Monday, 18 June 2018

She's About To Snap Again

"Put up taxes and borrow more, to fund the NHS, albeit at a lower level than even the Thatcher Government managed." That is not much of an original policy proposal, is it? Theresa May tried to make it something to do with Brexit in order to manage her own MPs, but that lasted only a couple of hours and is now forgotten.

Oh, well, it is nice of her to admit that the cuts were only ever a political choice in the first place. And there is obviously now another of her "snap" General Elections on the way. On the clear understanding that General Elections, like referendums, are decided by the people who, above all else, always want more money for the NHS.

My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email instead, and that address accepts PayPal.

Cross Him At Your Peril

I still have a lot of Respect for George.  Jonathan Griffin and Lee Kumutat write:

"Philip Cross" has made hundreds of thousands of edits to Wikipedia pages. But in the process he's angered anti-war activists and critics of British and Western foreign policy, who claim he's been biased against them.

"Christmas Day, Eid day, Easter Day, Cup final day, early hours of the morning, in the middle of the night - this man is on my case," says George Galloway, the former Labour and Respect Party MP.

"And it doesn't take an Einstein to work out he's not tending this garden with loving care or to make it look as nice as it can look. It's the opposite."

The subject of Galloway's ire is a prolific Wikipedia editor who goes by the name "Philip Cross".

He's been the subject of a huge debate on the internet encyclopaedia - one of the world's most popular websites - and also on Twitter.

And he's been accused of bias for interacting, sometimes negatively, with some of the people whose Wikipedia pages he's edited.

The Philip Cross account was created at precisely 18:48 GMT on 26 October 2004. Since then, he's made more than 130,000 edits to more 30,000 pages. That's a substantial amount, but not hugely unusual - it's not enough edits, for example, to put him in the top 300 editors on Wikipedia.

But it's what he edits which has preoccupied anti-war politicians and journalists. In his top 10 most-edited pages are the jazz musician Duke Ellington, The Sun newspaper, and Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre.

But also in that top 10 are a number of vocal critics of American and British foreign policy: the journalist John Pilger, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Corbyn's director of strategy, Seamus Milne.

His critics also say that Philip Cross has made favourable edits to pages about public figures who are supportive of Western military intervention in the Middle East.

He's recently caught the attention of bloggers and has been the subject of stories in Haaretz and Russian state-owned outlets Sputnik and RT.

There have been allegations on social media - all unproven - that he's a government agent, employed by rich and powerful media interests, or is a mainstream journalist with an obsessive hobby.

"His edits are remorselessly targeted at people who oppose the Iraq war, who've opposed the subsequent intervention wars … in Libya and Syria, and people who criticise Israel," Galloway says.

Recently Galloway offered a reward of £1000 to anyone who could provide information to reveal the editor's identity.

End of Twitter post by @georgegalloway
The former MP says he's received information about Philip Cross and that the reward has already been claimed, but that he is not revealing the personal details of the person behind the account.

Ambiguous edits 

When it comes to Galloway's page, the Philip Cross account is responsible for 20.4% of all edits. But it's difficult to get an overall sense of whether those changes were solely motivated by any particular political bias on behalf of the person behind the account.

For example, a sentence where Galloway criticised the Labour Party as "Tony Blair's lie machine" was removed, with Cross citing "partial repetition, poor source".

In another case, Cross removed links to lurid tabloid headlines about Galloway's private life. In addition, many of the edits were simply grammatically or stylistic.

At one point Cross noted: "It helps the article if each sentence or paragraph does not begin with 'Galloway' or 'He'."

Screenshot of wikipediaImage copyrightMICHAEL WENDLING

Wikipedia, which was launched in 2001, relies on volunteers to write and edit entries. Wikipedians have developed an enormous set of rules and procedures guiding the development of a site which now has more than 5.5m articles in English.

In addition to his Wikipedia edits, Philip Cross has a Twitter account which he has used to interact with Galloway and other politicians and journalists. In one tweet, for instance, he called a group of anti-war activists "goons".

That raised claims of a conflict of interest, which is potentially against Wikipedia guidelines. The account is currently subject to a review process run by Wikipedia volunteers, although Philip Cross has promised to stop editing Galloway's entry for an "indeterminate length of time regardless of any decision".

The Wikimedia Foundation - which established and funds Wikipedia - declined an interview request, but said in a statement:

"Independent volunteer editors consistently monitor Wikipedia, often aided by technology, to ensure its articles remain neutral and well-sourced for the hundreds of millions of people who rely on it every month.

"If repeat violations to Wikipedia policies do occur, volunteers have a variety of mechanisms to draw from, including issuing warnings and blockings, to address content and behaviour that does not meet Wikipedia standards."

On Twitter, Wikipedia's co-founder, Jimmy Wales, rejected claims that Philip Cross is making entries biased.
Of course there's only one person who could definitively lay to rest questions about the origins of the account - and that is Philip Cross himself.

BBC Trending has been able to establish that he lives in England, and that Philip Cross is not the name he normally goes by outside of Wikipedia.

We made several attempts to contact him via Twitter and via an intermediary - but he declined to comment for this story.

Culture and Values

Peter Lazenby writes:

Ex-miners, campaigners and trade unionists raised their banners at the weekend as they marched to the site of the former Orgreave coke works in South Yorkshire where one of the state’s most brutal acts against workers took place 34 years ago. 

On June 18 1984, police attacked miners striking to defend their jobs, the coal pits and their communities. 

On Saturday, an annual march to the site was staged by the Orgreave Truth & Justice Campaign, which is demanding a public inquiry into the attack and the Tory government’s complicity in it. More than 300 ex-miners, their families and supporters took part in the event. 

The rally was addressed by speakers from the labour and trade union movement, who pledged support to the campaign for truth and justice. Shadow business minister and Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough MP Gill Furniss told the gathering:

“I am the widow of a Nottinghamshire miner who stood with the union throughout the strike. 

“Orgreave was the most violent event in British industrial history. The government had decided to make a public example of the miners.” 

Chris Peace, a leading Orgreave campaign activist and Labour’s candidate for North East Derbyshire, read out a message from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott. 

They pledged that one of the first acts of a new Labour government would be to order a public inquiry into what happened at Orgreave. 

