16 09 2011

Looking back now the dust has settled, here’s some thought provoking material.

Behind the Riots Guardian sociology series

Reading the Riots Guardian, LSE, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Open Society Foundations series

Paul Gilroy on the riots

Important video on the riots in Tottenham:


Brian Haw

20 06 2011

Brian Haw, the peace campaigner who had been camped in Parliament Square since 2001 in protest at Britain’s needless bombardment and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, died over the weekend.

You can read a press release from his family on his website here.

Brian had been in Parliament Square for ten years, a constant reminder of our govenrment’s crimes abroad and at home. His peaceful protest was the subject of constant shameless attempts to discourage, repress, harass, intimidate and legistate against him – all of them failed.

Watch the clip that film maker Chris Atkins uploaded onto youtube in tribute to Brian, and if you can watch the whole of the film that its from – Taking Liberties, a brilliant account of New Labour’s attack on our civil liberties.

Students – fees – and protest

13 12 2010

London has seen several waves of protest recently over the proposed student fees increases, the first of which I discussed here.

After students got a bit rowdy and broke some windows last time round, the police have taken revenge by penning thousands of them in a ‘kettle’ and then charging at them with horses untill boiling point.

There’s some good coverage of the ‘dubstep rebellion from the British banlieue‘ by Paul Mason, Newsnight’s Economics editor. He makes a valiant attempt to get down with the kids, one of very few journalists who has covered the story from this point of view, although I have been reliably informed by one SOAS undergraduate that his analysis of the latest yoot music trends is a bit off the mark.

And a first hand account from Cambridge PHD student Delwar Hussain here.

Today students are protesting against the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance which gives students from disadvantaged backgrounds a stipend for staying in school. (Something that the British government has helped to fund in Bangladesh with encouraging results)

Some of the protests turned pretty nasty, as you can imagine what happens when the police pen protesters in and then charge horses into the crowded space and hit anyone who tries to escape over the head with a stick. Some injured protesters, unconscious with head wounds took hours to get to hospital after police prevented them from leaving the kettle.

Somehow Prince Charles and his Courtesan got caught up in the mess and when spotted were chased by students chanting ‘off with their heads’. Somehow Camilla got poked with a stick (photo below)

This is not funny at all.

The students chanting and poking and banging the roof of the car were lucky not to be shot by the ‘enormously restrained’ police officers according to the national restraintometer – The Daily Mail.

London and the ConDem Government

12 11 2010

Now that the ConDem (Conservative and Liberal Democrats) coalition government has settled into the government green leather benches of the house of commons, Britain and London are feeling the effects of their policies … (interesting that in the house of commons the entire front bench of the government are millionaires and the prime minister is a relative of the queen!)

The Conservatives promised a cap on the number of migrants entering the UK, something that will damage the City of London’s competetiveness, deprive the NHS of crucial specialists, damage small businesses, upset Boris Johnson, lead to teacher shortages in London, damage UK science, and damage the hospitality sector, all in all this brainwave, will be disastrous for the British economy and London during this recession. Well done to the economic genius who thought up that policy.

Universities are also going to feel the effects of the migrant cap and cuts, and will become a new generation of top public (which means private fee paying in England) schools. Eton (Oxford) University wants unlimited student fees to swell its assets, which stood at a meagre £3 billion way ahead of third placed Edinburgh with £165 million in assets. If the Browne report recommendations are implemented the nature of universities in Britain will change radically – becoming private customer demand driven services competing with each other for the best paying clients rather than a national system of education.

Students or staff from universities, of course, haven’t been consulted about these plans, and staged a massive protest in London on the 11th. The media was universally shocked and appalled by some broken windows and a bit of a mess and Conservative party headquarters. Baronness Warsi of homophobia was stuck inside, she bravely locked the doors and continued asset stripping the nation while condemning those protesting against the privatisation of education.

Angry anarchists stormed Milbank tower hell-bent on causing mayhem

Students broke some windows after drinking too much cider - Daily Mail shocked

Those last pictures look a bit like the 1980s only slightly more fluorescent  – some are speculating that with the Nasty Party in power economic meltdown, and mass unemployment we will see a return to the 1980s – certainly this slightly over excited commentary on a massive rave in central London last week seemed to think so.

