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Showing posts with label Glasgow City Council. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Glasgow City Council. Show all posts

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Commonwealth City Part One–and the Ardenlea Street outrage.

This outrage was perpetrated on a Glasgow grandmother and her family by the combined force of Glasgow City Council in the name of the Commonwealth Games, 80 police officers, 15 riot vans and masked council workers, who broke into her family home in a dawn raid.

This didn't happen in a third world banana republic, it happened in Glasgow, Scotland.

No politician, no political party, no government agency offered any significant or meaningful help  - there was some SNP involvement - before it, during it or after it. Celtic Football Club, on the doorstep of this appalling event, boasting of its role of Celtic in the Community, offered nothing. No rich athlete offered help.

The only real professional help came from film-makers, an Australian academic at Glasgow University who is a world expert in urban regeneration schemes and Mike Dailly of Govan Law Centre.

The Scottish press and media offered superficial and often distorted and close to hostile coverage - with one honourable exception - the Scottish Sun, with significant input from journalist  Paul  Drury.

I personally approached major media contacts begging them to cover the story fully, including Private Eye, the Guardian and Channel Four News. None offered any significant response. They are still silent.

Two more episodes will be shown - I have have no knowledge of content or treatment, but I know that a major story has yet to be told, and the this fine piece of filmaking from Stephen Bennett is only the start.

Friday, 18 January 2013

L’Europa and other matters

EUROPE – UK and SCOTLAND

The UK parties fight like ferrets in a sack over Europe - Scottish Labour MPs don't know their gluteus maximi from their elbows on the issue, and don't matter at UK level anyway. UKIP doesn't exist in Scotland, thank God, and we are spared a farrago of Farage, except on metropolitan media, which he is all over like a rash.

The SNP is solidly committed to Europe, and Scotland will continue to be a member after independence after negotiating relevant aspects of their changed status. They will be welcomed with open arms by the EU as a rational new country untainted by UK European divisions.
Some independence supporters are Eurosceptics but will not change their vote from YES - they will rely on influencing an independent Scotland to think about membership. Most are fully committed to Europe.

In contrast, among the undecided are many Scots wholly committed to Europe who may well be tilted to a YES based on UK indecision, confusion and even an opt-out of EU. There may even be hard core NO voters who are wholly committed to Europe who will be shifted by UK divisions and threats over EU membership.

GLASGOW

The voters of Glasgow re-elected Labour councillors in the local elections last year.

Fears for Glasgow council leader's future over sex act

The poverty campaigner who walked away with £500k of poor kids' cash

Glasgow City Council in action against the poor

Spectacular fall of Glasgow Council Leader Stephen Purcell shocks Scotland's political world

THE POLITICS THAT MATTER FOR SCOTLAND

Friday, 28 September 2012

ALEOs, externalisation and Glasgow City Council – a blog from 2010

In all the hoo-ha about how hard up GCC is because of the council tax freeze, remember this – a blog from 2010. Since then, of course, we’ve had the scandal of the commonwealth Games development and the astronomical profits of property speculators while small businesses and house owners were crushed and evicted by GCC, and there have been some egregious final settlements made to former employees of GCC. That’s where at least some of the council tax went …

EXTERNALISATION

Economists use the concept of externalities to describe the impact organisations make upon the society that they operate within. An organisation’s responsibility is to itself and to its own objectives but in the process of discharging this responsibility, it creates an impact on others, positive or negative. If that impact and effect was part of the organisation’s intention – part of its business strategy – that’s fine, but if it was simply an unintended consequence of its pursuit of its objectives, then problems can arise.

An externality is the effect of a transaction between two individuals and a third party who has not consented to, or played any role in the carrying out of that transaction. MILTON FRIEDMAN

For example, a mining company has an environmental impact, a chemical company may pollute the rivers or the atmosphere, a growing company may force smaller companies out of business – the negative examples can be multiplied along familiar lines.

The negative impact of organisations on people and communities can be considerable. A large company that becomes the dominant employer in an area can destroy the entire community if it pulls out. A dominant company can drive down the price of the goods and services it procures, forcing small suppliers into reducing their margins to dangerous levels.

An organisations can engage in practices and processes that are actively dangerous to the health and safety of those it employs and to the external community. Such effects were common in the early stages of the industrial revolution, and they were still occurring in the late 20th century, and will still occur in the 21st century, especially in third world or economically vulnerable communities. (The disaster at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal in India is still one of the worst examples, and of course, Chernobyl.)

