Monthly Archives: April 2012

Nightmare on King Street (Part 9)

I've come for yer books! Where are they?

I wrote in this blog about how the once proud Hammersmith Library has had its reference section sliced from its body. Since then, I have received information about the fate of the rest of the borough’s libraries. Contrary to what the Tories tell us, there have been library closures but that’s not all. In a part of London where green spaces are few and far between, the few parks that exists in the borough are being privatized (the neighbouring borough of Kensington & Chelsea has already done this). We have already had stories about how people who train or coach others in the parks are to be charged. Within days of taking power, the Tories announced that they would introduce regular polo matches to Hurlingham Park, most of which belongs to a private concern.  Polo does not have popular appeal and by “popular”, I mean “of the people”. It is a sport that is played by royalty, the well-to-do and their hangers-on. By introducing polo to Hurlingham Park, the Tories were signalling their intention to engage in a class war against those people who did not own their own homes and were paid less than £100,000 per annum. This was a sign; a sign that only those who can afford their own personal libraries, should be the ones with access to books. Everyone else would just have to lump it.

Some libraries, like Wormholt, have laready been closed and sold off to the ARK academy, which is owned by Tory donor and former party treasurer, Lord Fink.  Others like Sands End and Baron’s Court have been redesignated as “multi-purpose” buildings in which the range of books has been dramatically reduced.  Many books, including the impressive reference collection that was once housed at Hammersmith Library, have either been moved to Fulham or Westminster, while others have simply been sold off or thrown away. Yes, these philistines are more than happy to throw away books.

The new Shepherds Bush Library is pretty much lacking in books and resembles, as one person put it, “a Jobcentre without jobs”. Rather revealingly, the new library also boasts a Ben and Jerry ice cream machine. While that may seem like a nice touch (Hammersmith Library has a Walls Ice Cream machine), Ben and Jerry is owned by Unilever, whose CEO chairs Andrew Lansley’s Public Health Commission. Yes, the CEO of a company that produces fatty foods, is in charge of a health commission. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Besides, food does not belong in a library.

On top of all of this, I am told that the council has stopped employing qualified librarians and the Dewey Decimal system has been abolished. So if you need some information on the location of a book, then you won’t get it from the people behind the counter, who are only there to serve and process. Indeed the council intends to introduce self check-out machines, which will obviate the need for humans.

Here’s what the Tory group’s website has to say,

Library users are now being asked for their thoughts on what improvements should be carried out. In addition to making more space available for public use and buying new books, the council is keen to hear what users think about:

  • Fitting self-service terminals to reduce queues and customer waiting
  • Installing Wi-Fi
  • Hosting more events for teenagers and children
  • Holding more author events
  • Setting up music listening posts

You can view their consultation questionnaire here. I have had a quick look at it and it seems to me that the questions are somewhat skewed towards the Tories’ desired outcome. I noticed that the option “Better choice of books” appears at Q.4  and at Q.10,  it is rephrased as “Good range of stock”.  Nowhere Towers has also noticed Q.11 which asks “What would you like us to consider as part of the refurbishment”?   The options given are “cafe/restaurant facility” and “meeting room hire”. Be in no doubt that, while the Tories can’t sell off Hammersmith Central Library (there is a convenant on the building), they are doing all they can to diminish its role as a library and convert it into an Internet cafe.

Here’s what the council website says,

Why we are consulting

The council will be revamping Hammersmith Library as it continues to roll out the “More than a library!” brand and to preserve the original features of this beautiful building.

Dating from 1905, Hammersmith Library is a Grade II listed building which has seen minor changes to the internal layout in the 1950s and early 1990s. Since the 1990s, no major redecoration, replacement of floor coverings or updating of shelving has taken place.

Major works are required to the roof, the leaded windows, the heating and electrical systems in order to meet current standards, environmental concerns and the needs of a 21st century library service.

The council hopes to improve access to all areas of the library, restore and enhance original features, make more space available for public use and provide new library stock.

