Tag Archives: Panorama

The CSA Inquiry, The BBC And The Strange Case of Patrick Rock

In the last couple of weeks, the BBC and the Tory press have worked tirelessly to scupper the VIP child abuse story. In a recent edition of Panorama, the BBC poured cold water on the claims that the now deceased Leon Brittan was involved in child abuse or had raped a woman in 1967. Yesterday, Tory MP Nicholas Soames demanded that Tom Watson “apologise” for “traducing” Brittan’s good name. Watson rose to his feet in response and refused to issue an apology. Good for him. First, you can’t traduce or smear a dead person and second, Watson doesn’t need to apologise for anything.

The front page of today’s Daily Mail has this banner headline with the words “Labour’s child abuse witch hunt” in the opening paragraph. No agenda there. Right?

However, what is clear from these efforts is that the inquiry must be getting uncomfortably close to the Tories, so close that they’re now pulling out all the stops and getting their media chums to produce propaganda to counter any further accusations and smear the victims. The timing is also interesting for the fact that Harvey Proctor, a former Tory MP who’s so right-wing that he’d make a fascist blush with envy, recently appeared at a news conference to deny any allegations that he sexually abused children or witnessed any murders.

Now, before anyone reading this gets any ideas in their head that I’ve libelled Proctor, think on. I’ve done no such thing. Proctor was, however, a member of the notorious Monday Club. He apparently moved to purge the group of National Front members. So what?

Here’s the edition of Panorama in question.  The programme’s rationale is evident from the start: “It ain’t true”.

As Tom Pride observed yesterday, if Panorama’s team are so damned good at investigations, why did they fail to say anything about Jimmy Savile, who was working in the same building?

Let’s now turn to the case of Patrick Rock or to give him his full name, Patrick Robert John Rock de Besombes. Rock is the scion of an old Norman aristocratic family, a thwarted parliamentary candidate and was, until 18 months ago, a Downing Street aide. I say “was” because he was caught in possession of indecent images of children and appeared in court on those charges in July, 2014 and was bailed.  In December, 2014, Rock appeared at Southwark Crown Court and pleaded not guilty to the charges. Then it all went quiet.

I found this letter from someone called “P. Curran” to the Cabinet Office on the What Do They Know website that makes a Freedom of Information request. P. Curran writes:

Dear Cabinet Office,

I am seeking information on Patrick Rock, a former senior aide to
David Cameron, who appeared in court over child abuse images.

According to this Guardian report of Friday 19 December 2014 12.40
GMT, he was ‘ bailed to return to Southwark crown court for a
pre-trial hearing on 27 February 2015’:
http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/…

Since then there has been no news whatsoever. What has happened to
Mr. Rock please? Has he had his pre-trial hearing yet? And if so
where and when?

Yours faithfully,

Thankyou.

P. Curran

The letter was written on 2 June, 2015. If the pre-trial hearing took place, then there is no record of it. This begs the question: “why”?

A follow up letter appears on the same website, dated 17 June, 2015.

Dear Cabinet Office / FOI Team Mailbox,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Cabinet Office’s
handling of my FOI request ‘Trial of Patrick Rock’.

Many thanks for this reply, but if you read my original question,
this is not what I asked.

I asked: “What has happened to Mr. Rock please? Has he had his
pre-trial hearing yet? And if so where and when?

I did NOT ask whether the information was held on your paper or
electronic records.

I would also draw your attention to the following:

Guardian: Possible Cabinet Office cover up re: Cyril Smith child
abuse allegations:
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015…

Same story from the Mail:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-….
Indeed, from the article: “Downing Street cynically tried to
prevent the release of damaging files exposing the scale of the
cover-up over paedophile MP Cyril Smith.
The Cabinet Office repeatedly blocked The Mail on Sunday’s attempts
to see the bombshell documents – and caved in only after being
threatened with High Court action.”