See for more conservative party fun. After converting universities into public schools, the government plans a ‘Kosovo style’ cleansing of the poor from London, with a new housing policy. The social cleansing of London will be implemented by a cap on housing benefits – applying equally to high rent areas (where there are jobs) and low rent areas (where no one wants to live). London risks becoming more like Paris, with a pricy genteel centre segregated by design from the urban jungle of deprivation in the outskirts. This will destroy the unique and joyful mixture of London, where rich and poor, people from different walks of life, class and ethnic origins live side by side… another costly own goal.

London in the General Election

17 05 2010

As the dust settles after the dramatic general election and a new government takes its place in Westminster, I’ll belatedly having a look at what the general election means for London.

Dave Hill had a couple of good roundups of campaigning and the results and ramifications of the national and local elections on his blog. Basically, Labour did quite well, or less worse, in London than they did in the rest of the country. Like in the European Elections last year, London was to the left of most of the rest of the country.  The BNP, who put their leader up for Election in Barking and Dagenham, were annihialated, losing both the national election and all their councilors. Well done to everyone involved in the campaign against them!

Simon Jenkins has an interesting take on the election and hung parliament, arguing in the Evening Standard that London should move for more autonomy from the rest of the UK and ‘rise above’ the chaos in parliament.

London has its Mayor, its assembly and its boroughs with their leaders and their councils. It is by far the most democratic zone in the UK. It has an alternative vote for its Mayor and a modified list system for its assembly. What need has it of the scheming, twisting, self-serving party bosses milling about Parliament Square? Let them hang their parliament, draw it and quarter it as they wish.

London politics is now way in advance of Westminster. Its Tory leader, Boris Johnson, has had to negotiate his programme with a separately elected assembly. Until last Thursday, London has had hung borough councils galore, most of them working smoothly, as at Camden, Brent and Southwark. In places such as Barnet and Hammersmith & Fulham, there is two years’ experience of the sort of spending restraint that is still a bad dream in Whitehall.

In Bethnal Green and Bow, which I discussed on this blog before the election, Rushanara Ali triumphed, bringing the Respect party’s reign in the constituency to an end.

The election did not go without problems, there were widespread allegations of fraud, including in Tower Hamlets, and many voters were prevented from voting due to high voter turnout in places such as Hackney and Lewisham.

The general election in Tower Hamlets

20 04 2010

The furore over politics in Tower Hamlets which I have discussed here in previous posts (here and here) is continuing into the general election campaign for the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency. Religion and politics from London, the UK, Bangladesh and other places mix in a complicated entaglement. 

One of the IFE/East london Mosque/Respect Party activists who featured in Channel 4’s dispatches programme, Abjol Miah is standing as the candidate for Respect, hoping to take over from George Galloway, who beat New Labour’s pro war candidate Oona King riding a wave of Bangladeshi anger over the Iraq War in 2005.

One of the legacies of Galloway’s victory seems to be that all the main parties are fielding British Bangladeshi candidates this time, having identified the young and Bangladeshi vote as a crucial one. Labour, the Conservatives, Respect, the Greens and Liberal Democrats are all fielding candidates of Bangladeshi origin. The Guardian has an article discussing the battle for Bethnal Green and Bow, and introducing the leading candidates, Respect’s Abjol Miah and Labour’s Rushanara Ali. Oxford educated Ali has worked for many years at the Young Foundation, and in many senses is an impressive candidate. She is a good speaker, an intellectual and has a good grasp of local and national policy debates.

Miah seems to have a greater affinity with most British Bangladeshis, especially the disillusioned, the Islamists and the Gallowayists. Does Ali have the neccessary street cred and ability to speak Bangla to win over the voters – those angry with Labour over the war and other percieved betrayals, and those who are suspicious of the banglaocracy dominating politics in the borough?

Its too tight to call, but its fascinating to watch.

IFE vs. Andrew Gilligan and ‘Prevent’

8 04 2010

A few weeks ago I wrote about Andrew Gilligan’s programme for Channel 4’s Dispatches programme about the organisation Islamic Forum in Europe.

Since the programme, Gilligan and islamic Forum in europe have been regularly trading blows in the press. IFE issued a press release to deny the allegations that Gilligan made.

