Tag Archives: Greg Smith

Hammersmith & Fulham: the most rotten borough?

The Tories at Hammersmith & Fulham Council tell us that they’re “open and transparent”. In fact, they say a lot of things, most of which is backslapping, self-congratulatory bullshit.  But the Council has been the subject of more “Rotten Borough” stories in Private Eye than any other council since Westminster’s frequent appearances in the magazine during the 1980’s. Shepherds Bush blog and HFConwatch both tell us that the council has featured in the magazine’s “Rotten Boroughs” a record six times.

I watched the Politics Show on BBC1 last Sunday. Greg Smith, Young Britons’ Foundation campaigns director and LBHF Cabinet Member for Residents Services (yes, I couldn’t quite believe it when I first saw it either) was trying to defend the Council’s decision to buy space in the Fulham Chronicle for £75,000.  Responding to local MP, Andy Slaughter’s charge that the paper was now pushing the Council’s propaganda, Smith claimed that the paper carried the council’s  “events listings” but isn’t this the job of an independent local paper anyway? Why does the council have to buy column space to disseminate this kind of information?  Oddly enough, no mention was made of the censoring of an advertisement for the Parents Alliance for Community Schools or Slaughter’s column in the paper.

Curiously enough, before the Chronicle was paid £75k by the Council, I never once received the paper through my letter box. Yesterday, there it was on my doormat, as bold as brass, masquerading as an independent local newspaper. What amuses me is the way the Council tries to defend its purchase of the paper column space by claiming that it needs to have its notices printed somewhere. As far as I’m aware, all local newspapers do this for free anyway.  You will always find planning notices in the back pages of local papers. Even the Biggleswade Chronicle prints such notices and has done for many, many years. Why did it cost LBHF £75k to do this?

Cllr Smith (quoted from the Shepherds Bush blog) said

Let’s look at the reality of the situation: Without the advertising contract the Council has with the Chronicle, the STATUTORY planning notices alone would cost £120,000. We get them for £75,000 along with free advertising for things like asking people to come forward as foster carers and the double page spread which we use for events listings, informing people of road closures etc.

 It makes you wonder how councils managed in the past, doesn’t it? Perfectly well, it seems.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham, Local newspapers, London, Media

H&F Tories and the right-wing ‘madrasah’

It’s called the Tory “madrasah” and it resembles an updated version of the long-defunct Federation of Conservative Students. The Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF), who are no less right-wing than their recent ancestors, was formed in 2003 as sort of boot camp for young right-wing activists. We’ll return to them in a moment.

The use of the word “madrasah” to describe them is a bit weird. But first let’s have a look the word.  Madrasah, or madarasa, is the Arabic word for school; any school. Some are attached to mosques and exist to provide religious education.  Others, particularly those in Pakistan, have been cited as hothouses for suicide bombers. But this is a new connotation and the word, when it is uttered by a Rightist, tends to take on a universal character. The suggestion is “madrasahs are responsible for the inculcation of Islamist terror”.  Is the use of the word “madrasah” ironic in the context of the YBF? Who knows? It has probably been appropriated in much the same way as the word “Mecca” or perhaps the word, “Kosher”. No doubt these people believe that they are the ideologically pure shock troops of today’s Tory party.

The YBF were in the headlines last year. Before the general election, Cameron was urged to distance himself from them. The Guardian said,

Asked about his links to the group last month, Cameron said: “I don’t know anything about the Young Britons’ Foundation.” But Cameron had already contributed to a YBF-branded guide to essential reading for young Conservatives, according to the YBF’s chief executive, Donal Blaney, a Kent-based solicitor.

Hmmm, “He doesn’t know anything about “Young Britons’ Foundation”. I’m not so sure I believe Disco Dave.  The Guardian

…has also obtained photographs of him meeting the organisation’s director of strategy, vice-president, and then operations director before he denied knowledge of the group. Its director of research, Alex Deane, was formerly Cameron’s chief of staff.

Wow! I want to see these photos. But I can’t. I presume they’re in the Guardian’s image vault underneath Farringdon Station. No matter, we can see this screen grab of Cameron meeting someone called Conor Burns. From the Gaurdian,

Ah, doesn’t that look cosy? Burns is now the MP for Bournemouth West but last year he was the YBF’s vice president.