Entrepreneurs have two major concerns – one is to be able to take commercial risks without destroying entirely their own security and economic viability, and the other is to be allowed to focus on the central purpose of the venture without being deflected by external consequences that are not central to the business purpose, especially those that relate to morality, legal compliance and social values.

Business is essentially amoral – morality and legality are constraints imposed on it by a society that it of necessity must operate within, and the dynamic balance of these forces is the essence of capitalism in a free society. Organised crime is simply a business that elects to ignore these constraints.

That is not to say that entrepreneurs, business managers and directors of companies are amoral, or lack a moral compass, but that the very nature of business is without malice or pity, and the moral individual must operate within that context. All too often the individual moral conscience becomes subordinate to, or is crushed by the demands of the organisation.

When businesses are small, and a sole proprietor or family dominates, the business activities can and usually will reflect their personal ethics and morality, and concepts of equity and justice can prevail. In rare cases, that ethical basis can survive the growth of the company if the values of the founder or founders – or indeed the founders themselves – are still present, and some great British companies managed to preserve such an ethos until comparatively recent times. Altruism has existed and does exist in business, but it often has a hard time …

HOW BUSINESS PROTECTS ITSELF

Entrepreneurs protected themselves against the first risk - destroying entirely their own security and economic viability in commercial ventures – by getting the concept of the limited company on to the statute books. The company or corporation became a legal person, distinct from its owners and directors, with almost all of the legal protections an individual person has under law, and a limit set to its liabilities – the limited liability corporation.

Without that legal protection, there can be little doubt that we would not have had the industrialised world that we know today. An entrepreneur could set up a venture and take risks, supported by investors in the company - the shareholders and venture capitalists – and fail occasionally without destroying his or her own capital and financial security, going into personal bankruptcy and losing everything. Legal safeguards were set up to prevent abuse of this immunity by entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs protected themselves against the second risk - being deflected by external consequences that were not central to the business purpose, especially those that relate to morality, legal compliance and social values, and not being allowed to focus on the central purpose of the venture – by insisting that it was the job of government and society to impose morality and social values upon them by legislation and regulation. This was the first externalisation, releasing the organisation from the need to establish its own morality and values and leaving them free, within the regulatory constraints, to pursue their business objectives. Thus was the balance to be maintained between the legal protection of the limited liability company and the needs of the society it operated within.

The company, in essence, could be amoral but have its morality imposed by society and be constrained within limits acceptable to that society.

But this ideal rested on an assumption that proved naive and false from the very start, namely that the limited liability company would not be able to influence the legislative constraints that they operated within. In fact, from the earliest days, companies have sought to influence, and in an increasing number of instances, subvert the very legislative process that was meant to constrain them.

The most spectacular example of this has been the insidious, relentless and inexorable growth of the military/industrial complex, a threat defined and named by President Eisenhower in 1961.
This has proved to be a cancerous growth that has perverted our values, our politicians, our democracy and our world.

THE IMPACT OF EXTERNALISATION ON THE UNITED KINGDOM

The results of externalisation in America have been evident for well over a century – explosive industrial and commercial expansion delivering enormous wealth and prosperity to some and utter misery, poverty, sickness and death to others. Initially, the exploited were the immigrant population and the ill-educated lower classes, but then, faced with the growth of organised labour and labour protection legislation at home, exploitation tended to shift to America’s colonies (which of course it always denies having) in Latin America, in its offshore islands, and in many other parts of the world. In this, they were simply following the brutally exploitative model of British imperialism, whilst coyly rejecting the idea of an American empire.

(The continuing American hatred of Castro’s Cuba stems, not only from  real ideological or strategic beliefs, but also significantly from the burning resentment of American big business and American organised crime at losing a population that could be exploited with minimal risk and effort.)

But closer to home, the events leading up to the financial meltdown that followed the near-collapse of Northern Rock had already signalled that all was not well with our notional democracy, and the regulation of big business.

Maggie Thatcher began the process in the 1980s that involved widespread deregulation, externalisation and outsourcing of business, and we entered the era of the short-time temporary contract, of cleaning contractors who didn’t clean - killing hospital patients while their directors grew fat on the proceeds - of railways where the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing and trains crashed with alarming regularity, of an exploding housing market where essential workers couldn’t afford to live within commuting distance of their place of work, of the destruction of entire mining communities – the list goes on.