Same story from Sky:
https://www.newstalk.com/Thatcher-knew-o….
From the story:
“He [Simon Danczuk] added: “(The Cabinet Office) have resisted
publishing these documents for over 12 months – that’s not
acceptable. They refused to tell the public who
nominated Cyril Smith for a knighthood. A journalist managed to get
that out of them after going to the Information Commissioner. It
was indeed David Steel.
And we now know they are resisting publishing at least four other
files relating to historic child sexual abuse. We have to ask the
question is the Cabinet Office fit for purpose?”

Private Eye story on Cabinet Office cover-up:
https://twitter.com/privateeyenews/statu…

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/w…

So, given Mr Patrick Robert John Rock was deputy head of David
Cameron’s policy unit at the time of his arrest and has known him
since the late 1990s (http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-28054433 /
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics…),
I would be extremely grateful if you cold please tell me about the
trial / pre-trial hearings of Patrick Rock, supposedly held at
Southwark Crown Court , case number T20140498 (not whether the
information is stored on your paper or electronic records) .

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is
available on the Internet at this address:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t…

Yours faithfully,

P. Curran

The exchange between P. Curran and the FOI team continues for the next few weeks until, finally, there’s a reply from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

REVIEW OF REQUEST UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000
Cabinet Office Internal Review Reference: IR 321173
(Original Case Reference: Fol 321173)
Thank you for your email of 17 June 2015. You asked for an internal review of our response to
your request for information of 8 June 2015. In your request you asked for information about the
trial of Patrick Rock.
It may be helpful if I start by explaining that the Freedom of Information Act provides a right of
access, subject to exemptions, to information held in a recorded format by a public authority.
Public authorities are specifically scheduled under the Act and the Cabinet Office (including No1 O
Downing Street) is one of those scheduled authorities. Each government department and agency
is separately listed under the Act.
As such, the Cabinet Office can only respond in terms of information we hold in a recorded format.
I have reviewed your request and have concluded that the Cabinet Office does not hold any
recorded information, which would answer your question. I recognise your interest in this case but
I regret that we do not hold the information to be able to answer your question.
The substance of your request is a matter for the criminal justice system, which is outside the remit
of the Cabinet Office. The only advice and assistance I am able to offer is to suggest that you write
to the Crown Prosecution Service or Her Majesty’s Court Service. I should also explain that even if
they hold any information in a recorded format in scope of your request, one or more exemptions
under the Act might apply.
If you are unhappy with the handling of your request for information you, have the right to apply
directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be
contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

It turns out that that Rock is due to appear in court in the next three days. However, there is nothing in papers about it, nor have the television news providers mentioned it.

Don’t you find that a little odd? I know I do.

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Life on Gilligan’s Island (Part 51)

Kennite’s been a little quiet of late. He’s been busy moonlighting for Bozza as his unofficial sidekick Cycling Commissioner. But a couple of weeks ago, there was a Panorama expose (sure) of Tower Hamlets Council, which accused its mayor, Lutfur Rahman of doling out council largesse to groups that apparently supported him. When I saw the trailer, I remember thinking, “this looks a lot like Gilligan’s handiwork”. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when a series of blogs about Rahman, which repeats Kennite’s stock phrase, “extremist-linked”, recently appeared on Telegraph blogs.

Here’s his blog from 4 April, in which he writes:

In its letter appointing the inspectors, the Department for Communities and Local Government asked them to pay particular attention to, among other things, “the authority’s payment of grants,” a subject we covered on the blog yesterday, and the “transfer of property to third parties.” That’s what today’s blog is about.

Exhibit A is the Old Poplar Town Hall, on the corner of Poplar High Street and Woodstock Terrace. It was the council HQ from 1870 to 1938, until the then Borough of Poplar moved to another town hall (now also abandoned) in Bow Road.

The Poplar High Street building has great historical significance. It was here, in 1921, that radical Labour councillors, led by George Lansbury, began a rebellion against “unfair” rates that resulted in them being sent to prison, and triggered reform of a system that discriminated against poor areas such as Poplar.

Now, however, the Old Poplar Town Hall is part of a rather more worrying redistribution of wealth being practiced by Lutfur Rahman to his associates and friends, such as the Islamic extremist group, the IFE,based at the hardline East London Mosque.

