Tag Archives: Stephen Greenhalgh

Andrew Mitchell, privilege and the “P” word

Thrasher, the Chief Whip

Andrew Mitchell’s outburst at the police guarding Downing Street has rumbled on for the last 4 days. Mitchell denies that he used salty language or, more importantly, the word “pleb”. The police, on the other hand, insist that Mitchell laid into them with verbal assaults. So we have a lying politician on one side and the police, who frequently lie and cover things up, on the other. Who is right?

Mitchell, until the recent cabinet reshuffle, was the International Development Secretary. He is now Chief Whip, a role that often requires arm-twisting, threats and outright bullying to maintain discipline on the government or opposition benches. In other words, he’s suited to the job. Mitchell is a product of Britain’s public schools, having been to Rugby, which, as we are reminded, was the setting for Tom Brown’s School Days and Flashman. As many of us know, the public schools have or had an institutionalized regime of bullying that was known as “fagging”. This culture of bullying is deeply ingrained and is carried forward into adulthood. It percolates through society’s layers. It has become the staple of television comedy.

Thus far only one Tory journalist has come out to defend Mitchell. This is a particularly fawning piece from Matthew d’Ancona.

But – sorry – I don’t buy it. Mitchell has a temper, and has been known to turn a colour that is best described as “Tory pink”. But it is not in him to say such a thing. An old-school Conservative he may be, but the school in question is the One Nation Academy, in which courtesy and decency have always been at the core of the curriculum.

The very same paper also carried this story, which casts aspersions on d’Ancona’s apology and Mitchell’s apparent ‘niceness’.

He had found out that I had written an article which he feared would “damage” the Conservative Party. “You have betrayed the trust of me and the Conservative Party,” he told me.

At first I thought he was joking. I was a 21-year-old student and the story was for a work experience placement at a national newspaper.

The article was my honest opinion about the trip to Rwanda in August 2009. While Mr Mitchell and the Conservatives went there with the best of intentions, the reality once we arrived was different.

The Daily Mail is positively fuming with rage, conscripting the widower of murdered cop, Sharon Beshenivsky, to its side,

‘David Cameron should be responsible for what his ministers say, they are his ministers and they are working with him,’ he told Sky News.

‘Ministers shouldn’t be going round foul-mouthing police officers, especially under the current circumstances.’

Nicholas Watt in The Guardian is a little kinder,

Mitchell, 56, does, however, have two character flaws. These explain why he ran into difficulty at the Downing Street security gates last Wednesday evening and why he is taking time to remove the cloud above him.

While Mitchell can be immensely charming, he has a short temper, as the armed police officers found out when they declined to open the security gates to allow him to leave on his bike. He can also fix opponents with a withering look and has been known to make the odd caustic remark.

Mitchell’s qualities – charm, brains and a mischievous sense of humour – have served him well in his 20 years in parliament. But his flaws, including an ability to make enemies, mean there is no shortage of Tory MPs lapping up every moment of his battle with the police.

Watt also tells us that Mitchell’s nickname at Rugby was “Thrasher”. Charming.

But it isn’t the swear words that have people in a rage, it’s the word “pleb”, which is the diminutive of the word “plebeian” (the word is also used to describe a freshman at the various US military colleges).This word was used to describe the middle and lower orders of Roman society; the ordinary folk. The patricians,  were the other group who sat in the Senate and ran the state and were there by dint of their circumstances of birth. These days it is only ever used in disparaging terms. Therefore the use of this word by a former public schoolboy and ex-banker to someone in the Metropolitan Police, should be seen for what it is: an insult and a reminder of the Great British class divide.

But what about the police? We know that they have a habit of concealing things and making things up and the list of their misdeeds is as long as your arm. We also know that the government wants to take on the police over pensions. Their man in London City Hall, Stephen  Greenhalgh, has a reputation as a mad slasher from his time at Hammersmith and Fulham Council. Greenhalgh has already mooted the idea of closing police stations and moving some of them to the back of WH Smith to join what’s left of Britain’s post offices (I’m being sarcastic by the way). Many functions that were once carried out by the police, including forensics, are being outsourced to companies like Serco.

The Cat isn’t normally inclined to side with the police. However given Mitchell’s form, it is reasonable to conclude that he abused his position as a member of the government. The Telegraph has details of the police log, which you can see here.  According to this Guardian/ICM snap poll, the police are more popular than the government, which is quite an accomplishment given Hillsborough, Ian Tomlinson, Leveson…

Who’d have thunk it, eh?