Industry, notable the financial sector, were allowed to lobby, bribe and bully the Westminster government and our elected representatives, and to negate or at least emasculate the regulatory authorities designed to keep each industry in check. A government and the regulators turned a blind eye while the banks and the financial industry gambled with the security and the lives and hope of millions of ordinary citizens. The concentration of power – by acquisition – in the newspaper industry and the media also led to distortion of objective journalistic values and to the impotence of government in the face new Citizen Kane’s in their Xanadus.

Revolving doors carried senior civil servants into top jobs in the industries they had been so recently responsible for controlling. Regulatory bodies were – and are - packed with industry representatives, neutering attempts to limit the worst excesses. Our own elected representative were either lobbying themselves or acting as pimps for the professional lobbyists. And of course they were also ripping off the taxpayer by inflating their expenses or actively falsifying them.

A new generation of politicians, drawn at a much younger age from the offices of the party machines and from PR companies, or straight from university, saw politics as a career and a route to enrichment rather than a calling.

They knew nothing, had done nothing, had achieved nothing  and were, figuratively speaking, nubile adolescents eagerly awaiting their imminent ravishment and reward by the hard-eyed men and women of big business.

And so we come to Scotland, and to the great city of Glasgow

EXTERNALISATION’S IMPACT ON SCOTLAND

Scotland, a little nation of over five million people at the northern end of Europe, had nonetheless punched well above its weight for centuries, in culture, in learning, in innovation and invention and had made a crucial contribution to the industrial revolution. It was no stranger to the huge forces of industrial and commercial change that swept across the globe: it had experienced the cruel impact of the shift from the land to the city, from an agrarian society to a mechanised one, and its people had felt the iron hand of capitalism.

The abandonment of personal responsibility by their leaders, in very early forms of externalisation – an externalisation of responsibility and values - driven as always by rampant greed, from the Highland clearances to the dispossession of the lowland cottars had brought misery to hundreds of thousands, and the great workshops of Empire in the ancient city of Glasgow exacted a terrible price from the ordinary people, producing amongst other evils disease, death and malnutrition in the worst slums in Europe.

The clan chiefs unforgivably broke the bonds of faith, blood and absolute trust to enrich themselves (with a few honourable exceptions) and most of them reap the benefits of their ill-gotten gains to this day. The lowland landowners were little better, and both highland and lowlands leaders were prepared to ruthlessly suppress any attempts by the people they were exploiting and oppressing to obtain justice.

(The ‘Big Factor’, John Campbell, Chamberlain of the Duke of Argyll’s estates in Mull and Tiree, was so hated by his former tenants that emigrant communities in America and Canada celebrated his death (1872) in ‘uninhibited style’ with singing, bonfires and drinking.)

We must never forget that this, in the main, was done by Scots to Scots. There are those who are still doing it to this day, and their betrayal is all the greater because they know their history. They still see their noblest prospect as the high road to England, specifically Westminster, and once there, Scotland becomes almost an embarrassing memory.

In our own time, Scotland was devastated by Maggie Thatcher’s destruction of large parts of our industrial heritage. Her cynical and ill-judged attempt to pilot the hated poll tax in Scotland cost her party dear, and ultimately brought her down as Prime Minister. The Tory Party has been a negligible force in Scotland since that time.

But of course Scotland had been, for over half a century, a Labour fiefdom, nowhere more powerful than in Glasgow, one that was propped up by the ineffectual Scottish Liberal Democrats, whose utter betrayal of the ideals and principles of liberalism continues under Tavish Scott, in the name of unionism.

The  revelations followed Steven Purcell’s tragic collapse and resignation show something deeply suspect in the heart of the administration of Gleschu - the dear green place - by the Labour-dominated City Council.

ALEOs and Glasgow City Council

The responsibilities of Glasgow City Council are as extensive and complex as one would expect from the requirements of governance of one of the major cities of the United Kingdom, a city of 620,000 souls. The governance of this great city is entrusted by its electorate to elected councillors, and they represent the democratic will and control of the people of Glasgow over how their city is run.

Ideally, those running for office would see the role of councillor as a vocation, not as a career ladders nor as a route to personal wealth. Power would be sought unselfishly to serve the people.

But life – and politicians – ain’t always like that …

An elected councillor can expect to earn a minimum of £16,234 per annum, and has pension rights in addition to this. This is about two thirds of the average wage and in itself is unlikely to attract an ambitious and able person who is not driven by an altruistic wish to serve his or her fellow citizens, and is even less likely to persuade someone to give up a higher rate of remuneration to seek election.