“New library stock”, sounds a deliberately vague. It doesn’t necessarily indicate that they will be buying new books either. “New stock” could mean anything. Indeed, as I have already indicated, the reference books have been sent to Westminster and Fulham, the latter of which is the local Tories’ power base.

When I was younger, I spent a great deal of my spare time in public libraries. The way things are going in this borough and elsewhere, younger generations will have no libraries to go to. I once read a comment left on Torygraph blogs by a rabid right-winger who claimed that “if you can’t afford books, why should we (the rich) pay for them”? I get the feeling this person didn’t pay much attention to 19th century history, because if he did, he would know that many of the country’s libraries were created by bequests from wealthy benefactors like Sir Henry Tate and Andrew  Carnegie.

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Nightmare on King Street (Part 8)

This week Newham Council announced that it was exiling families in need of housing to Stoke on Trent, where there are fewer jobs than in London. Cllr Stephen Cowan, the opposition group leader on Hammersmith and Fulham Council, has discovered that the same thing is happening right here in David Cameron’s model borough. He writes on his blog that,

The BBC is reporting that Hammersmith and Fulham Council “are considering” proposals to move at least “500 families from London to the East Midlands.” They are undertaking this enterprise with their two other tri-borough Conservative-run local authorities and using the astonishingly disingenuous excuse that there is “a shortage of housing in their areas.”

Apparently the council has already packed off people to Margate.

You can read the rest here.

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Boris Johnson: the consummate postmodern politician

Yeah, I'm bored of you too, Bozza.

I think it was Frederic Jameson who once said of postmodernism “It’s a beautiful set of curtains. When you pull them back, all you see is a brick wall”. Boris Johnson is much the same: he’s concerned with the superficial; what lies beneath is of no matter or interest to him. Many people see his buffoon-ish exterior and either fail or refuse to look beyond his surface. Whichever is the case, what does that say about the postmodern voter? That they are unable to conceive of anything beyond the clowning exterior? That they are taken in by Johnson’s faux jocularity and are distracted by it? More than likely.

Boris Johnson really should be in short trousers, with a catapult jammed into his back pocket and jammy marks on his face. His tendency to treat everything as a joke and to behave like a naughty schoolboy endears him to those whose protective instincts are heightened by his appearances on television and elsewhere. But they are being misled.

The list of Johnson’s achievements is small

  1. Bendy buses and introduction of ‘new’ Routemasters
  2. Abolition of the Western Congestion Charge Zone
  3. The implementation of the so-called Cycle Superhighways
  4. The unnecessary cable car between the North Greenwich peninsula and Royal Victoria Dock
  5. The hire bike scheme

Out of these five ideas, two of them came from Ken Livingstone and the others largely came about as a result of a marriage between blatant electioneering and political vanity. On balance, Johnson has produced few ideas that have directly benefitted Londoners. The abolition of the Western Congestion Charge Zone has increased traffic levels in that area, not to mention the amount of air pollution. Smoke, mirrors and nonsense.

This election, Johnson has put forward little in the way of substantive policies. His transport manifesto, for example, looks like most of it was nicked from some of Ken’s old ideas. The manifesto also calls for a DLR extension to Bromley. The only reason why Bromley is being touted as the future terminus of a DLR branch is because much of Johnson’s support comes from boroughs like Bromley. In the early 1980’s, it was the borough that scuppered Livingstone’s Fares Fair Policy by taking the GLC to court. Londonlist also notes that “the manifesto is littered with Livingstone-bashing, most of it hanging around the theme that only Boris Johnson can “negotiate with government” to get the best deal for the capital”.