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Council Tax Benefit cuts spell further hardship for the low-waged, poor and vulnerable

Are we about to see a repeat of this?

Just when you think this venal government couldn’t get any crueller, I read today that the Con Dems are to scrap Council Tax Benefit (CTB) and leave it to local councils to make their own arrangements. This is what they describe as “localism”, which in an earlier blog, I described as a “marketing gimmick to sell council cuts”. It would appear that my initial fears have been proven correct. The definition of the word, “empowerment” in the Tory lexicon, is to grant local authorities the power to screw the poor.

This article from today’s Guardian tells us that Lord Snooty faces a rebellion in his own constituency over this issue.

David Cameron is facing a revolt in his own Oxfordshire “backyard” as local Tories join a national outcry over council tax reforms that they say will cost people on low earnings more than £420 a year from next April.

Tory-run West Oxfordshire district council, which covers the prime minister’s Witney constituency, has decided to go it alone and keep the existing system throughout next year, effectively snubbing Cameron’s government.

Council Tax, like the hated Poll tax before it, is not based on an individual’s ability to pay but on local property prices, which are themselves, inaccurate. In some areas, Council Tax is high and in other areas, it is lower. Often, in those areas where Council Tax is low, services have been slashed. Take Hammersmith and Fulham, for example, a council controlled for the last 6 years by the Tories, who have cut local services and forced out community groups out of Palingswick House to make way for Toby Young’s free school. This is evidence enough of how H&F council views those who are not materially wealthy. Here the Council Tax is apparently low but only because of the cuts and the stealth taxes imposed on the local population. These stealth taxes include, ramping up parking charges and charging to cart away bulky items of rubbish, a service that was once offered for free. The borough discount leisure card was scrapped almost as soon as they took power.

The last leader of the council, Stephen ‘Dear Leader’ Greenhalgh made it clear that he wanted more rich people to move into the borough. When in power, he approved the sale of council homes and he has leant on Housing Associations to sell any properties that become void. Property prices have increased dramatically  over the last 5 to 6 years with some properties in the borough selling for as much as £1m. It is unlikely that a council, like Hammersmith and Fulham, which is wholly committed to making life easier for their rich chums, would have its own version of CTB because it despises anyone who is poor or on a low income. Instead, those on low incomes will be forced to move out of the borough.

Polly Toynbee tells us that,

300 councils must each devise their own criteria. Each becomes a mini DWP, establishing its own means test without having access to people’s earnings. Each must divide its benefit pot between varying numbers of claimants each year. Miserly authorities can keep much of it for other purposes. Each decides who is “vulnerable” or whether to include disability living allowance, child benefit or personal savings in declaring who is eligible for how much.

Hammersmith and Fulham is one of those “miserly authorities” and I can expect someone like Foghorn Phibbs or Peter Graham to trot out social Darwinian clichés in defence of the council’s niggardly attitude to those who are on low or no incomes.

I found this interesting site that was set up by the students on the MA Investigative Journalism course at City University.

Hammersmith and Fulham is the fourth most expensive borough in the country, both to rent and to buy property. New developments will not include any more council housing, but will instead provide a large number of properties for rent at the 80 per cent level. That offers little opportunity for current residents on lower incomes to afford to live in the borough independently. Coupled with the Government’s benefit cap, large numbers of people may be forced out of the area.

The scrapping of CTB is the latest in a long line of poorly-conceived ideas to have come from this government, which in spite of its protestations, remains firmly committed to supporting and extending the powers of the rich at the expense of those who can least afford it.

The Worksop Guardian reports that 5,000 families could be at risk in Bassetlaw.

The Salford Star tells us that the mayor could be forced to implement cuts that may affect 20,000 people.

Before the Liberal Democrats accepted the poison chalice of governmental power, they told us that they wanted to scrap Council Tax and replace it with a fairer system of local income taxation. This idea was quietly dropped when Nick Clegg walked through the door of 10 Downing Street.

This government’s justification for CTB cuts is best illustrated by the intellectually-challenged Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, who claims that the cuts will “make work pay and promote local enterprise”. With wages stagnant,  prices increasing week on week, banks reluctant to lend businesses money and living standards falling, how does he see this happening?

This latest wheeze from the government will force even more people into poverty and debt and may even force people out onto the streets. Indeed, this could be another Poll Tax moment for the Tories with people taking to the streets to protest and much else besides.