However, anyone who was driven by money and career considerations would already be highly aware that the potential earnings are very much higher. The great British public were duly shocked when the Telegraph exposed the true level of earnings of honourable and right honourable members of Parliament, made up of expenses, expenses fiddles and extra-curricular activities of various kinds, including directorships, consulting, and other nice little earners too numerous to name.

The Glasgow electorate – not easily shockable after generations of corrupt administration – might just be beginning to see what is going on by the light that the Herald (belatedly, but God bless them for doing it now!) has been mercilessly shining into the earnings activities of their councillors.

And they may be coming to grips with the acronym that represents a nice little earner – the ALEO, or Arms Length External Organisation, which should really be ALEGO, Arms Length Governance External Organisation. I suppose ALEGO was too close to A LEG OVER, with its related concept of screwing the electorate. Or is it related to that old Glasgow chant about the Eely Aleo?

So what are the ALEOs? They are external organisations set up by Glasgow City Council to run departments and functions and deliver services to the people of Glasgow that were formerly run by Glasgow City Council. They are given a considerable degree of freedom of decision and action, but have at least one board member who is also a councillor, to ensure that they remember to whom they are ultimately accountable – the people of Glasgow.

Here’s what Glasgow City Council says about the principles of governance in a paper relating to ALEOs by its External Governance Committee on 26th May 2009.

EXTRACT

1.1

Governance has been defined as the means by which an organisation ensures that the level of direction and management of the affairs of the organisation are satisfactory, aligns corporate behaviour with the expectations of  the public and maintains accountability. The process of governance therefore involves the clear identification of responsibilities, accountabilities and adequate systems of supervision, control and communication. Fundamentally, governance is about how the organisation ensures that it is doing the right things, in the right way, for the right people, in a timely, inclusive, open, honest and accountable manner.  

1.2

The Council has statutory responsibility for the delivery of a range of services and it meets
this through its operating structures and its governance arrangements.

END OF EXTRACT

ALEOs are therefore a manifestation of externalisation – outsourcing – and of shuffling off the inconvenient need to run departments, deal with real people and with trades unions - in other words, of reducing, if not avoiding real responsibility for doing what Glasgow City Council is elected to do. A fig-leaf of residual control and accountability is provided by the external director or directors appointed from the ranks of councillors – and perhaps friends of the Labour Party.

It goes without saying that the above is not the rationale used by Glasgow City Council to justify the helter-skelter multiplication of ALEOs.

It was, of course, no part of justification for the setting up of the ALEOs to provide a nice little earner for councillors or others, nor to regard the ability of the new external directors, in the City Council’s own words (from the extract above) to

… ensure that the level of direction and management of the affairs of the organisation are satisfactory

… align corporate behaviour with the expectations of  the public and maintains accountability

(provide) … clear identification of responsibilities, accountabilities and adequate systems of supervision, control and communication

… ensure that it (the ALEO) is doing the right things, in the right way, for the right people, in a timely, inclusive, open, honest and accountable manner

as rather likely to be compromised by their need to protect a healthy supplement to their council salaries and to stay on the right side of their new board members. The eternal question cui bono? always has a familiar answer in Glasgow – Who dae ye think, Jimmy?

The potential of corruption in government is ever-present, and it is not McCarthyite to say that the facts revealed by the Herald give grounds for grave disquiet.

Whit’s goin’ on Jimmy, eh? There’s somethin’ no’ right here, ah can smell it fae here …

Friday, 10 February 2012

A message to Glasgow Labour councillors – don’t be part of the death of Labour – be part of the future of Scotland

The Glasgow Labour ship is aground, holed below the waterline, but may float until May.

To Labour councillors - I have this to say - you can't avoid risk either way, so make the smart bet - move to the SNP. You'll be welcomed, and your constituents will understand - but only if you do it now, and spend the next ten weeks or so explaining and convincing them. If you truly believe in Glasgow, you MUST do it - and you can.

Don't be part of the collapse of Glasgow Labour - be part of the future of Scotland!


Glasgow City Labour – three wheels on their wagon – excited squeals from Gordon Matheson



Municipal politics often present an ugly, sordid spectacle, one that is mercilessly depicted in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs feature. Few present one as sordid as Glasgow City Council, which over decades has honed the traditional script elements of cronyism, petty nepotism, influence-peddling, individual venality and payoffs allied to huge profits to the external vultures -the beneficiaries of contract placements, insider information and land deals. And of course, bullying and intimidation, both within the hallowed precincts of the City Chambers, and among the deprived communities that suffer under such a regime when they make their brave individual protests.