Here he flourishes the heritage card

Remember: the town hall is a large and attractive Victorian building a stone’s throw from Canary Wharf and a few minutes’ walk from a future Crossrail station. It is internally tired but otherwise perfectly usable, and was indeed used as offices by the council. It has 9,803 square feet of space. In 2011, Old Poplar Town Hall was sold by the council to new owners who intend to turn it into a luxury hotel with 25 bedrooms, a restaurant, a bar and two conference suites.

The price? £875,000.

Meanwhile in neighbouring Newham, the council  plans to move out of the 1000 Building in Docklands that it spent millions on and rent it out to Chinese developers. Newham Council has been accused by local residents of wasting money. There’s no mention of this. Why? Because the leader of the council isn’t Bangladeshi.

 In the 3 April blog titled “Lutfur Rahman’s favoritism: the evidence”, Gilligan writes:

Over the next few weeks, this blog will be setting out in detail the truth about Lutfur Rahman, the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets, and the full evidence against him. I should stress that, over the last four years, all our material about Lutfur and his extremist allies has survived literally hundreds of complaints to Ofcom and the Press Complaints Commission.

The truth? Really? Is that like The Sun’s version of the truth when it reported in 1989 that Liverpool supporters had urinated on their dying fellow supporters and picked their pockets? Kennite also claims that he has the protection of Ofcom and the Press Complaints Commission – the latter of which is run by, guess who? The press.

Naturally, Kennite can’t resist having a swipe at The Guardian’s Dave Hill.

Rahman’s supporters make two main defences: first, that in the words of the Guardian’s Dave Hill, “if Rahman has sinned, how many others are doing so all day, every day in ways that, in the end, differ if at all only in the means and detail?”

Now how’s that for bitchiness? Anticipating the inevitable accusations of racism, he launches a pre-emptive strike on Rahman.

The second defence, inevitably, is to claim that all scrutiny of Rahman is racist – again, without any factual basis. Instead, as I show below, it is Rahman who is practising racial and religious favouritism and it is his ethnicity that has saved him from scrutiny.

The thing is, Rahman has a point: the main reason for Kennite’s pursuit of Rahman is precisely because he isn’t white and happens to be Muslim. Even when the Lib Dems were badly running the council, there wasn’t a peep from Gilligoon or, indeed, any mention of it in any of his blogs for the Telegraph. Admittedly, it was over 20 years ago.  So I suppose he can be forgiven. However, like Kennite, the Lib Dems often played the race card.

Headed ‘Focus’, the new leaflet was produced last month by party activists in the Labour-controlled Wapping ward. It describes the plight of an un-named 74-year-old woman living alone on the fifth floor of a block on possibly the ‘most dangerous estate’ in the area.

The woman, described as ‘Mrs X’, was decorated during the war. She is registered disabled and the lift in her block rarely works. ‘Despite repeated pleas for help,’ the local Labour-controlled ward has not given her a new lock on her front door – ‘it can be pushed open with one hand,’ it says. Her neighbours, also pensioners – one of them, the pamphlet claims, aged 90 – are also living in fear. They have asked for spyholes and latches on their doors but months later the work has yet to be done.

The article is illustrated with a drawing of an obviously black man, snarling with clenched fists. The piece ends with a plea: ‘Is this any way to treat those who endured the Blitz, and risked their lives for our country? Is this the welcome fit for heroes?’

Remember, this was around the time that Tower Hamlets council had acquired a BNP councillor by the name of Derek Beackon. Socialist Review carried a story about Lib Dem racism back in the 1980s that revealed endemic corruption in the borough. The article’s author, Chris Nineham, writes:

Revelations of racism among Liberal Democrats on Tower Hamlets council have made a mockery of Paddy Ashdown’s attempt to promote the Liberal Democrats as a viable and respectable third force in British politics. The projected image of the clean party of politics has been tarnished.

The local Liberal Democrat controlled council stands accused of creating an atmosphere in which Nazi ideas can grow. But recent reports have only told a small part of the story. The full poisonous record of the Liberals in office in Tower Hamlets is a crucial lesson to anyone who still believes tactical voting or LibLab alliances offer a way forward.