President of the Durham Miners’ Association Joe Whitworth recalled how his own village in the Durham region was subjected to a violent police invasion, as were many other mining communities during the strike.

“This was in a sophisticated so-called democratic state, because of Thatcher,” he said. “Orgreave and attacks on mining communities were organised political violence.” 

But he said the culture and values of mining communities continue through the annual Durham Miners’ Gala, which takes place this year on July 14.

Messages of support came from other campaigners, including those seeking justice for the Shrewsbury pickets, victims of blacklisting and those campaigning to expose the activities of spycop officers who went under cover to infiltrate more than 1,000 activist groups.

Human Sensibility

Craig Murray is more right than wrong: 

A few weeks’ break gives you a perspective on British politics aside from the day to day excitements, and the long view is just horrible. An astonishingly inept and irrelevant government maintains itself by a series of straight lies to both Tory Remainers and Tory Brexiteers about its intentions. Both these groups know they are being lied to, but the show stutters on because all in the Tory Party are clinging on, with a death grip, to office if not to power. 

They are in turn sustained by a Northern Irish party of antediluvian beliefs that appears to have time travelled from the less enlightened parts of the seventeenth century, and whose leader’s idea of politics is to march at the head of a group of ill-educated bigots, who will muster far too few teeth in relation to number of feet, proceeding with drunken braggadocio along the streets of Cowdenbeath. 

Meantime society is well on its way through an extremely painful process of transformation. Well-paid, long term jobs offering job satisfaction and career progression are almost as improbable a dream for people under 30 as appearing in the World Cup final or owning their own home. 

Employee protection, whether through organised labour with clout or a legislative framework to prevent employers from abusing their power, has dwindled in practice and is a concept well outside the Overton window. Our younger generation grasp for the prospect of a few months’ unprotected employment at low wages, as desperately as did their ancestors in the 1830s.

It is as though there has been a deliberate rolling back not just of human progress, but of human sensibility. 

Meantime the rich get richer at an unprecedented rate. The concentration of wealth is mirrored by a concentration of the ownership of housing. Media ownership concentration into an ever-tightening circle continues to exert social control, while the gatekeeper role of the big new media corporations of Twitter, Facebook, Google and Wikipedia is now being very openly abused to maintain the Establishment narrative. 

In the international world, the interests of the City of London and the armaments industry shamelessly and openly drive British foreign policy, with the continuing economic dependence of the flimsy UK construct on the pandering services to the global 1% offered by the City of London remains always at the front of the government’s mind. 

At the front not in acknowledgement of the fact that London’s days as a major global financial centre are very plainly numbered as economic gravity moves East, but rather in desperate attempts to avoid the need for an economic re-orientation that would affect the distribution of wealth in the UK away from the core of the Tory Party. 

The days of the United Kingdom itself are now numbered in a very short series of figures. Tory hubris at having climbed, on the back of an incredible concerted propaganda deluge, to 25% electoral support in Scotland, appears to have convinced them that Scots will endure any humiliation at all and not have the courage to stand up.

The incredible arrogance involved in the Tory abrogation of devolved powers, against the express vote of the Scottish parliament, was captured by the jeers of “Bye-bye” at SNP MPs leaving the Commons in protest at the lack of debate. That “Bye-bye” will have a significance they did not intend. 

Any political party with the slightest prospect of power, will always be influenced and infiltrated by those with a strong stake in the economic status quo wishing to defend it, while advancing their personal interest. That is an eternal truth and afflicts both the Labour Party and the SNP. 

But while the programme of neither the Labour Party nor the SNP is as radical as is needed, both do reflect a genuine discontent with the status quo and with an economic philosophy which emphasises above all the freedoms of the very wealthy. 

There is more genuine choice on offer to the electorate than has been the case in the UK as a whole for many decades, which explains the crescendo of reaction from the media and the de facto casting off of the practice of political neutrality of the BBC, which was prepared to be reasonably fair in treatment of political parties only when they were all neo-conservative. 

Whether in the next decade the Labour Party is now sufficiently radical to contain the tensions racking the UK’s political economy, within a broadly constant political system, remains to be seen. It continues to be my view that the first great crack will open with Scottish Independence, and more radical societal change throughout the rest of the UK will swiftly follow that catalytic event.

Trial Date Watch: Day 51

More than nine weeks after I had again been due to stand trial, I now no longer have a trial date, even though it is rightly a criminal offence to fail to attend one's trial.

Had I been tried, as expected, on 6th December, then, even had I been convicted, I would already have been released, since I would by now have served three months even of a wildly improbable six month sentence.

The legal persecution of me, which has been going on for over a year, was initiated only in order to deter me from seeking public office or to prevent my election to it, and its continuation is only to one or both of those ends. Amnesty International is on the case.

Until there is anything to add to it, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Libel Watch: Day 106

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the sacked Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Welcome To Our World

20 years ago, the participants whined and whined about the supposedly heavy-handed policing of the Countryside March. That event had barely been policed at all when one considers its size and the fact that, extremely unusually in Britain, it had been organised by a lobby that was armed to the teeth. But on and on they went about it, and some of them are still doing so. At best, the reaction from the Left has always been, "Welcome to our world."

In the intervening decades, and across a range of issues, much the same people have come to complain, justly and otherwise, about lack of media coverage, about lack of political representation, about cliques of media types installing and protecting political leaders who might as well have been on the other side, and so on. Welcome to our world.

And now, they are openly accused of collusion with the Kremlin, and of being in receipt of Moscow Gold, by the people who really did have Michael Stewart and Sam Watson on the payroll, and by the people who are still paying heaven knows who. These accusations come from a very specific and very entitled political tendency that is sore beyond words at Trump and Brexit, at Sanders and Corbyn.

Trump supporters and Brexit campaigners, welcome to the club. Welcome to the club of the first Labour Government, of the General Strike, of the wave of strikes in Western Europe in the late 1940s, of the anti-colonial movements in the post-War years, of the Civil Rights and anti-war movements in the 1960s, of the peace movement in the 1980s, and of the NUM. Welcome to the world of "Comrade Corbyn" and "Agent Cob". Welcome to our world.

Full Marx?

Peter Hitchens returns to his familiar, and far from baseless, theme of the Eurocommunist roots of the New Labour project. 