We only have to remember the victims of the Dalmarnock Commonwealth Games development and regeneration project – were ever two words so misused? – the families made homeless, the small businesses wiped out, the disabled children and their families callously deprived of their Accord Centre.

When their voices were raised, the full force of the law, plus police (80 of them plus 15 riot vans) and masked council workers with sledgehammers was deployed against them, in one of the most shameful episodes in municipal history. The “rich got rich and the poor got poorer”, but the property developers, the lawyers and the councillors? “Ain’t we got fun?”

But a rotten wagon travelling on rough terrain begins to rock: people fall off – or get pushed – the axles give out and the wheels begin to come off. Yesterday in the council chamber we saw unprecedented scenes, or at least got the flavour of them. Glasgow City Council’s Labour hegemony came perilously close to the edge of the ravine.

But Labour ‘won’ the vote – 40-38 – and a flushed and excitedly squealing Gordon Matheson  bounced out of the chamber in a state of euphoria, emitting breathless gasps about passionate ideals and values, labouring under the delusion that he had won a victory rather than narrowly averted a humiliating defeat – a Pyrrhic little victory that presages an inevitable end in May.

I said a bit last year (see blogs below) about the implications of corruption in local government and the GCC Labour policy of clearing ‘deadwood’ from the rotten Labour tree, a futile exercise, since the great axe of the democratic voice of the electors of Glasgow is going to bring it down in the May elections.

And when the light shines on the fallen trunk, some strange thing will be seen scurrying away into the undergrowth.



BLOG EXTRACTS – 2011

Blog - Friday, 16 September 2011

What happens when the wheels come off the Glasgow Labour machine?

Back in May of this year, I asked the following question -

What happens when any political machine loses power at the local level anywhere in the United Kingdom, indeed in any city in the democratic world?

The City of Glasgow, my native city, was not far from my mind when I asked the question. (see blog extract below). I was thinking ahead to the local elections of 2012. The wheels have begun to come off the Glasgow Labour machine even earlier than I thought they would.

First we had The Scotsman on 13th September, with the headline Labour split over plan to ‘devolve’ the party with a sub-header of Angry backlash as Westminster accuse Murphy and Boyack of ‘selling out’ to the Nationalists. (That could as well have been worded as UK nationalists accuse Murphy and Boyack of ‘selling out’ to the Scottish Nationalists.)

Then on the 15th of September, The Herald carried the headline Labour faces backlash over shake-up of councillors.

(Among those being ‘cleared-out’ are former City Treasurer James McNally and former licensing chief Stephen Dornan.)

Their attempts to clear out what they see as deadwood councillors has understandably not been received well by the dead wood. I’m a dog man myself – I have two Westies, Angus and Dougal – and I was interested to see that the Deadwood Clearer-in-Chief, aka Brodie the Beagle Jamie Mallan, also seems to be a dog man, at least according to The Herald.

The idea that some elected officials in Glasgow City Council are deadwood seems to be either an affront to democracy, or a recognition of what some have always alleged, that the Glasgow voters would vote for the equivalent of the Hartlepool Monkey if it ran on a Labour ticket. Hartlepool notoriously hanged the monkey, but so far Glasgow Labour have not proposed such a draconian penalty. However, I conceive of other possibilities. In my blog (below) of May 2011, I identified the possible categories that could exist within a rotten borough, which of course, post-Purcell, Glasgow may not be …

Within the central structure of a rotten borough there are three groups -

honest employees and politicians

dishonest employees and politicians who are up to their necks in the corrupt practices

those who are all too aware of what has been going on, but who have not participated in, or profited by it, but who have remained silent rather than blow the whistle.

Now, assuming that those conducting a clearout of alleged deadwood – such as that being carried out in Glasgow - had insider knowledge of which group each councillor was in, and assuming that the possibility exists, however remote, that they were not all as honest, public-spirited and dedicated to those who elected them as I hope all Glasgow City Councillors are, the $64,000 question is then – which group would they target?

Logically, it would be the dishonest ones, but for that to be true, those conducting the clearout evaluations would have to belong to the third group, those who were aware of what was going on, but had not blown the whistle. Since by definition, apparent incompetence and corruption go hand-in-hand, the reason for clearout can then safely be advanced as incompetence.