There is a serious housing shortage in London and I have heard nothing from Johnson’s camp about how he intends to tackle this most serious of issues.  House prices have increased and rents in the private sector are ridiculously expensive. The Tory-led government’s Housing Benefit cap will not ease matters, they will make things worse. As far as  I can tell, Johnson supports the benefit cap. Indeed, the attitude of this government and Tory-controlled councils like Hammersmith & Fulham, towards the housing crisis is to kickstart another property boom. But didn’t that partly lead to the current economic crisis? Didn’t the property boom also come at a cost to the rented sector?  Yes and yes.

The only reason why this election contest has become so personalized was to deflect attention away from Johnson’s dearth of ideas. This tactic was most certainly hatched in Lynton Crosby’s foetid mind.

Finally, I would like to point out that Johnson isn’t the only postmodern politician; Tony Blair and David Cameron also fit the profile. But Johnson has developed it into a fine art. When interviewers attempt to penetrate his shroud of mist and fog, he responds by talking over them and uttering nonsense. He’s all fizz and pop.  He and Crosby want to subject Londoners to another four years of the same muddleheaded thinking.  And it’s all for the sake of vanity.

Londoners deserve better.

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David Cameron’s most over-used phrases

I was listening to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning when I had the misfortune to hear Lord Snooty being interviewed by John Humphrys. What struck me about the interview was Cameron’s love of certain phrases, which are uttered routinely, often as a means of deflecting attention away from his government’s intellectual deficit. Typical stuff from a former PR exec.

Here are his top 3 phrases.

  1. We’re all in this together
  2. We want to do what’s right (for the nation, taxpayers etc.)
  3. We’re standing up for hardworking (taxpayers, families etc.)

He’s like a proverbial stuck record.

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Who cares what Lord Sugar says?

Well, for starters, I don’t. Yesterday, the anti-Ken brigade was cock-a-hoop over Alan (Lord) Sugar’s tweet, which urged his followers not to vote for Ken Livingstone. Personally, I think Sugar, who has let the title of “Lord” go to his head, takes the word “follower” a little too seriously.  Here’s what he said,

I don’t care if Ed Miliband is backing Livingstone . I seriously suggest NO ONE votes for Livingstone in the Mayoral elections

Naturally, this made Kennite’s day.

Lord Sugar donated a total of £69,424 to Labour or to Mr Miliband’s office in 2011, including £12,576 as rcently as December. He is of course a prominent member of the Jewish community and was believed to have been extremely angry at Ken’s behaviour towards Jews.

Ken’s campaign is in crisis now.

Livingstone’s campaign is hardly in crisis. Going by those tweets that I saw on the #skylondondebate hashtag last night, I’d say Bojo the Clown’s campaign was in crisis.   What I find so dishonest about Kennite’s blog is the fact that he continues to repeat the lie that Livingstone is an anti-Semite. If he’d have said that about George Galloway, he’d find himself slapped with a libel suit so fast, his head would spin. But is Sugar really a “prominent member of the Jewish community”? If so, where is this homogenized Jewish community? It’s like talking about Trevor Phillips and saying that he represents the ‘black’ community.  There is no homogeneous Jewish community any more than there is a homogeneous black or Asian community; it exists only in the collective mind of the media. Sugar is more likely to be a prominent member of the capitalist class than anything else. He just happens to be Jewish. So what? But remember, Gilligan is the one who claimed that there was a “white establishment”. So if anyone is obsessed with ethnicity, it’s him.

What Kennite and others have missed in their haste to describe Sugar as some sort of model Labour peer is the fact that not only is this the man who gave us crappy Amstrad products, he was a firm supporter of Thatcher in the 1980’s. Thatcher also admired him as a businessman. No surprise there then.  In fact Sugar supported the Conservative Party right up until 1997 when he switched his allegiance to Nu Labour. This man is no friend of anybody’s but himself. Indeed he is the very model of buccaneer capitalism. A real bully of a man. The ideal Tory in fact.

This morning’s edition of City AM,

Did you see the way they juxtaposed the image of Ken crying at his campaign video with one of Sugar with his finger raised as if to point to someone and say “You’re fired”? Yes, it’s a cheap trick and no, it did not happen in real time but such is the nature of propaganda. City AM is supportive of the City and all the evils that flow from it. No prizes for guessing which mayoral candidate this paper supports.