But he implies that the Blairites, as enthusiastic participants in the Sexual Revolution and in the associated drug culture, were somehow un-Tory, so that it is the Conservative Party that has moved in their direction over the last 20 years. That will be completely laughable to anyone who has ever encountered the Tory subculture at any of the grander universities.

The discovery of the works of the conveniently dead Antonio Gramsci was able to provide an ideological framework of sorts for the realisation that Marx's Revolution was never supposed to have started in the former Russian Empire, that the form that it had taken there was incapable of replication in Western Europe, and that numerous aspects of it had become thoroughly embarrassing. (That position goes well beyond Trotskyism, in which the Soviet Union went wrong very early on, but the Russian Revolution itself was and is fundamentally sound.)

And that in turn was able to provide an ideological framework of sorts for purporting to remain on "the Centre Left" while fulfilling the cherished dream of the Oxbridge lower middle class to meet the Bullingdon Boys exactly where they had always been economically, chemically and sexually, not merely since the 1960s, but since 1066.

So yes, New Labour was indeed a takeover by the Right. It would not have passed as one in a land of Gaullists or of Christian Democrats, of conservative traditions with deep roots in Magisterial Catholicism or in Confessional Protestantism. But this is not such a land.

Civil Defence

Donald Trump has resumed American funding of the White Helmets, who are funded by Western governments and who work exclusively in Islamist-controlled areas.

The White Helmets were founded by the British Army Officer turned mercenary, James Le Mesurier, who had been the intelligence co-ordinator for Pristina City during the NATO war crimes that created the nightmare Islamist and neo-Nazi statelet of Kosovo, that centre of people-trafficking and of heroin trafficking, and that source of countless illegally held firearms on the streets of Britain.

The money that Britain spends on the White Helmets and on the "Free Syrian Police" ought instead to be diverted to our own emergency services. But who will demand that it be so? My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email instead, and that address accepts PayPal.

Intelligence Quotient

If anything, David Olusoga understates his case. There is no such thing as IQ. I have never taken an IQ test in my life. I question whether anyone who sets any store by them is sufficiently intelligent to be allowed out alone, if at all.

The whole thing depends on “mental age”, whatever that may be. The IQ of children in numerous countries has “improved” dramatically over the years that IQ tests have been set, and therefore taught to, in schools. Indeed, that never fails to happen.

The publications of Mensa are a particularly rich seam of amusement. “More people than you might think are above average”?  I am guessing that it is about half of them. “One person in 20 is in the top five per cent”? You don’t say! And so on. But never try and tell the “I have a high IQ” lot any of this. 

You wouldn’t have to, and indeed you never could, do anything to get a high IQ, even if such a thing really existed. Having it would be no cause for congratulation, still less for self-congratulation or for the creation of an international society for mutual congratulation.

Don't Be A Divvy

And people say that I have little connection to the predominant local culture.

The Prime Minister has conceded the principle. An amendment needs to be tabled, and put to the vote, such that the extra £350 million per week for the National Health Service would be written on the face of the legislation withdrawing the United Kingdom from the European Union.

My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email instead, and that address accepts PayPal. If, however, you would rather have the sitting MP for North West Durham, then do not pretend to hold any of this view. This is a test of credibility.

Father's Day

When is Bachelor Uncle’s Day? Be warned, we have much more expensive tastes.

Only 35 years ago, a single manual wage provided the wage-earner, his wife and their several children with a quality of life unimaginable even on two professional salaries today. This impoverishment has been so rapid and so extreme that most people, including almost all politicians and commentators, simply refuse to acknowledge that it has happened. But it has indeed happened. And it is still going on.

If fathers matter, then they must face up to their responsibilities, with every assistance, including censure where necessary, from the wider society, including when it acts politically as the State. A legal presumption of equal parenting. Restoration of the tax allowance for fathers for so long as Child Benefit was being paid to mothers. Restoration of the requirement that providers of fertility treatment take account of the child’s need for a father. Repeal of the ludicrous provision for two women to be listed as a child’s parents on a birth certificate, although even that is excelled by the provision for two men to be so listed.

And paternity leave available at any time until the child was 18 or left school, thereby reasserting paternal authority, and thus requiring paternal responsibility, at key points in childhood and adolescence. Of course a new baby needs her mother. But a 15-year-old might very well need her father, and that bit of paternity leave that he had been owed these last 15 years.

That authority and responsibility require an economic basis such as only the State can ever guarantee, and such as only the State can very often deliver. That basis is high-wage, high-skilled, high-status employment. All aspects of public policy must take account of this urgent social and cultural need. Not least, that includes energy policy: the energy sources to be preferred by the State are those providing the high-wage, high-skilled, high-status jobs that secure the economic basis of paternal authority in the family and in the wider community. So, nuclear power. And coal, not dole.

Moreover, paternal authority cannot be affirmed while fathers are torn away from their children and harvested in wars. Especially, though not exclusively, since those sent to war tend to come from working-class backgrounds, where starting to have children often still happens earlier than has lately become the norm. Think of those very young men whom we see going off or coming home, hugging and kissing their tiny children. You can believe in fatherhood, or you can support wars under certainly most and possibly all circumstances, the latter especially in practice today even if not necessarily in the past or in principle. You cannot do both.

My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email instead, and that address accepts PayPal.

Fact and Logic

The real drivers of drug crime in this country are the smug and self-satisfied people who buy and use illegal drugs. Yet, somehow, they are the ones who get away with it, even though their actions are severe crimes – in theory. 

This has long been my view, but I was moved and pleased to hear Baroness Newlove, cruelly robbed of her brave husband by the violent crime from which nobody is now safe, making this point in the House of Lords. Alas, her powerful words received little attention. Could this be because parts of our media are corrupted by widespread drug abuse? I could not possibly say.  

She condemned ‘the middle-class drug users who are funding this wave of violence. City workers who drink their Fairtrade coffee out of a reusable cup during the week think nothing of the supply chain of the stuff they snort up their noses at the weekend. In my view, they are as guilty as the moped riders’.

It is that point about the Fairtrade coffee that seems to me to be so important. People consider themselves to be right-on about climate change and third world poverty and recycle religiously, because they think these things are ethical and good.