However, if those conducting a clearout in this imaginary rotten borough (there is no current evidence that GCC is a rotten borough, at least since Purcell) were in fact complicit in dodgy goings-on, the logical strategy would be to clear out the honest politicians who were not aware of what was going on, but not those who knew, but didn’t participate, since this might induce them to blow the whistle belatedly.

I fervently hope that Glasgow is not, and even allowing for Purcell, never has been a rotten borough, but in a city council and administration of the size and complexity of Glasgow, with all the temptations inevitably involved in the placing of lucrative contracts, the granting or withholding of planning permission and licenses, the insider knowledge of large-scale development projects such as the Glasgow East Regeneration and the Commonwealth Games projects, it would be nothing short of miraculous if no elected official or salaried employee had ever yielded to such temptations.

In their position, I would be as angry and apprehensive as the group of Glasgow councillors who have been categorised as ‘deadwood’ clearly are under these circumstances, because of the inevitable potential damage to their reputations and because not only their competence is being impugned, but a dark cloud of suspicion will inevitably accompany them if they go quietly. In their place, I certainly wouldn’t …

Colin Smyth, Labour’s Scottish General Secretary, has a job and a half on his hands. Perhaps Tom Harris, MP can help.

MORIDURA BLOG 26th MAY 2011

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN ENTRENCHED REGIME LOOKS LIKE LOSING POLITICAL POWER?

Let’s look away from Glasgow for a moment, and consider what happens when any political machine loses power at the local level anywhere in the United Kingdom, indeed in any city in the democratic world.

I will use the term used by Private Eye, that indispensable publication that covers the ground that mainstream media are either too lazy, too complacent or too scared to address - rotten boroughs. Private Eye regularly publishes the sordid details of such rotten boroughs across the UK, where blatant corruption, the self-interest and the personal profit of councillors reign supreme over any concern for the people who have the misfortune to be dependent on them.

The mechanics of such corruption of local democracy across the UK are always the same - the award of contracts in disregard of best practice, failure to declare interest by councillors, nepotism, insider knowledge of land development, so-called consultancy and training contracts, lucrative sinecures for councillors on quasi-independent bodies, revolving door appointments to organisations that have benefited from council largesse. The necessary links with external organisations created by the giant budgets controlled by councils creates a potential for influence that should work for the good of the people, but all to often operates against their interests.

But like all political power, when the continuity of the hegemony is threatened, those external organisations whose relationship with the political power brokers  has been less than transparent begin to get jittery, and a process of disengagement begins that is deeply worrying to the politicians involved.

And within the central structure there are three groups - honest employees and politicians, dishonest employees and politicians who are up to their necks in the corrupt practices, and a crucial third group, those who are all too aware of what has been going on, have not participated in, or profited by it, but who have remained silent rather than blow the whistle.

It is this group who begin to break their silence when the power structure begins to look shaky, anxious not to be caught up in a scandal that they have never profited from. Once those first cracks appear, the honest group, often comprising senior professionals, becomes uneasily aware of what has been going on under their noses, and begins to probe the weakest parts of the edifice of corruption.

Soon thereafter, panic sets in among the truly corrupt. Having no allegiance to any person or principle other than that of expedient self-interest, they begin to try to distance themselves from what may be coming their way. At that point, the dam begins to burst- auditing bodies, professional organisations, the police, national government and the media acquire a sudden interest.

SUMMARY

I make the above points as general observations about corrupt organisations. Glasgow City Council may be entirely free of corruption, especially since the end of the Purcell era, which may itself just have been the personal failings and the personal tragedy of one man. If this is so, then in the Dalmarnock case, they have been simply deeply misguided in the way they pursued otherwise laudable objectives in relation to the regeneration of the East End of Glasgow and the huge opportunity presented by the Commonwealth Games,  displaying professional callousness and a total lack of empathy towards an entire community of ordinary working people, and a highly selective view of the law as it relates to compulsory purchase and the acquisition of land for development purposes.


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Dalmarnock property deals - the polis - and some links to remind you of what was done in the name of The Commonwealth Games by GCC

If you think it’s over, Glasgow Labour City Council – think again …

http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/4019-glasgow-council-facing-police-probe-over-commonwealth-games-property-deals#comment-106368

http://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/scotsol/homepage/news/4037068/Cops-probe-Commonwealth-Games-deals.html

http://www.heraldscotland.com/owner-of-2014-games-village-site-could-have-made-more-1.874567

MORIDURA BLOG LINKS

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/tale-of-two-newspapers-herald-and.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/great-bulwarks-against-corruption-in.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/margaret-jaconelli-fair-compensation-or.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/glasgow-city-council-and-glasgow-press.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/snp-must-act-now-on-margaret-jaconelli.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/margaret-jaconelli-and-glasgow-city.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/unhappy-tweeting-time-margaret.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2010/11/margaret-jaconelli-caseanother-crichel.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2010/11/margaret-jaconelli-case-injustice-in.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2010/10/donald-trump-glesca-granny-and-scope.html

Friday, 16 September 2011

What happens when the wheels come off the Glasgow Labour machine?