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Greenhalgh Watch (Part 1)

The former (Dear) Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council, Stephen Greenhalgh, has been in the news again but not in the way that he’d like. As you know, the ex-Dear Leader was chosen by London’s self-styled emperor to become his deputy for policing – even though he knows nothing about the subject (he knows a lot about gimmicks though).

First, he rocks up to City Hall without the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in tow and then, he tells the Assembly that he “hasn’t been briefed”. Vintage Greenhalgh. The master bungler can be seen in this video clip.

I love the way he answers Jenny Jones’ question with, “I haven’t been… I haven’t actually read the review”.  Great opening line there, Greeno. Start as you mean to carry on. Anyone would think you despised the idea of being held to account.

UPDATE: 5/7/12 @1705

The first link is to a clip from last night’s edition of BBC London News. The second link is an interview with Riz Lateef. He looks as shifty and as sweaty as ever.  Two senior civil servants also mysteriously and abruptly left their posts. Some tweeters likened him to an over-inflated Nick Griffin.

They’re only up for the next 6 days.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-18704938

The interview is at 10.10

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01kf13j/BBC_London_News_04_07_2012/

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Why do Tories think that we will accept reports that have not been based on research?

The Tories are fond of writing reports but few are based on any form of research. Moreover, the lack of research points to a deep-seated hatred of anything that bears even the slightest resemblance to evidence.  Even when they do conduct research, it is so compromised that they need not have bothered (have a look at some of the Centre for Social Justice’s ‘research’ if you don’t believe me). Such disregard for the intellectual rigours of research and producing evidence in the form of data is nothing less than a form of anti-intellectualism.

In the last week we’ve had the Beecroft Report, which was not only written by a venture capitalist and donor to the Conservative Party, it was produced without a single shred of evidence.  In 2009, right-wing think-tank Localis produced a report titled “The Principles for Social Housing Reform”. Written by  Stephen Greenhalgh and John Moss, the darlings of Tory local government,  they asserted that “social housing is welfare housing”. Looking through their report, one thing was noticeably absent: research. Yet this ‘report’ and the Beecroft Report are held up by the Tories as some form of unassailable truth. This is a logical fallacy (argumentum ad verecundiam).

I can tell you  that as a PhD student, if I were to make the similar assertions about my field of study without conducting any research or any providing any evidence to support my assertions, I would be told, in no uncertain terms, that my report was flawed and that I would have to go away and come back with some hard facts. Not for out Tory friends it seems.

The reasons why Tories think that their reports don’t require research or evidence that has been derived from empirical study is because they are arrogant and intellectually bankrupt. I often think the reason why James Delingpole regularly dismisses empirical evidence out of hand is because it conflicts with his weird belief that pollution is good for us. Jokes aside, this attitude is rooted firmly in the way in which this country has been governed since time immemorial. Parliament was once the preserve of the aristocracy. Even after the Reform Acts, the House of Commons has remained persistently upper middle class and semi-aristocratic save for the years between 1920 and 1989. The Conservative Party believes that it is the natural party of government and its place as a governing party is divinely ordained. Therefore should anyone demand proof, they are met with abuse.  To demand evidence is to question the existence of God Himself.

Like the Localis report, the Beecroft Report is predicated on one thing: class hatred. Beecroft is an unreconstructed Social Darwinist. As a venture (for that read “rentier”) capitalist, he produces nothing. Yet he feels that he has some kind of authority to produce a report that has no findings whatsoever. You can read his report here.

Yesterday,  the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, made a few noises about the report. Beecroft labelled him a “socialist”. This tells us something else: the right are not interested in debates or discussions and would much prefer to hurl insults at anyone who dares to criticise them (have a look at the comments left on this blog if you don’t believe me). Of course Cable is no socialist; he’s a market liberal who has one or two social impulses. He was once a member of the SDP. So he’s hardly a Trot.

The Tories have never liked employment laws and this is demonstrated by their desire to tear up legislation that protects workers from dangerous or unsanitary conditions. The Tories were also implacably opposed to the National Minimum Wage (NMW), some have even demanded that the NMW be scrapped for workers who are under the age of 25.

The Beecroft Report whose author claims it is a strategy to improve economic performance and reduce unemployment has produced a report of so full of class prejudice that he should be clapped in irons and dragged by a donkey through the city streets, while the people pelt him with ordure.