Likewise they noisily despise the big greed lobbies which push tobacco, dubious pills, greasy fast food and sugar-laden drinks. Yet I suspect that, to a man and a woman, they are all in favour of the fashionable campaign to ‘decriminalise’ or ‘regulate’ illegal drugs, especially the ones they like to take.

Do they not know that a billionaire lobby (I call it Big Dope) stands behind the campaign to legalise marijuana? Do they not know that this campaign is terrified of the growing mountains of research which link this supposedly soft drug with permanent mental illness? And what do they think will be next, once the Big Dope lobby has succeeded, and cannabis is in high street shops, advertised everywhere, and freely available on the internet? 

They will say: ‘But wouldn’t you rather these things were sold legally than in the hands of gangsters?’ No, I wouldn’t. Gangsters are foul and dangerous, but they don’t have one 50th of the power, wealth or ability which cynical businessmen have to sell and spread their nasty products. Like tobacco, cannabis and cocaine can never be safe. Let us not make the mistake of making them legal, too. 

Would cigarettes kill more or fewer people if tobacco were illegal, had never been advertised, could not be sold in shops and was only sold by gangsters? Plainly, they would kill many fewer people. Does ‘regulating’ them now, as the legalisers urge we should do with drugs, make cigarettes less deadly? No, it does not. They kill just the same. 

We go on all the time about cartels and evil dealers and how they should be stamped out. But they never are. This is because we forget the fact that the source of all this crime is in our midst. It is the thousands of selfish people, with more money than sense, who buy illegal drugs and sustain the whole great stinking heap of wickedness which they bring into being. 

They should be made to be ashamed of themselves, and to fear the law, made for the benefit of all, which they callously break.


Who can fail to be moved by parents who believe that cannabis oil will help their stricken children? And who cannot be sympathetic to sufferers from MS and similar afflictions who believe that the drug in some form is good for them? But compassion should not close our minds to fact and logic. 

You should know some important things. Cannabis has risks, which may well outweigh any good it does. The British Government has no hardline dogmatic objection to testing the medical properties of cannabis. It has licensed at least two drugs made from the cannabis plant, and there is a special legal cannabis farm at a secret location in Kent, to supply the makers of one of them.

But perhaps, above all, note that the American Keith Stroup, a veteran campaigner for legal marijuana for recreational purposes, gave the game away long ago. In a February 6, 1979 interview with the American university newspaper The Emory Wheel, he said he and his comrades planned to use medical marijuana as a red herring to get pot a good name. It may have been the biggest red herring ever.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

No Remaining Doubt

Beyond the Left that has uniquely always been opposed to the EU, all coverage of Brexit is now of the "What Killed Brexit?" variety, taking it as read that something has done so.

Or else it is the increasingly hysterical effusions of Fleet Street's extremely few true believers even that Brexit ought to happen, still less that it ever will.

Is this the work of the metropolitan elite? No, 16 million people, 48 per cent of the vote, is not an elite. It is just the losing side in a close referendum, and it ought not be flattered as anything more than that.

But that was only the most recent referendum. The next one is coming. Between, in one box, Theresa May's deal to stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union, and, in the other box, simply staying in the EU altogether.

We ought to be open to advice from the Left that has uniquely always been opposed to the EU; even Enoch Powell was initially pro-Market. But it is clear enough that the only thing worse than being in the EU would be something like the EEA, taking the rules without making the rules.

Watch out for most or all of the supposedly anti-EU Right's claim that this "Norway Option", or whatever they wanted to call it, was just the ticket, just fine and dandy, just what the doctor ordered.

That is because they have never really been against the EU at all, and they thought that all opposition to it was "Loony Left" until the very late 1980s. This is going to flush them all out. Not before time.

Something In The Waters

Earlier in the year, via a poster campaign in certain localities and via a Twitter account that seems to have disappeared, the Far Right announced that Jayda Fransen would contest the North West Durham parliamentary constituency against me. She became, shall we say, unavailable. So the announcement, quite baldly made, was that my opponent would be Tommy Robinson. But he, too, is now otherwise engaged.

Leaving whom? Why, Anne Marie Waters, of course. Fresh from her triumphant 266 votes at the Lewisham East by-election. This is an overwhelmingly white constituency, and a predominately working-class one. Surely she ought to sweep it?

Endorsement of the Fransen and Robinson candidacies was at least never denied by any of Britain First, the British National Party, the National Front, National Action, the Britannica Party, the British Democratic Party, Ulster Resistance, the Orange Volunteers, the Red Hand Defenders, the Real Ulster Freedom Fighters, the Springbok Club, the London Swinton Circle, the Conservative Monday Club, the League of St George, the London Conference on Intelligence, the Ulster Institute for Social Research, the Mankind Quarterly, Candour, Spearhead, Redwatch, Black House Publishing, Focal Point Publications (which is David Irving’s global nerve centre of Holocaust denial), Steve Bannon, Roy Moore, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Heinz-Christian Strache, Emil Kirkegaard, or Toby Young.

Until such time as they deny it, and explain for whom, exactly, the electors of North West Durham ought to vote instead, then it stands as a matter of record that the candidacy of Anne Marie Waters at North West Durham is endorsed by each and all of Britain First, the British National Party, the National Front, National Action, the Britannica Party, the British Democratic Party, Ulster Resistance, the Orange Volunteers, the Red Hand Defenders, the Real Ulster Freedom Fighters, the Springbok Club, the London Swinton Circle, the Conservative Monday Club, the League of St George, the London Conference on Intelligence, the Ulster Institute for Social Research, the Mankind Quarterly, Candour, Spearhead, Redwatch, Black House Publishing, Focal Point Publications, Steve Bannon, Roy Moore, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Heinz-Christian Strache, Emil Kirkegaard, or Toby Young. To which one might, and I do, add the English Defence League and the Football Lads Alliance.

Either for Anne Marie Waters, or, therefore, for another specific candidate, I look forward to seeing them all on the stump. My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email instead, and that address accepts PayPal.

Don't Be Doped

A heartbreaking case is being used and abused by the cannabis lobby. Do not fall for this. Any medically active ingredient of cannabis could and should be identified and prescribed.