Back in May of this year, I asked the following question -

What happens when any political machine loses power at the local level anywhere in the United Kingdom, indeed in any city in the democratic world?

The City of Glasgow, my native city, was not far from my mind when I asked the question. (see blog extract below). I was thinking ahead to the local elections of 2012. The wheels have begun to come off the Glasgow Labour machine even earlier than I thought they would.

First we had The Scotsman on 13th September, with the headline Labour split over plan to ‘devolve’ the party with a sub-header of Angry backlash as Westminster accuse Murphy and Boyack of ‘selling out’ to the Nationalists. (That could as well have been worded as UK nationalists accuse Murphy and Boyack of ‘selling out’ to the Scottish Nationalists.)

Then on the 15th of September, The Herald carried the headline Labour faces backlash over shake-up of councillors.

(Among those being ‘cleared-out’ are former City Treasurer James McNally and former licensing chief Stephen Dornan.)

Their attempts to clear out what they see as deadwood councillors has understandably not been received well by the dead wood. I’m a dog man myself – I have two Westies, Angus and Dougal – and I was interested to see that the Deadwood Clearer-in-Chief, aka Brodie the Beagle Jamie Mallan, also seems to be a dog man, at least according to The Herald.

The idea that some elected officials in Glasgow City Council are deadwood seems to be either an affront to democracy, or a recognition of what some have always alleged, that the Glasgow voters would vote for the equivalent of the Hartlepool Monkey if it ran on a Labour ticket. Hartlepool notoriously hanged the monkey, but so far Glasgow Labour have not proposed such a draconian penalty. However, I conceive of other possibilities. In my blog (below) of May 2011, I identified the possible categories that could exist within a rotten borough, which of course, post-Purcell, Glasgow may not be …

Within the central structure of a rotten borough there are three groups -

honest employees and politicians

dishonest employees and politicians who are up to their necks in the corrupt practices

those who are all too aware of what has been going on, but who have not participated in, or profited by it, but who have remained silent rather than blow the whistle.

Now, assuming that those conducting a clearout of alleged deadwood – such as that being carried out in Glasgow - had insider knowledge of which group each councillor was in, and assuming that the possibility exists, however remote, that they were not all as honest, public-spirited and dedicated to those who elected them as I hope all Glasgow City Councillors are, the $64,000 question is then – which group would they target?

Logically, it would be the dishonest ones, but for that to be true, those conducting the clearout evaluations would have to belong to the third group, those who were aware of what was going on, but had not blown the whistle. Since by definition, apparent incompetence and corruption go hand-in-hand, the reason for clearout can then safely be advanced as incompetence.

However, if those conducting a clearout in this imaginary rotten borough (there is no current evidence that GCC is a rotten borough, at least since Purcell) were in fact complicit in dodgy goings-on, the logical strategy would be to clear out the honest politicians who were not aware of what was going on, but not those who knew, but didn’t participate, since this might induce them to blow the whistle belatedly.

I fervently hope that Glasgow is not, and even allowing for Purcell, never has been a rotten borough, but in a city council and administration of the size and complexity of Glasgow, with all the temptations inevitably involved in the placing of lucrative contracts, the granting or withholding of planning permission and licenses, the insider knowledge of large-scale development projects such as the Glasgow East Regeneration and the Commonwealth Games projects, it would be nothing short of miraculous if no elected official or salaried employee had ever yielded to such temptations.

In their position, I would be as angry and apprehensive as the group of Glasgow councillors who have been categorised as ‘deadwood’ clearly are under these circumstances, because of the inevitable potential damage to their reputations and because not only their competence is being impugned, but a dark cloud of suspicion will inevitably accompany them if they go quietly. In their place, I certainly wouldn’t …

Colin Smyth, Labour’s Scottish General Secretary, has a job and a half on his hands. Perhaps Tom Harris, MP can help.