Gilligan accused the BBC of ‘airing Islamist propaganda’ by having their ‘Any Questions’ programme based in the East London Mosque where the IFE is based, using the stage where Gilligan alledges that 18 ‘hate, extremist and fundamentalist speakers’ have spoken in the last year.

Islamic Forum in Europe has also issued a press release welcoming the Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on the Government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy. Neo Labour’s fiasco department have been at it again: 

The ‘Prevent Strategy’ is part of the UK counter Terrorism Stragtegy, along with: ‘Pursue, Protect and Prepare’ 

This aim of the Prevent part of our counter-terrorism strategy is to prevent people from becoming terrorists or supporting violent extremism. Increasing our resilience to attacks and successfully disrupting terrorist plots will not alone stop terrorism. We need to prevent people supporting violent extremism or becoming terrorists in the first place.

Protecting vulnerable individuals who might be attracted to the ideology of violence is not just a job for the police, but also for local government, schools, universities and local communities. Our effectiveness relies on all of us providing effective support to those who are at risk of advocating violence, or have already been recruited by violent extremists.

Part of this work involves challenging those who support violence. But we also want to actively promote values such as, for example, democracy and the rule of law on which the strength of our society and the cohesion of our communities depend.

We work directly with people in their communities to:

  • challenge the ideology behind violent extremism and support mainstream voices
  • disrupt those who promote violent extremism and support the places where they operate
  • support individuals who are vulnerable to recruitment, or have already been recruited by violent extremists
  • increase the resilience of communities to violent extremism
  • address the grievances being exploited by ideologues

The recent report from the Communities and Local Government Select Committee found however that the £45 million  Prevent Strategy has not quite had the expected results. Instead of promoting ‘community cohesion’, the strategy has stigmatised and alienated British Muslims and been widely percieved as having been used for spying. The Guardian has coverage here, the full report is here,  Inayat Bunglawala pre-empted much of this in August 2009, He based much of his article on the New Local Government Network’s report in the same month which covers much of the same ground as the Select Committee’s report. It’s almost like the weapons of mass destruction fiasco, where the last people on earth to realise the blindingly obvious are the people who run our country:

a spokesman for the Communities and Local Government department said it was “disappointed” the report did not reflect changes made in the last year in response to criticisms of Prevent. In recent months ministers have pointed to the increased role the scheme plays in targeting other forms of radicalism, such as far-right Neo-Nazi groups.

He said: “All Prevent activities are designed to support Muslim communities in resisting those who target their young people,” adding that there was no “substantiated evidence” that Prevent programmes were keeping Muslim communities under surveillance.

The summary of the report states:

‘The single focus on Muslims in Prevent has been unhelpful. We conclude that any programme which focuses solely on one section of a community is stigmatising, potentially alienating, and fails to address the fact that that no section of a population exists in isolation from others. The need to address extremism of all kinds on a cross-community basis, dependent on assessed local risk, is paramount.’

‘We remain concerned by the number of our witnesses who felt that Prevent had been used to ‘spy’ on Muslim communities. Our evidence suggests that differing interpretations of terminology relating to concepts such as ‘intelligence gathering’, ‘spying’ and ‘surveillance’ are posing major challenges to the Prevent agenda. Information collected for the purposes of project monitoring and community mapping—both of which are to be encouraged—are sometimes being confused with the kind of intelligence gathering and surveillance undertaken by the police and security services to combat crime and actively pursue suspects. However, despite rebuttals, the allegations of spying retain widespread credibility within certain sections of the Muslim community. If the Government wants to improve confidence in the Prevent programme, it should commission an independent investigation into the allegations made.

‘Regarding the Government’s analysis of the factors which lead people to become involved in violent extremism, we conclude that there has been a pre-occupation with the theological basis of radicalisation, when the evidence seems to indicate that politics, policy and socio-economics may be more important factors in the process. Consequently, we suggest that attempts to find solutions and engagement with preventative work should primarily address the political challenges.

‘There is a sense that Government has sought to engineer a ‘moderate’ form of Islam, promoting and funding only those groups which conform to this model. We do not think it is the job of Government to intervene in theological matters…’