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Greenhalgh becomes Deputy Mayor

The Dear Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Stephen Greenhalgh, is to become Boris Johnson’s Deputy Mayor for Policing. Shepherd’s Bush blog has the story. As does the Evil Bastard Ailing Standards Der Sturmer Evening Standard

The question that Nowhere Towers wants to ask is how will Greenhalgh be able to ‘guide’ through the massive White City development if he is ensconced at City Hall? Will he wear two hats? Will he continue to be a councillor? Probably. The ousted Brian Coleman was also a Barnet councillor and cabinet member as well as Fire Authority Chairman.

Meanwhile, Shepherd’s Bush blog also tells us that Lynton Crosby won’t be going to Number 10 after all. He’s joining good old News Corp. The Australian writes,

Mr Crosby says. “I hate all this right-wing, left-wing stuff. The voters just want to know that you’re focusing on what’s best for them.” He can’t offer any magic solution to the Tory problems in the North and does not think that Mr Cameron should start ramping up the rhetoric on dog-whistle issues such as immigration, crime and tax. “People are not ideological, they just want a Government that delivers a better life for them,” he says. “Overwhelmingly Mr Cameron’s focusing on what he needs to focus on, which is the economy.”

What a load of rot. Everyone has an ideology, whether they want to admit to it or not. This is how Crosby managed to transcend the left-right political dichotomy:  he lied about it. Boris Johnson is a right-winger and no amount of airbrushing can change that. By the way, The Australian is a News Corp title.

UPDATE: 9/5/12 @ 1200

According to this BBC News report, Greenhalgh has not been “confirmed” in his new role. Here’s the kicker,

London Labour Assembly Member Val Shawcross responded saying that the appointment breached the Local Government Act 1989 which states that a person is disqualified from taking a local authority post if they already have one.

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Nightmare on King Street (Part 5)

The latest copy of Your Magazine, Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s glossy magazine was pushed through my door last week, accompanied by a copy of the Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle.  Your Magazine is like the “Your Shout” column (It was not written by members of the public but the council’s editorial staff) of the old H&F News propaganda rag that the Council was forced to close last year.   To get around this difficulty, the Council took an unprecedented step and bought space in the Chronicle. Inevitably the council was accused of influencing the editorial independence of the paper. It is a charge that the paper and the council both deny.

The wonderfully but inaccurately titled, Your Magazine and the Chronicle  both carry the same story but tell it differently. First, the magazine tells us that our glorious and magnificent council has reduced homelessness in the borough. Then the nominally independent-minded Chronicle tells us that homeless people are being turned away. In other words, in order to make its homelessness figures look impressive, it refuses help to those in need who are then displaced to other boroughs. This is what is commonly known as ‘cooking the books’ or ‘massaging the figures’.

Not mentioned in the magazine, is the much-trumpeted revival of the disastrous Thatcherite policy of Right to Buy, which ‘Residents First’ describes as a “revolution”. But this is not a “revolution” at all, it is the renewal and possible re-marketing of an old policy that led to the current housing crisis. The article, which appears to have been written by one of the local party’s young Britons tells us that,

Right to Buy has helped thousands of council tenants in H&F to buy their own home since it launched over 30 years ago, but completions under the scheme all but collapsed when the maximum discount in the capital was reduced in 2004 from £38,000 to £16,000. The move led to a slump from 245 Right to Buy sales in 2003/04 to a paltry 7 in H&F last year.

What the author neglects to mention is how councils weren’t permitted to use their capital receipts from council house sales to build housing to replace the lost stock. This is what is commonly known in local Tory parlance as “getting the message out” –  no matter how distorted or disconnected from reality the message happens to be.

From HF Conwatch we learn that Foghorn Phibbs has penned a “pompous letter” to Private Eye to complain about the council’s record appearances in “Rotten Boroughs” and the ongoing row about the Council’s tax avoidance.

Phibbs, whose title is “Cabinet Member for Community Engagement” is little more than the Council’s arch-propagandist; a sort of Cabinet Member for Misinformation. The Cowan Report says that Phibbs has,

used his Daily Mail Blog to attack the BBC’s award winning File on 4 programme for also exposing what’s happening in Hammersmith and Fulham in its special documentary titled “Tax Avoidance.”