It is not just a case of a few racist leaflets or a few mavericks in the local party. Since the Liberals took office in 1986 there have been constant allegations of racism and corruption in Tower Hamlets.

This racism is not casual or accidental but blatant and provocative, and is a central plank of their operation in the area both now and in the past.

The liberals began to gain influence in the East End in the early 1980s using a right wing populism to attack the extremely unpopular Labour councils.

A 1981 Liberal leaflet ranted, ‘every year more break-ins, muggings, rapes, violence and acts of vandalism. People are scared to go out at night, and even to open their doors. Something is very wrong indeed’.

From the moment of taking office the Liberals not only discriminated against the local Bengali population, but actively scapegoated them in a series of high profile publicity stunts. In 1987 they made national news by claiming that 52 Bangladeshi families living in bed and breakfast accommodation had made themselves intentionally homeless, simply by coming to Britain. They were therefore not entitled to benefit. This was too much even for the Tories, and the council was eventually beaten in the courts, but the damage had been done. The vile message had already gone out, ‘Immigrants are scroungers, they are taking our homes’.

Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

Back to 3 April.  Kennite provides a litany of the apparent crimes of Rahman’s mayoralty, which reads like the Tory press’s “anti-PC” attacks on the Labour controlled metropolitan county councils of the 1980s. He precedes his list with this factoid.

First, some facts about the ethnic and faith makeup of Tower Hamlets.According to the 2011 census, its largest single ethnic group is white – 45.2 per cent of the population. Bangladeshis make up 32 per cent – down from 33.4 per cent in 2001. Muslims make up 34.5 per cent of Tower Hamlets people – again down, from 36.4 per cent in 2001.

You wouldn’t know this from the makeup of Lutfur Rahman’s ruling cabinet, which is 100 per cent Bangladeshi and Muslim, or from his grants. In 2012, the council changed its policy to ensure that “the decisions for all awards over £1,000 were to be made by the Mayor under his executive authority”.

Yes and the cabinet at Tory-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham is 100% white and 90% male – and that’s in spite of the borough’s large black demographic. I daresay other councils are similar. But what does he mean when he uses the word “white”? White British? White Lithuanian? White Russian?What?

In his blog on 16 April, Gilligoon writes:

The Metropolitan Police confirmed to me tonight that Tower Hamlets CID is investigating alleged fraud at the council involving a grant to an organisation called the Brady Youth Forum. A member of the mayor’s staff is involved in the alleged fraud, I separately understand. The Met said the investigation was at “an early stage”.

“Brady”? Yeah, that sounds like the kind of name an Islamist organization would use. He continues:

I understand that detailed evidence on this specific allegation did form part of the dossier that Panorama’s reporter, John Ware, passed to the DCLG and which was then passed to the Met. The material supplied by Ware includes evidence implicating one of the mayor’s staff in an operation where cheques for public money were sent to what appeared to be a bogus address.

Yeah? Where is this “evidence” then?

But for all Kennite’s crowing, he’s beginning to look a little foolish. The Metropolitan Police have looked into Panorama’s story (because that’s what it is) and have decided there is “no new evidence”. Naturally, Kennite isn’t pleased and in the paragraph below, he may as well be accusing the Met of being “linked to extremists”.

This blog has previously noted the local police’s cosy relationship with Lutfur’s council – but what on earth is the Met playing at here? Serious questions – more serious questions – need to be asked about whether we can ever trust what this force is saying.

All this because the Met wouldn’t dance to his tune.  How low can you go? If you’re Kennite, you can sink much lower – right into the sewer. He whines:

Panorama, too, alleged favouritism in the allocation of council grants and misuse of council resources for electioneering purposes. The fraud allegation didn’t form part of the programme because it wasn’t ready for broadcast in time.