Meanwhile, and as ever, radical change can never come while the workers, the poor and the youth are in a state of stupefaction. That is what the Big Dope lobby wants. Of course it does. Look at who and what it is. We have been here before.


Getting yourself arrested in order to draw attention to a cause is an old trick, and some of the best have pulled it.

But doing so does not, in itself, make Peter Tatchell a hero, any more than it makes Tommy Robinson a hero.

Tatchell still supported the war in Libya. He has still called repeatedly for military intervention in Syria. And he still wants to lower the age of consent to 14.

Dorset Corset

And the view up the same.

People tell me that I should watch Love Island, as if my life were incomplete for never having seen it. Well, I have never seen up Christopher Chope's skirt, either. But my life is no less complete for that. 

Chope is quite convinced that people long to upskirt him, or perhaps even that he is already getting his fair share of upskirting. These delusions are central to his self-esteem.

Apparently, Chope was trying to make a point about, as he saw it, some constitutionally outrageous procedural abuse. Putting his little stunt in the same category as, oh, moving in the middle of Prime Minister's Questions that the House do now sit in private.

Excoriate Chope all you like. He richly deserves it. But make sure that you excoriate Ian Blackford just as much, and for very much the same reason.

Trial Date Watch: Day 50

More than nine weeks after I had again been due to stand trial, I now no longer have a trial date, even though it is rightly a criminal offence to fail to attend one's trial.

Had I been tried, as expected, on 6th December, then, even had I been convicted, I would already have been released, since I would by now have served three months even of a wildly improbable six month sentence.

The legal persecution of me, which has been going on for over a year, was initiated only in order to deter me from seeking public office or to prevent my election to it, and its continuation is only to one or both of those ends. Amnesty International is on the case.

Until there is anything to add to it, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Libel Watch: Day 105

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the sacked Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Fix It Properly

Fixed-odds betting terminals are very recent innovation, so it is rubbish that the betting shops would go bust without them. Instead of delaying even a very modest "crackdown" on them by two years as part of some dodgy deal, they should simply be banned outright.

We also need the empowerment of local authorities to limit the number of gambling venues, the use of that power, an end to gambling on television, an end to the advertising of gambling other than at venues such as casinos and betting shops, and the writing into the Statute Law of the rules introduced earlier this year by the Competitions and Markets Authority against the sharp practices of the gambling industry.

Another hung Parliament is coming. My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email instead, and that address accepts PayPal.

Universal Discredit

Universal Credit is a complete and utter shambles. Exactly as had been predicted.

Instead, we need the Universal Basic Income, set within Modern Monetary Theory in general, and within the Job Guarantee in particular, thereby protecting and restoring the bargaining power of the trade unions.

Another hung Parliament is coming. My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email instead, and that address accepts PayPal.

We're Getting There

Charles Horton, the Chief Executive of Govia Thameslink, has resigned. Of course, so should Chris Grayling. But one step at a time.

And Tosh McDonald, the President of ASLEF, was last night elected to Doncaster Council. Doncaster is on the East Coast Main Line. You only have to look at the East Coast Main Line to see that this is a country built on coal.

All in all, the leaves are being cleared off the line to the renationalisation of the railways. And the railways, with their stations already in the right places, can then resume carrying the publicly owned coal of which we have any amount beneath our feet.

That is, unless you would rather buy coal, on which we have never given up and never will, from the person and descendants of Kim Jong-un, via the person and descendants of Donald Trump?

Another hung Parliament is coming. My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email instead, and that address accepts PayPal.

The Only Thing Worse?

Dominic Grieve is no fool. He and his followers saved the Government by voting for it on Tuesday night, but the deal was that he would always then decry Theresa May's concession as inadequate after all, thereby compelling her even further towards the true objective of both of them.

That objective is a second referendum, between two options. One option will be to remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union, which is the deal that May is determined to bring back from Brussels. The other will be to remain in the European Union altogether. There will be no Third Way. That she would deliver this referendum, and no other, was why May was made Leader of the Conservative Party without even so much as a contest.

I would have voted against membership of the European Economic Area on Wednesday night, and I congratulate the Labour MPs who did so. But I do not blame Labour for whipping an abstention. Why intrude on private grief?

Since a local by-election at which I voted while wearing my Sixth Form uniform, I have never missed an opportunity to exercise my franchise. But how are we going to be expected to vote when the second referendum comes? That might yet be the first time that I did not vote, although I still find that highly unlikely. That would make me a different person, and not a person whom I would ever wish to be.

Even during the 86 years that propertied women were disenfranchised in parliamentary elections, most or all of my male ancestors also had no vote, as working-class men or as colonial subjects. It is not yet 200 years since some of my ancestors were slaves. I do not believe that voting ought to be compulsory. But while safely upper-middle-class newspaper columnists might feel no moral obligation to vote, I most certainly do.

In any case, one or other of these options is going to prevail whether or not I vote, in the way that someone is going to win an election whether or not I vote. My country will either come out of that wretched referendum as a rule-taker, or it will do so as a rule-maker.

At the moment, I prefer the latter. The only thing worse than staying in the EU would be to stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union even after having left the EU. The only thing worse than the EU would be anything like the EEA. Wouldn't it?

How Do You Solve A Problem Like...?

If British journalism is to have any future, then Isabel Oakeshott ‏and Carole Cadwalladr must both be banished. Pity the poor nunnery that must take them in.

Turn The Tide On Water Privatisation

Ellen Lees writes:

In the 29 years since water was privatised, our bills have gone up by 40%. But where is the money going?

In the last 10 years, water companies have made £18bn between them, and a report by CorporateWatch confirmed in 2013 that a third of the money we spend on water goes directly to banks and investors as interest and dividends. 

To add insult to injury, GMB and CorporateWatch revealed last week that the CEOs of nine private water companies have pocketed £58m in salary, bonuses, pensions and other benefits in the last five years. Public ownership of water would save each household in England £100 a year

And the Legatum Institute found last year that 83% of the public wanted publicly owned water, and the 2017 Labour manifesto proposed that the government buy the private water companies, making them into accountable regional public bodies. 

We’ve had enough of water privatisation, and we want to turn the tide. It’s time our water companies worked for us, and not shareholders.