Such arrogance. You will recall that when the residents of Gibbs Green and West Kensington estates tried to instigate proceedings to evict the coucil as a “rogue landlord”, The Dear Leader wrote to Greg Clark, the Minister for Housing pleading with him to intervene on the council’s behalf closing with the self-penned “I really need your help on this”.

This Tory council is not only arrogant, it is dictatorial and bullying. It cannot fathom dissent and disagreement and will work tirelessly to choke off any opposition to its rule or its policies. Phibbs and Greenhalgh have both exceeded their limited powers as councillors and have chosen to nobble and harrass those who dare to expose them for what they are: liars and crooks.

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Nightmare on King Street (Part 2) : a round up of recent events

HF Conwatch reveals that public services slashing Hammersmith & Fulham Council has been accused of tax-dodging There is an update here.

The Guardian, Private Eye and The Financial Times all report that the Council for the Rich has been employing executives as consultants through private companies to avoid paying tax. Unfortunately for the Council these shenanigans may well lead to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs taking a closer look at their accounts.

I seemed to have missed this Guardian interview with the Dear Leader when it was first printed.  Greeno, who is stepping down as Council Leader, is going to guide the White City Redevelopment from the backbenches. He tells us that he will be an “unpaid champion for White City”. Nowhere Towers finds this whole thing a little curious.  While we understand that he is the owner of Biba Medical and draws a not-too-insubstantial salary from it,  it is odd that he would do this sort of thing for the ‘love of it’. Tories, especially the current crop of laissez-faire cultists, don’t have an altruistic bone in their bodies. For them, altruism is a dirty word.

Greenhalgh also defended himself from accusations that he was socially cleansing the borough,

“I’m the son of a refugee, I’m the son of someone brought up by their single mother, not in public housing but as sub-tenant with all of the insecurity that involves, [… ] I understand poverty because my family came from very humble origins”.

At the end of the article we learn that he went to St. Paul’s School, which charges £6,275 for day pupils and £9,297 for boarders,  which is well outside the reach of those on fixed incomes or, indeed, those from “humble origins”. Unless he’s trying to tell us that he went there under the assisted places scheme? He also went to Trinity College, Cambridge. An ex-girlfriend of mine went there at the same time as Greeno. I wonder if their paths ever crossed?

Not that any of this really matters, what truly matters is the way in which the Dear Leader and his fellow Tories are smashing up communities and cutting services.

“You have to have the safety net,” he says, insisting that councils will not abandon vulnerable people, but may “change the rules of engagement”. He says: “They might say, ‘We’re about opportunity, we’re not about dependency’.”

I beg to differ. Nowhere Towers understands that the borough’s social housing tenants run a higher risk of being evicted than in many other areas. There are also numerous tales of how vulnerable people have been turned away from the Town Hall.  In 2010 a heavily pregnant woman was forced to sleep on park benches because the council refused to provide assistance.  Last year, the numbers of homeless people in the borough rose by 92%.  This lack of concern for those who aren’t in receipt of 6-figure salaries has earned  Hammersmith & Fulham the dubious distinction of appearing in Private Eye’s “Rotten Boroughs” a record number of times.

Greenhalgh has also recently been appointed the government’s Housing Champion. I kid you not.

Mr Greenhalgh, who is stepping down as council leader later this year, has been asked to carry out a review of housing regulations in support of the Government’s Housing Strategy published in November last year alongside Simon Randall, a solicitor specialising in social housing.

Key areas highlighted in the strategy included improving environmental standards, building more affordable housing, security of tenure, legal protection for tenants and leaseholders, and support for the elderly, vulnerable households and those on low incomes.

But this job isn’t necessarily about housing as this revealing article from Build.co.uk tells us. Here he is not a “Housing Champion” he’s a “Construction Champion”. And yes, there is a difference.

Last night the Council voted through another public services slashing budget, while reducing the rate of Council Tax by 3.75%. Sounds attractive doesn’t it? The local council cuts tax to ‘put more money in your pocket’… it makes great copy… except the reality is altogether different. Residents in the borough can expect to pay more in parking and other charges. While most boroughs offer free Internet in its libraries, for example, this council charges £0.50 for every half hour after the first free half hour. The rich won’t feel a thing because they don’t use public services. Those on benefits and low to middle incomes will find that the reduction in Council Tax will hit them hard.

Shepherds Bush blog says that Greenhalgh likes the number 3. Nowhere Towers thinks that Greeno really likes the number 2, especially when it comes to the borough’s less wealthy residents, on whom his party keeps dumping.

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