Let’s be in no doubt: Kennite doesn’t like Muslims (he probably doesn’t like blacks and Roma people either) and he likes the idea of a Muslim mayor even less. There are plenty of examples of municipal malfeasance around London, most notably in Hammersmith and Fulham, but Tower Hamlets has become his single biggest obsession.  The only real difference between Hammersmith and Fulham and Tower Hamlets is this: one council is David Cameron’s and Bozza’s favourite local authority and the other isn’t.

 

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Filed under London, Media, Racism, Tory press, Tower Hamlets, Yellow journalism

Lies, damned lies and austerity: how consent is being manufactured for cuts and caps

We have been told how there is “massive public support” for benefit caps and on the rare occasion a newsreader interviews someone who is against cuts, whoever he or she may be,  will be hectored and bullied by the interviewer. Anti-austerity commentators will always be asked the same loaded questions about cuts. “You realize that there is a need for cuts” and “The country has no money to pay for x, y and z” are two of the most overused  questions in the mainstream media’s lexicon. The disabled and benefit claimants are in the government’s line of fire,  for it is they who have now been accused of ruining the economy along with the “bloated” public sector.

In 1988, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman put their heads together and wrote the highly influential Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.  The right hate it. Not because it was co-written by Chomsky – they hate him too – but because it kicks a massive hole in their thesis that we live in a “free society” that has a “free press”, where all of us enjoy “free speech”.

The basis of Chomsky and Herman’s argument is that there is a propanganda model to which all corporate-owned media adheres. The four identifying features (filters) of the propaganda model are as follows:

  1. Ownership of the medium
  2. Medium’s funding sources
  3. Sourcing
  4. Flak
  5. Anti-communist ideology

With regard to 5, we can replace this with the more useful “ideological” in order to cover all forms of dissent from the government line. If we use the BBC as our exemplar, then the model is fleshed out as follows.

  1. Ownership: owned by the state in what is euphemistically referred to as an “arm’s length relationship”.
  2. Funding: the license payer and to some extent the state.
  3. Sourcing: ‘news’ often comes from government, corporate or City press briefings, press releases and so forth. A great deal of information is taken from pro-free market think tanks. Self-styled economic ‘experts’ like Ruth Lea or David Buik are brought into the studio to attack any dissenting point of view or to give ‘expert’ analysis.
  4. Flak: attacks on any voice that is not consistent with the government line. Viewers emails are aired to give an impression of consent. Example: “Major Payne of Tunbridge Wells emailed us to say, your guest was just as bad as the scroungers. I’d put them into forced labour camps”.
  5. Ideological: opposed to any alternative point of view on the economic crisis by spouting the government line and using government phraseology to rebut those points of view.

Examples of pro-austerity broadcasting includes programmes as Saints and Scroungers.

The BBC explains the show’s ‘mission’,

Dominic Littlewood follows fraud officers as they bust the benefits thieves stealing millions of pounds every year, while charities and councils track down people who actually deserve government help

Dominic Littlewood: the people’s champion.

Saints and Scroungers gives the impression that benefit fraud is widespread. Littlewood’s hard man voiceover adds drama to the footage.

This video gives a taste of the programme

Programmes like Saints and Scroungers  and Panorama insert the notion in the public mind that ‘your’ taxes are being used to support villains and parasites, some of whom own yachts and Bentleys.  The impression is often given by these programmes that every person on benefits is a potential criminal. The numbers of people wrongly claiming benefits is often exaggerated and there are some people who are reluctant to claim any form of benefit for fear of being accused of ‘scrounging’.

But the BBC isn’t alone in this assault on the poor or the disabled. The press, as we know, are guilty of this too.  In Thursday’s Sun, Rod Liddle claimed that “disability” was “fashionable” and told his readers that it was his “New Years resolution” to fake disability, citing ME and fibromyalgia  as those conditions that he’d most like to have.

Here’s an image of the article.

Delingpole defended him on Telegraph blogs with an article titled “The fake disabled are crippling our economy”. This is not only inaccurate; it is a part of an ongoing attempt to scapegoat the disabled.  The suggestion being made by Liddle and Delingpole is that all disabled claimants are cheating the system. They, of course, deny this and their legion of defenders respond by saying, “They’re only attacking the cheats”. The simple truth is that attacks on disabled people have increased sharply over the last few years, helped in no small part by a potent mix of negative news stories of ‘scroungers’ and ‘cheats‘ and government rhetoric.