If Bozza wins the election, he’ll spend most of his term preparing to oust Cameron as leader of the Tory party. He’ll also moonlight by penning numerous articles for the Telegraph and The Spectator for which he will be paid a handsome sum of money. He will continue to bullshit and bluster his way through interviews and he will offer no real policies that improve the lives of ordinary Londoners.  London will become a city for the rich (it’s heading that way now), which is just what City AM and the likes of Sugar want.



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Life on Gilligan’s Island (Part 40)

Today, Kennite writes,

As a convinced Ken-hater, perhaps I, like so many of my media colleagues, should be hyping up the independent mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita. She’s clearly on the left and will thus take more votes from Livingstone than from anyone else. But I object to the note of entitlement which runs through her candidacy.

Finally, at long last, some honesty. It took a while but there it is in black and white: Kennite is a “convinced Ken-hater”. Of course we all knew that he “hated” Ken. I mean, most of his blogs for the last couple of months have all been about one thing.

To adapt a phrase from Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Gilligan “detests Ken with the detestation of a thwarted lover”. How true that is.

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Brendan O’Neill apologises for Breivik

Just a harmless ultra-nationalist who was transformed into a monster by says Brendan O'Neill

I wondered how long it would take before Brendan O’Neill or Ed West would write a blog blaming Breivik’s mass killings on “multiculturalism” as a means of excusing the killer’s actions. I didn’t have to wait long and as I guessed, it was the Torygraph’s resident contrarian and self-styled “left-winger” who moved first. In his blog titled “Breivik: a monster made by multiculturalism” O’Neill opines,

Breivik is not so different from the “Cultural Marxists” he loves to hate. Like them, he uses academic lingo such as “deconstruct” and “cultural identity” to describe what he thinks is happening to Europe.

There’s only one problem: there is no such thing as “Cultural Marxism” , it is a confection that was devised by fascists and semi-fascists to lend intellectual gravitas to their conspiratorial musings. But O’Neill isn’t bothered by such things. His mission is to let Breivik off the hook and thus smear those whom he thinks are dragging ‘white’ Europe along the road to hell.

Here, O’Neill tries to offer some analysis but ends up looking like a first year undergraduate who has just failed to grasp the essential difference between fact and hearsay,

Another thing Breivik shares with the multicultural lobby is a powerful sense of cultural paranoia. He believes “my culture” is under siege. Only where mainstream multiculturalists tend to argue that minority cultures such as the Islamic one are threatened by tidal waves of Islamophobia and general public ignorance, Breivik says the majority culture – the white Christian identity – is threatened by the “Islamic colonisation” of Europe and also by general public ignorance (he says ordinary people have been led astray by the media).

Where does he get these ideas from? Who is this “multicultural lobby”? This sounds not too dissimilar to Breivik’s ramblings about “multicultural conspiracies”. Then he talks about “cultural paranoia”.  Who is he referring to? The Frankfurt School? This is very lazy stuff but it’s what we’ve come to expect from O’Neill, whose analysis of all things cultural wouldn’t look out of place on a site like The Gates of Vienna or Atlas Shrugs. He continues,

These are just different versions of the same sense of cultural panic that is fostered by the multicultural outlook. Indeed, it is remarkable how much Breivik has in common with those Islamists he despises. Where Islamists, also under the influence of multiculturalism, crazily claim that their cultural identity is threatened by “New Crusades” against Islam, Breivik says his cultural identity is threatened by crusades from the East, by “Islamisation”. Both groups of people have been made entirely paranoid by being encouraged to become obsessed with their allegedly fragile identities.

Here, O’Neill panders to his gallery of racist headbangers and fascists. He simply loads up his paragraphs with right-wing keywords like “multicultural outlook” but what is worse is how he suggests that “Islamism” is the creation of “multiculturalism”, this is something that is often claimed by self-styled anti-Jihadists, who insist that Europe is being “Islamized” because of this “mulitculturalism” thing.