But how much would an overhaul cost? The Social Market Foundation has claimed that buying back the water companies would cost us around £90bn. But this is based on false assumptions and bad economics. 

Professor Dieter Helm has called their report ‘economically illiterate’ – pretty embarrassing for an economics thinktank. The truth is that the government can decide how much to compensate shareholders.

Nationalising our water industry is feasible and affordable. No other country in the world does it like England does. Scotland has publicly owned water and Welsh water is run by a not-for-profit organisation. In Netherlands and Uruguay, water privatisation is actually illegal

Because water is a regional monopoly – we don’t get a choice about where our water comes from, or who we buy our water and sanitation services from – there is no competition in the water industry. 

In the private sector, competition drives down prices and in theory makes services better. But in the public sector, and especially in a monopoly, prices can go up and up. 

So what can we do? It’s time to bring water into public ownership, and make the water companies work for us, instead of the shareholders. 

 We Own It are working hard to bring attention to this ridiculous rip-off – help us get the word out by adding your name to our virtual SplashMob, and joining us for a real-life SplashMob in London on the 6th of July(the anniversary of water privatisation). 

Let’s turn the tide on water privatisation.

Exploitative Bosses On Notice

The ruling against Pimlico Plumbers on Wednesday is significant – and should put exploitative bosses on notice. 

Plumbing and heating engineer Gary Smith worked for Pimlico Plumbers for years. He wore their uniform, drove a company van and his services to the company’s customers were marketed through the company. 

And yet the firm still maintained that he was self-employed and therefore not entitled to holiday pay and protection against discrimination at work. Pimlico Plumbers wanted to control how Gary did his job, but wash their hands of any employment responsibilities. 

As Lord Wilson neatly summed up: “The company exercised tight administrative control over him, imposed fierce conditions on when and how much they paid to him and restricted his ability to compete with them for plumbing work following any termination of their relationship.” 

The case exposed once again how widely sham self-employment has spread. And how bad employers are using every trick in the book to deny staff basic rights. 

This kind of one-sided relationship between workers and their all-powerful bosses is sadly all too common in Britain today. 

The TUC estimates that one in nine workers are now in insecure jobs. Millions are being denied key workplace rights, such as protection from unfair dismissal and the right to be represented by a trade union.

Agency workers, zero-hours staff and freelancers can he hired and fired at will and have no right to return to their job after having a baby. 

And gig economy workers forced into bogus self-employment like Gary are not guaranteed the national minimum wage, paid holidays or sick pay.

Parts of our labour market have become like the Wild West. So what needs to change? 

Last year’s Taylor Review into modern employment practices was announced to much fanfare. But we are still waiting for the government to act.

If Theresa May is true to her word about ‘protecting’ and ‘enhancing’ workers’ rights here three things she must do.

Firstly, have a proper crackdown on bogus self-employment. Employers shouldn’t be able to dodge their legal responsibilities by falsely labelling someone as self-employed. The burden of proof in employment cases should be reversed so workers are presumed to have rights unless their employer can show they are genuinely self-employed. 

Secondly, give all workers the same floor of rights currently enjoyed by employees. This includes paid time off for working parents, statutory redundancy pay for when the work dries up and protection from arbitrary and unfair dismissal.

And thirdly, ensure unions have a right to access and organise in all workplaces. If we want to tackle the scourge of insecure work we need to get more people into unions. Nobody should have to go it alone against a bad boss.

The amazing work done by the likes of Unite at Sports Direct and the GMB at Uber, Hermes and Amazon show the importance of spreading collective bargaining.

The balance of power in the modern workplace has swung far too much in favour of employers. Let’s help reset it by getting a new generation of people to join unions.

The Issue Is Much Bigger

Matt Wrack writes: 

I served as a frontline firefighter in the London Fire Brigade for more than two decades before being elected General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union. I’ve been in the fire and rescue industry for 35 years. As an operational firefighter in inner London, I responded to many serious traumatic incidents, some of which still live with me to this day. 

But nothing I had to deal with came close to what firefighters faced one year ago as the 24-storey Grenfell Tower burned. It was an unprecedented, catastrophic event that should never have been allowed to happen. 

We have all read stories in the media recently about firefighters’ remarkable actions that night: how far up into the building they went to rescue people; how they wrote their names on their helmets for identification purposes if the unthinkable was to happen; how they entered the building with the growing fear it might collapse. 

We will have also read some of the outrageous attacks on firefighters: claims that the operation that night was “not very good” and how they let the rules get in the way of saving lives. I could not disagree more. Firefighters went above and beyond the call of duty that night, saving many lives and doing whatever they could to do so. 

Every decision taken will be scrutinised by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry but it worries me deeply that the focus is shifting the blame from the people at the top who created the conditions where a fire like this could happen. 

Firefighters were not the reason why 72 innocent people were killed in Grenfell Tower. Rather, it was a 40-year drive for deregulation driven by governments of both parties which created a fire safety system not fit for purpose and which allowed a building to be essentially wrapped in petrol. 

The election of Thatcher in 1979 heralded a lurch towards deregulation, privatisation and attacks on fire and rescue services. They did this even if it risked more deaths, injuries and property damage. Ministers part-privatised building control in local authorities. This is the system where building plans are assessed for compliance with, among others, fire safety regulations. 

The change allowed for a race to the bottom where private, uncertified inspectors could sign off building plans. This system prioritised the needs of business over the safety of buildings and people. The recent Hackitt review into building regulations acknowledges some of these failings. 

The deregulation trend continued under the Blair government who in 2003 scrapped the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council (CFBAC) which had overseen decades of improvement in fire safety measures and operational planning since its creation after the Second World War. This has had a severe impact on the ability of the fire sector to address strategic issues. 

Take, for example, the issue of cladding fires or the “stay put” policy. No real forum today exists where these issues can be addressed. The problem would rest with individual fire services despite clearly being a national issue. 

Since 2010, the process of deregulation has escalated. David Cameron’s “red tape challenge” to cut what he saw as unnecessary and burdensome regulations ran down the importance of public safety. Ministers failed to improve building regulations and instead promoted voluntarism and self-regulation. 

These developments over the decades created the environment where Grenfell Tower was allowed to burn. We want to see prosecutions where appropriate. That means the business owners and those who failed to keep their premises safe. A year after the devastation, nobody has been arrested despite the obvious fact that Grenfell was a deathtrap. 