Back in 2003, when the YBF was formed, Tom Happold of the Guardian wrote this about them

A new right-wing youth organisation – the Young Britons’ Foundation – has been accused of plotting a “Militant-style” take-over of the party’s youth wing, Conservative Future, by senior Tories.Disquiet about the group is such that the Conservative’s chief whip, David Maclean, recently told its chairman, former Tory MP Patrick Nicholls, to rein in its activities, Guardian Unlimited has learned.

The foundation’s website claims it exists to “help develop the talents of the young conservative-inclined political activists”, but senior Tories say it has been infiltrating Conservative Future, and even running a slate in its recent elections.

Further down the article we come to this,

The founder of the Young Britons’ Foundation, Donal Blaney, is also a controversial figure in the Tory party – he faced accusations of racism, and a complaint by the Commission for Racial Equality, when he ran a Fulham Homes for Fulham People campaign while a councillor in the borough. But Mr Blaney does have some influential friends; the foundation’s parliamentary counsel contains the former Conservative party chairman, Cecil Parkinson, Tory MP Gerald Howarth and shadow deputy prime minister, and likely future leadership contender, David Davis.

Yes, Donal Blaney was a Hammersmith & Fulham councillor. These days he’s described as a “Kent-based solicitor”.  Here’s some more,

Mr Blaney told Guardian Unlimited that it is compiling a dossier cataloguing examples of “socialist PC” bias on every course on every campus in the country. And he insisted that “all the stuff that gets fed back to us shows that the bias on campus is getting worse”.

The foundation’s website also says: “Leftists and their failed socialist ideology have run riot, in some cases literally, at campuses up and down the land for over 30 years.

“As a result non-political students or students who are conservative in outlook have been discriminated against in their grades and in their treatment by the authorities.”

They get this idea from an American neo-con site called Campus Watch, which claims that it is “monitoring Middle East studies on campus”. Long before it narrowed its remit it was involved in “exposing left-wing bias on campus”. My, how times have changed. The site is connected to the notorious Daniel Pipes, who runs the Middle East Forum.

Back to Blaney. It would seem that even some  Tories don’t like him. This blogger writes,

I guess Donal is the epitomy of all the negative coverage that political blogs have been receiving recently. Rejected by the higher echelons of the Conservative party, this sad time-wasting individual has risen to the delusional ‘heights’ he has by who he knows, not what he knows. ‘Fulham Homes for Fulham People’ is not a message that Cameron wants his conservatives spreading. Then again, perhaps his reluctance to get involved more practically and constructively with the Conservative party  is because Blaney might have certain individuals on his YBF Advisory Panel with an ever so slightly more colourful past that he’d hoped for. Who’s to say though; we wouldn’t want a mere student at the University of York becoming embroiled in a legal battle with blogging’s biggest bumbling bully, Donal Blaney, would we?

He was apparently threatened with legal action by Blaney. Unfortunately for this blogger, the YBF is now firmly entrenched in Hammersmith & Fulham.  More on that later. Blaney had this slogan “Fulham Homes for Fulham People”. His supporters have tried in vain to defend Blaney, but somehow it all looks futile and any attempt to explain it away looks pathetic and feeble.

The comments on Iain Dale’s blog from last February are particularly interesting,

At February 09, 2010 9:29 AM , Blogger DespairingLiberal said…Quite funny that if you Google Donal Blaney, the first image that comes up is him standing in front of a swastika flag.

I can’t help but wonder Iain why you are so drawn to Blaney, who seems to be a sort of neo-BNP’er inside the ranks of the tory party. I thought you yourself were a bit more centrist than that?

Dale replies,

That image of Blaney was photoshopped by a Labour blogger.

Donal is a good friend of mine. There’s nothing BNP about him at all.

Dale is not only a good friend of Blaney, he’s a supporter of the YBF too.

Blaney makes a few comments below.  Here he says,

Despairing Liberal – thanks for putting your head above the parapet. Anonymous abuse on the internet is easy to defeat now thanks to the case of Blaney v Person(s) Unknown in which I obtained a world first order allowing for such cyberbullies to be unmasked and served via Twitter (giving rise to what is known as a Blaney’s Blarney Order). Oh look, another victory.