Islamism is a fundamentalist right-wing expression of Islam. It is no different to other deeply conservative Christian, Jewish or Hindu movements. Yet, here is O’Neill trying to tell us that Islamism is a cut above the rest for its reactionary outlook. Nonsense. Islamism has its roots in the Mahdi’s response to British incursion into Sudan.  Today’s Islamism is best described as a reaction to Western and by Western, I mean what are perceived to be Christian, incursions into the Arabian peninsula and elsewhere in the Middle East.

O’Neill is so desperate to convince his readers that he is both a deep thinker and a serious intellectual but, in reality, he is at best, a philosophical lightweight and at worst, a shit-stirring trouble-maker who overrates his intellectual abilities.

He concludes his ramble with,

Breivik is not an implacable foe of multiculturalism; he is a product of it. He is multiculturalism’s monster, where his true aim is to win recognition of his identity alongside all those other identities that are fawned over in modern Europe. In essence, his barbarous act last year was not about dismantling multiculturalism but about expanding it, to make sure it afforded respect to his own petty cultural feelings as well as everyone else’s.

Make no mistake, this is an apology: what O’Neill is saying here is that if there wasn’t “multiculturalism” then there would not have been an Anders Behring Breivik but that’s simply ludicrous; as is his suggestion that “his barbarous act last year was not about dismantling multiculturalism but about expanding it”. Lazy and illogical with just a hint of right-wing paranoia. But how did Breivik’s actions “expand” multiculturalism? He does not say.

Many right-wingers in Britain were hoping that Breivik would be pronounced “insane” by psychologists and by the court. It seems that their hopes will be dashed. Breivik was compos mentis and knew exactly what he was doing. His ideas may have been delusional but then so are those right-wingers who constantly carp on about “Cultural Marxism”. Such paranoid delusions are not confined to Breivik and they do not end with “multiculturalism”. Many of those who buy into this nonsense also accept The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as an authoritative text. But O’Neill won’t tell you about that because it doesn’t fit in with his skewed narrative.

Tomorrow’s blog from O’Neill may well feature a link between Breivik and “political correctness”. Stay tuned!


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Life on Gilligan’s Island (Part 39) or squeezing out the last drops

The closer we get to the London Mayoral election, the more desperate Kennite becomes. Today’s blog is sloppy even by his usual  slipshod standards. The title, guaranteed to have his legion of armchair warriors foaming at the mouth, says “Ken Livingstone: I will instruct the police to pursue illegal immigrants less”. But it soon becomes clear as one reads through the blog that this is less about illegal immigration and more about Ken addressing London’s Latino community. Though why Kennite is in such a strop about it, I will never know. The opening paragraph says,

Ken has been courting the Latin American community this week. At a meeting in south London he promised an “Amigo Month” promoting Latin culture.

Yes and so what? He continues by quoting Livingstone,

“One thing the mayor can do is to say we are two thousand police short in London. My priority is that they should be looking for serious criminals and providing protection to Londoners on the street rather than spending a large of time trying to round up hard-working illegal immigrants and deport them. That will not be my priority…

“As of this January, the mayor has much more power over policing than was the case when I was mayor, and I will work to try and shift the balance of our policing.”

Yes and…?

Well, nothing really. It turns out that Kennite hasn’t actually bothered to do any research. If he had done any checking, he would know that in 2008, Boris Johnson said he wanted an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Even Kennite’s own paper carried the story here and here.

What Kennite has  done is to lazily connect Latinos with illegal immigration and then lazily connect that with Ken Livingstone. This is what the nativists (as they call themselves) in the United States have done.  For men like Joe Arpaio, any Hispanic (well, anyone with brown skin) is an ‘illegal’.  This article from the unfair and unbalanced Fox News puts this into perspective. Furthermore, Kennite vainly attempts to paint Livingstone as ‘soft’ on illegal immigration but it’s an exercise in futility that only appeals to his hardcore of keyboard warriors.