But government ministers, past and present, must also be held to account for overseeing a deregulation agenda that failed to keep people safe in their homes – a basic expectation of public authorities in a civilised society. Only by holding those in power to account, alongside a fundamental change in housing and fire safety, will we achieve justice for the 72 people who lost their lives at Grenfell Tower. 

 This will be a very difficult day for everyone who lost a loved one in the fire, everyone whose home was destroyed and lives upturned. It will also be a difficult day for Grenfell firefighters too. Our focus from here onwards will be to achieve real justice for Grenfell.

And Tony Sullivan writes: 

I attended the Grenfell Tower fire as a firefighter in a relief crew long after the fire originally started, and I have since retired. I wasn’t present during the earliest stages, although I have many friends and colleagues who were. And I’ve decided to speak out primarily because I find the conspiracy theories and insults on all sides in the aftermath of the fire particularly distressing. 

I have attended dozens of high-rise fires in my 31 years as a London firefighter. The number of blocks I’ve visited or conducted inspections on probably number in the hundreds. I spent nine years teaching, among other things, high-rise procedure to new recruits. 

The “stay put” policy has been in for a lot of criticism since Grenfell, with claims that it led to the deaths of residents and that firefighters continued to give bad advice even after it was “obvious” that fire was being spread across the building by cladding. Since then, some residents in domestic houses have contacted the fire service to ask if we want them to stay put (no we don’t). Occupants of high-rise flats have wondered if “stay put” is no longer policy (it is).

In fact, the “stay put” policy is the only thing that can work routinely in a residential high-rise building, and here is why. The building is designed to contain fire in each individual flat and for the stairways especially to remain clear of smoke and heat. This is why it is vital all doors are fire doors and closed in the event of fire (which also means working door closers and smoke seals on all doors are essential). 

If everyone were to evacuate around the same time, opening doors as they did so, this would immediately compromise the fire safety of the building. Aside from all the crush injuries, if all residents opened all their doors and the doors to the stairwell at the same time, heat and smoke would intrude into the only escape route. This could create a chimney effect, spreading fire, and result in loss of life. 

Quite simply, moving away from a “stay put” policy will kill people. This is why you are not allowed integrated alarms or communal fire alarms in nearly all residential high-rise buildings. You aren’t supposed to hear alarms because you aren’t supposed to evacuate. Only the flat affected is supposed to evacuate. This is also why there were no fire drills at Grenfell. There shouldn’t be. 

After Grenfell, there were multiple comments from residents and politicians about the lack of smoke alarms. They are obviously unaware that these buildings are not allowed such alarms and if they were found to be present by a fire safety inspector they would likely be ordered to remove them. The local authority guidance on fire safety in residential high-rise buildings details this.

The flats themselves shouldn’t have a linked alarm system because the fire brigade use the stairs as a means of access for personnel and equipment and it would be impractical and dangerous for 300 people to be coming down the stairs while we are fighting the fire. The sheer amount of hose and other equipment makes this problematic.

So what specifically went wrong at Grenfell, and why did supposedly safe procedures fail? Imagine yourself in that scenario: there’s a fire on the fourth floor of a huge high-rise building, and residents on the eighteenth floor could see the fire spreading upwards.

It might seem obvious to tell them to evacuate. However, this is totally dependent on the conditions in the corridors and stairway. Many readers will have stood too close to the oven door and recoiled away from 200 degrees centigrade. The temperature in the upper floors that night were many times that. On the very top floors, temperatures may well have been above 1000 degrees. 

And when the lobbies, corridors and several flights of stairs are filled with thick black smoke, then how can you advise people to “make a run for it”? There were no means of communicating with residents. There were no means of warning them because there wasn’t an integrated alarm system.

If they opened their doors and were confronted with 400 or 600 degree heat, then no amount of wishful thinking from armchair amateurs would change the conditions. If people’s door handles are too hot to touch, they won’t open the door in the first place. If there’s thick black smoke outside their flat, many won’t go through it. 

When a “stay put” policy begins to be compromised, we can’t immediately advise people to leave their flats and enter several floors of several hundred degrees centigrade. If you know crews in full fire gear and breathing apparatus are struggling to get through several floors of heat and smoke, how will residents get down? At that point, no rescuer was able to do anything. The only thing you could have done was to prevent the fire from spreading outside the original flat in the first place.

Am I being too defensive here? I’ve considered it in my mind since that night: maybe there was a window of opportunity. Maybe mistakes were made. Maybe – but it doesn’t feel likely. In a high-rise fire, a bridgehead – a safe space for firefighters to gather inside the building – should be set up two floors below the fire. 

Then a crew wearing breathing apparatus uses a dry riser outlet – a pipe which is permanently connected to the building at all times and which the fire crew can attach their hose to. A back-up crew should then use the outlet on the fire floor to supply a second hose.

And that’s just the procedure to attack the initial fire in the first flat. That’s what was attempted at Grenfell. To consider evacuating other floors, we need enough crews in breathing apparatus early on – perhaps two crews for each floor. At Grenfell, that would have meant 40 crews. It takes time to get that number of personnel there. 

Let’s not forget that firefighters broke many procedures in order to rescue people on the night of the Grenfell Tower fire. There were 65 rescues in total. All the following would be against the rules, but firefighters did them: going above the fire without breathing apparatus to knock on doors and get people out; attempting snatch rescues without breathing apparatus; going above the fire without a hose and sufficient water; going past the time of whistle and into your safety margin of the last 10 minutes on your breathing apparatus; taking your mask off in a job and putting it on a casualty’s face; multiple wears and entries with breathing apparatus; carrying an adult casualty alone; carrying more than one casualty at a time. 

In my 31 years, I have witnessed all this and more. I know many examples occurred at Grenfell. The Chief Officer has already acknowledged this and stated she will back crews and their decisions. 

Rumours started very early on about the numbers of people who had died in the fire at Grenfell. While it’s understandable when people are in a state of shock and grief, the police said in the first few days they hoped the numbers wouldn’t reach triple figures. 