He’s a card. Isn’t he? A tussle develops between “Despairing Liberal” and Blaney and ends with Blaney threatening legal action. This isn’t the first time that Blaney’s resorted to this tactic. Remember that article that I linked to at the beginning of this blog? Well, it has this at the top of it

The following note was added on Tuesday 9 March 2010

This article is the subject of a legal complaint made on behalf of Donal Blaney.

I guess being a solicitor has its advantages. No?

Blaney divides his time between his practice in Kent and Florida where he is a member of FABB (geddit?), the Florida Association of British Business. He is described as a “British Attorney”.

Last year, James Delingpole penned this tribute to Blaney and the YBF,

I’ve noticed this same technique much in use in the student-rag left-liberal blogosphere, of late, over the small matter of the Young Britons Foundation. Because  the YBF’s splendid, funny and ideologically sound chairman Donal Blaney has called his organisation a “madrassa” for young conservatives,

He misspelled “madrasah”. It was actually Dale who described the YBF as a “madrassa” by the way. More drivel from Delingtroll,

I addressed the YBF in the Commons last week, and extremist is the very last word I’d use to describe them. “Not nearly extremist enough” would be my preferred definition of these pallid young politicos. These kids have been so effectively brainwashed by the propaganda of socialists like Ken Livingstone, Tony Benn, Ken Clarke, Dave Cameron et al, they actually think “progressive” means something worthwhile and that “investment” is what you do when you squander money you haven’t got on the least efficient healthcare system in the known universe.

I’m rolling my eyes here.

Here is the “About Us” page of the YBF’s website,

The Young Britons’ Foundation was co-founded in July 2003 by Donal Blaney, Greg Smith and Ben Pickering

Is that the same Greg Smith who’s a H&F councillor? It certainly is. Smith is the “Cabinet Member for Residents Services”. Cllr Smith is also the YBF’s “Director of Campaigns”. The blurb also tells us that he’s on the executive of the Thatcherite Conservative Way Forward. Though the site doesn’t list him as a member of the executive. Confused? So am I.

On the Advisory Board’s page we find Cllr. Mark Loveday,

Mark Loveday is a barrister specialising in property, local government and professional negligence law in London. A graduate of the University of Kent at Canterbury, Mark is a former intern at the Leadership Institute and a former White House staffer. He is a member of the Cabinet in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham – where he has helped oversee two successive cuts in council tax since the Conservatives regained control of the Town Hall in 2006.

He’s “former White House staffer”. Fine. He’s also the “Chief Whip and Cabinet Member for Strategy” for the Tory group on the council. Like some of the others, I suspect he has his eye on a safe seat. He’s in good company. If you look down the list, you can see many other well-connected names like Matthew Elliot of the “non-partisan” Taxpayers Alliance and Thatcherite economist, Patrick Minford.

Not only is Hammersmith & Fulham a test bed for awful ideas, it is also a training ground for kamikaze Tories.

Back to the Staff page and we see that our old friend, Dan Hannan is the President.  It says,

Daniel Hannan is the President of the Young Britons’ Foundation and has recently been ranked tenth by The Daily Telegraph in its annual poll of most influential centre-right figures in Britain.

Like all those other members of the YBF that we’ve encountered, Hannan does not qualify as a youth. He’s is no spring chicken. In fact, he’s pushing 40. He’s more of a middle-aged man trying to relive his youth.

Here’s the YBF’s Speakers Panel. Do you  recognize any names? I do. Author, old duffer and ardent Europhobe, Frederick Forsyth is a keynote speaker. Previous speakers have included new peer and former MP, Howard Flight, who infamously claimed that the government’s benefit cuts would “encourage poor people to breed more”.  Douglas Carswell and Andrew Rosindell, who was once a member of the notorious Monday Club before IDS forced him  to resign, are also speakers. Carswell is a notorious Randist, like his friend Dan Hannan.Others on the speakers panel include the ever-shrill Douglas Murray and Anthony Worrall-Thompson. Nowhere Towers is baffled by the latter’s inclusion. We knew he was a Tory but is he a policy-former? No.

I expect the YBF to be at the Rally Against Debt next month along with the usual suspects.

For a more complete list of who is involved in the YBF, look at this page.

6 Comments

Filed under Extreme right, Government & politics, Young Britons' Foundation