Using scapegoats to deflect attention away from the real causes of the economic crisis is typical for a government of millionaires who are eager to present themselves as ‘caring’ and in touch. The real causes of the recession are never dealt with and are blamed on a variety of things from the disabled and unemployed to the Euro. Everything and everyone else is accused of “destroying” the economy but the real villain: free-market capitalism. This is a form of sociopathy; the lies, the deception, the bullying, the charm and the desire to dominate others are all characteristics exhibited by this Tory-led regime. However, Labour aren’t entirely blameless. The Blair and Brown governments were committed to reducing the numbers of people claiming Incapacity Benefit and forcing those people into work – whether they were capable of working or not. The press produced story after story of benefit ‘cheats’ who were caught scamming the system. The phrase  “sick note culture” had entered the popular vocabulary.

When this Tory-led government came to power in 2010, George Osborne made the bold claim that benefit fraud was costing the country £5 billion a year and evoked the magic words “costing the hardworking taxpayer”.  Peter Oborne wrote:

However that figure is not true. I have now been onto the Treasury and it is clear that the real figure for fraud in the benefits system is £1.5 billion a year, or less than one third of the sum which Osborne claimed in his spending statement. It is true that there were benefit overpayments of some £5.2 billion in the last financial year (2009/10) but the majority of these according to HMRC figures were error rather than fraud.

Even Citywire admitted that tax evasion cost the Exchequer more than benefit fraud:

At £30 billion per year, fraud in the UK is more than twice as high as thought, with tax evasion costing the public purse over £15 billion per year and benefit fraud just over £1 billion.

Aside from attacks on the disabled and the poor, the government has also insisted that Britain is “running record levels of debt” and that debt, it insists, will be passed on to “future generations”. The question that they and their partners-in-crime repeatedly ask is “Is it fair to saddle our children with this generation’s debt”? But this is a loaded question that is not based on fact rather, it is based on the notion that government finances and domestic finances operate in the same way. This fallacy is repeated by a number of people who accept the government’s position without question. In a recent interview on BBC News on an entirely unrelated issue (High Speed 2), the actor Geoffrey Palmer repeated, almost line for line, the government’s austerity message. “The country’s broke”, he said, adding that “we can’t afford it (HS2)”. If the country is broke, then it is unlikely to be able to raise money on the international bond markets, which it continues to do. Furthermore, it would be unable to continue the costly and disastrous war in Afghanistan, which cost Britain in excess of £20 billion in 2010.

The government and their media allies continues  to demonize and scapegoat the most vulnerable people in society. On last Thursday’s Question Time, Melanie Phillips repeated the topsy-turvy logic of the LM Network that the “bankers are being scapegoated”. This is what passes for morality in the eyes of those who take part in BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze, where those who comment on morality have no qualifications in the subject on which they pontificate – none of them are moral philosophers nor would it appear that any of them have as much as an undergraduate degree in philosophy.

The government hates the very thought of opposing points of view and we can see this in the way they will control discourse by accusing those who are anti-austerity of being “deficit deniers”, which is a phrase that is redolent of “Holocaust Denial”.  The Morning Star explains:

But unfortunately the word racist – like nazi or even Holocaust denier – is so emotive, connotes such horrible things and is so insulting that it can intimidate people into silence and shut down reasoned debate, much like deficit denier.

The Labour Party has fallen into the trap of not wanting to be seen as “deficit deniers”, which has brought them closer and closer to the government’s position on cuts. So much for meaningful and effective opposition to this government then. The phrase “deficit denier” is based on a logical fallacy.  It is a connotation fallacy; an appeal to insult – the classic ad hominem.  Unable to fashion a logical and coherent argument for their austerity measures, government ministers concoct insults to silence their critics.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this government is philosophically bankrupt and must resort to bullying and outright lies to convince the public of the need for austerity, but it wouldn’t be able to do this without the media’s fawning complicity.

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