There are some simple reasons why numbers weren’t immediately released or estimated by emergency service personnel like us. In the early stages of a fire, it is impossible to have an accurate list of people staying in a block. People move in and out, have children, children go to university, move out, have friends round, get divorced, start living together, have guests, go on holiday.

And that’s before we take into consideration any subletting. Quite a lot of blocks in London have at least one person subletting. Grenfell may have had none or two or 10 – we couldn’t know for sure, and especially not while putting out an all-consuming fire. 

The simple fact is that, outside some sort of extreme social control or a heavily policed clocking in and out system, it’s impossible to know accurate numbers of occupants. In the incidents I have attended throughout my career, we have never had a full list of occupants for blocks of flats and never needed it. At Grenfell, we didn’t know how many people were inside but we rescued as many as we humanly could. 

I am afraid I will have to be blunt. It is possible to count people who you know live there and for whom you have remains. You can count people who you know lived there, who are missing and for whom you have no remains. You can even count people who you can’t identify but for whom you have remains. One victim of the Kings Cross fire in 1987 remained unidentified until 2004. 

What you can’t do is count people who aren’t registered there, when no one is coming forward and claiming they are there, and for whom there are no remains or recoverable DNA. 

As politicians and celebrities were making wild allegations about cover-ups, a colleague of mine was attending Grenfell in the aftermath and watching a forensic archaeologist who the police had brought in working on the upper floors. She had spent two hours that morning sifting through ash, trying to reconstruct one small part of a jawbone or arm.

The amount of time and effort that hundreds put in trying to recover and identify victims and remains was enormous. The idea that hundreds of firefighters, police, ambulance staff and others weren’t trying their best or were willingly engaged in some vast conspiracy is as ludicrous as it is offensive. An apology from those making wild claims would be appropriate.

I’ve seen people online claiming that there was a conspiracy because they saw hundreds of body bags at the scene (you would expect to see body bags delivered to a major incident). One gentleman was convinced the presence of black vans to remove bodies in the early hours was evidence of wrongdoing. He found it hard to believe it is routine for police to organise a coroner or local undertaker to transport bodies. I’ve been at more than one fatal fire or car crash when a van arrives to transport a body. What type of van or vehicle does he expect to be used for such purposes?

Another cited the closing of the railway line as part of a conspiracy, but this is actually normal procedure to keep people safe. Others quoted firefighters, not realising most firefighters would have been as prone to rumours and speculation as everyone in the early stages. Those in the building attempting rescues were working in zero visibility and only seen one small part of the incident. We, like other onlookers, were both literally and figuratively in the dark about numbers of people during and directly after the Grenfell Tower fire. 

Which brings me on to the even more ridiculous and offensive allegations of potential racism from one of the barristers at the inquiry. Firstly there were people of many different colours and cultures living at Grenfell. Likewise, many of the firefighters also had a range of backgrounds. Secondly, you can’t see colour in a fire. You generally can’t see your hand in front of your face. Not only did the firefighters perform 65 rescues but there were many instances of extraordinary bravery and the “bending” of procedures to do so. 

As an ex-union rep, I deplore the closing of fire stations and removal of fire engines and I sympathise with people who think that there was a failure to provide proper equipment to Grenfell – but it doesn’t appear to be a significant factor in this case. Let me explain why. 

Our current aerial platforms reached to the 13th floor of Grenfell Tower. There are larger ladders in the world that could have reached the top floor. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you would get a ladder that tall near the base of the tower, less likely you would have the space for the jacks, and impossible to manoeuvre it through the streets of London to get it there. That’s even if we have a fire station big enough to house it. So we didn’t have anything taller to hand. Nor can we direct jets from the ground floor to the top of a 20-storey building. The laws of physics prevent us. 

But we shouldn’t need any of this in the first place, because we fight high-rise fires from the inside, and that’s how we approached Grenfell. That’s why we have dry and wet risers, those permanent pipes that I mentioned earlier. And that’s why it’s so important compartmentalisation – keeping the fire inside the flat where it originally started – works. If compartmentalisation fails to the extent and at the rate of Grenfell, then it becomes all but impossible to attack, let alone control.

Similar comments about helicopters, airbags and all the other suggestions from well-meaning amateurs are equally impractical. The simple fact is the only way to fight a fire in a high-rise is the traditional way and that requires the building being used and maintained to the standard it was designed.

Concerning the role of the council and subsequent support: I don’t have much to say other than I’ll take the word of actual residents rather than any activists or politicians. However, in the last incident I attended that involved the local council and a social housing tenant, the first woman involved and her two children were rehoused in temporary accommodation in the adjacent borough. The other woman from the block was rehoused five miles from her former home and the children’s school.

My impression, in other words, is there is difficulty in finding such accommodation for even one person. I imagine trying to rehouse families from the 129 flats all at the same time would be problematic for any council. I’ve never known private owner occupiers or the majority of private tenants to do anything other than fall back on insurance or family and friends.

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be central government funding. Nor am I saying this isn’t a special case. But it’s simply inaccurate to claim they have been treated worse than others in that position. 

Finally there is the report by Dame Judith Hackett which mentions environmentally friendly panels that may have made the fire in Grenfell worse because of the materials they were built with. But consider this: steel loses two thirds of its structural strength at 600 degrees. It is in virtually every commercial building and many domestic extensions. We don’t ban steel. We regulate its use so that it must be covered by a certain level of protection, either plasterboard or concrete.

We drive around with 45 litres of petrol a few feet behind us. We have gas and electricity in our homes. We use timber, insulation and other materials in many different ways. Building regulations should be written in such a way that the effect is the same and these panels aren’t used on high-rise buildings. 

We really should be able to rely on the experience of architects, fire safety inspectors and building engineers. It’s not listening to the concerns of such people over the last 30 years that has got us in to this mess. We should listen to them now and not well meaning but unqualified commentators.

The narrative that this is all the fault of one council, government, manufacturer or contractor is wrong. This doesn’t mean people or organisations aren’t guilty of negligence or worse over Grenfell. It just means that the issue is much bigger than even this terrible incident.

It involves hundreds of buildings, across scores of councils and several governments over 20 years. It is a systemic problem with building regulations, fire safety legislation, testing of materials, maintenance of blocks and enforcement agencies. The problem, however, is much bigger and won’t be resolved by sending someone to jail, even if that is appropriate.