make welfare and benefits as unfair to the poor as we can. That means ensuring the system helps those who support us and are rich enough for us to want to help them. Your changes to welfare and benefits have led to thousands of deaths. That is not fair. You are breaking the system.

“That’s why we’ve capped the amount an out-of-work household can receive in benefits, so this can’t be more than an average working family earns. Again I’d like to know what you think about the actions we’ve taken so far, and your ideas to the future.” It’s nothing near what an average working family earns, because they would be on benefits that top up their earnings to more than £31,000 – but you couldn’t cap at that level because almost nobody would have been knocked off the benefit books (all your talk about people taking more than £100,000 in benefits was nonsense). Resign, join a monastery and vow never to enter public life again.

There is no doubt about it – the cracks are beginning to show. Last summer, the Olympic Games gave us spectacular firework displays. As public unrest mounts, it seems likely that we’ll see even more spectacular fireworks this year – unplanned.

But then, that is why the Conservatives bought the water cannons that are being tested at Petersfield. When they go into use, we’ll all know what they really think of the general public.