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Mispronouncing names: Anders Breivik

I get a little irritated when people don’t pronounce non-English names correctly. To me, it demonstrates a lack of respect on the part of the offender,  even when the correct pronunciation has been pointed out to them by a native speaker. I have already written a blog on this very subject with regards to the former Liverpool, Aston Villa and Olympique Lyonnais manager Gerard Houllier, whose name is often mispronounced by BBC reporters, pundits and others.

With the trial of Anders Behring Breivik in Oslo this week, the BBC have done it again. Even when a Norwegian utters the correct pronounciation of the name “Breivik” to reporter Jon Sopel, he still pronounces the name “Bray-vik” instead of “Bry-vik”. What’s worse, is that he ignores the Norwegian who happens to be speaking and carries on with his mispronunciation as if nothing ever happened.

This is a mixture of arrogance and ignorance on the part of the BBC and, I daresay the other British news providers, who seem to feel that they know how to pronounce Norwegian names better than the Norwegians. The only BBC newsreader to pronounce Breivik’s name correctly was Huw Edwards on the 10 O’clock News last night. Everyone else has been absolutely shocking.

I thought the BBC had a tip-top pronunciation department. It seems to me that they no longer care about correct pronunciation. If anyone from the BBC is reading this, please don’t write and tell me that there are “two pronunciations” because it isn’t true.


Just to add, Breivik is a paranoid and cold-hearted mass murderer. Though there are some people in Britain who view him as a martyr. You can find them leaving comments on Telegraph blogs where they will trot out phrases like “anti-racism = anti-white” and “Cultural Marxism”. They will even provide links to right-wing conspiracy sites like Gates of Vienna, which they believe will lend gravitas to their ideas.  In a future blog I will dispel the myth of so-called Cultural Marxism and ask why the right is so obsessed with conspiracy theories.


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Foghorn’s worry

I found this unintentionally humorous tweet on Foghorn Phibb’s Twitter feed that is dated 4 April.

Translation: Private Eye isn’t doing what we want them to do. How dare they?

Regular readers will recall that Phibbs took exception to Hammersmith & Fulham being the subject of the magazine’s “Rotten Boroughs” column and, more importantly, the Eye’s report on the council’s tax-dodging antics. Such was his fury, that he tried to persuade the magazine to adopt a more lenient position. He failed (just like he failed to understand what the Latin phrase “sotto voce” means).

It seems Foghorn hasn’t quite grasped Private Eyes raison d’ être. Should we tell him? No, leave him to make a complete tool of himself (which isn’t, when all is said and done,  that difficult).


The local Tories have published a recent letter sent to Private Eye by Phibbsy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Letter to Private Eye from Cllr Harry Phibbs

Dear Sir,

Your item about councillor allowances in Hammersmith and Fulham was misleading. Our allowances have been frozen for four years in a row.

Our basic allowance is £8,940 a year. Barking & Dagenham, Tower Hamlets, Haringey, Lambeth, Southwark and Newham are among those paying over £10,000 a year to their councillors.

The reason my own allowances increased between 2009/10 and 2010/11 was that I became a Cabinet Member and was paid extra for that. But the total budget for all the allowances remained the same. So the analogy with Council chief executives in North Tyneside and Newcastle being given big pay rises for carrying out the same role doesn’t really stand up.

Yours faithfully,
Cllr Harrry Phibbs,
Hammersmith and Fulham Council

Excuses, excuses. Anyway, what does the title “Cabinet Member for Community Engagement” mean in layman’s terms? And yes,  your eyes aren’t deceiving you, dear reader, there are 2 “R’s” in Harry.

As for “journalistic standards”, is he trying to tell us that his paper, The Daily Mail, upholds such standards? Excuse me, while I laugh and roll about on the floor.

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