MORIDURA BLOG 26th MAY 2011

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN ENTRENCHED REGIME LOOKS LIKE LOSING POLITICAL POWER?

Let’s look away from Glasgow for a moment, and consider what happens when any political machine loses power at the local level anywhere in the United Kingdom, indeed in any city in the democratic world.

I will use the term used by Private Eye, that indispensable publication that covers the ground that mainstream media are either too lazy, too complacent or too scared to address - rotten boroughs. Private Eye regularly publishes the sordid details of such rotten boroughs across the UK, where blatant corruption, the self-interest and the personal profit of councillors reign supreme over any concern for the people who have the misfortune to be dependent on them.

The mechanics of such corruption of local democracy across the UK are always the same - the award of contracts in disregard of best practice, failure to declare interest by councillors, nepotism, insider knowledge of land development, so-called consultancy and training contracts, lucrative sinecures for councillors on quasi-independent bodies, revolving door appointments to organisations that have benefited from council largesse. The necessary links with external organisations created by the giant budgets controlled by councils creates a potential for influence that should work for the good of the people, but all to often operates against their interests.

But like all political power, when the continuity of the hegemony is threatened, those external organisations whose relationship with the political power brokers  has been less than transparent begin to get jittery, and a process of disengagement begins that is deeply worrying to the politicians involved.

And within the central structure there are three groups - honest employees and politicians, dishonest employees and politicians who are up to their necks in the corrupt practices, and a crucial third group, those who are all too aware of what has been going on, have not participated in, or profited by it, but who have remained silent rather than blow the whistle.

It is this group who begin to break their silence when the power structure begins to look shaky, anxious not to be caught up in a scandal that they have never profited from. Once those first cracks appear, the honest group, often comprising senior professionals, becomes uneasily aware of what has been going on under their noses, and begins to probe the weakest parts of the edifice of corruption.

Soon thereafter, panic sets in among the truly corrupt. Having no allegiance to any person or principle other than that of expedient self-interest, they begin to try to distance themselves from what may be coming their way. At that point, the dam begins to burst- auditing bodies, professional organisations, the police, national government and the media acquire a sudden interest.

SUMMARY

I make the above points as general observations about corrupt organisations. Glasgow City Council may be entirely free of corruption, especially since the end of the Purcell era, which may itself just have been the personal failings and the personal tragedy of one man. If this is so, then in the Dalmarnock case, they have been simply deeply misguided in the way they pursued otherwise laudable objectives in relation to the regeneration of the East End of Glasgow and the huge opportunity presented by the Commonwealth Games,  displaying professional callousness and a total lack of empathy towards an entire community of ordinary working people, and a highly selective view of the law as it relates to compulsory purchase and the acquisition of land for development purposes.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Latest Brad Pitt blockbuster–“Last Tram to Hell”

If you were a zombie extra in Glasgow recently, and are wondering where your career will take you next, look east, and shamble off to Edinburgh, where the new Brad Pitt movie blockbuster is scheduled to start soon.

Last Tram to Hellthe story of a great city destroyed by tramcars.

The only qualification for a zombie extra is allegiance to either the Labour, LibDem or Tory clans. Anyone supporting the SNP clan will be disqualified, since they have opposed the project since its inception. Glasgow zombies who support Glasgow City Council will be regarded as automatically qualified because of their previous zombie extra experience.



Brian Adcock - "I see the Glasgow Labour vote is turning out" Labour zombies


Thursday, 28 July 2011

Legacy? - What Legacy? - The Commonwealth Games

Newsnight Scotland’s first half last night was devoted to the question of what lasting benefit, if any, will result from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. It started well, asked the right questions of the right people, including Dr. Libby Porter of Glasgow University, who as far as I know is Scotland’s only expert on international urban regeneration projects, and John Beattie, former rugby internationalist and now a broadcaster.

Both made highly relevant contributions: both questioned if there was any real legacy of such events. Dr. Porter asked what should be the central questions in this debate - who benefits by such projects, and the one that is never asked - who suffers because of them? The answer is clear - property developers, athletes and politicians benefit, and the local people - the beating heart of the area being ‘developed’ - suffer, and are, on occasion, destroyed economically and emotionally by the development juggernaut.

This first part of the Newsnight item occupied one third of the total time budget - the remaining two thirds were devoted to a talking heads studio discussion of mind-bending banality and irrelevancy between Gordon Brewer and Doug Gillen, a sports journalist, and Professor Joe Goldblatt of Queen Margaret University.



Newsnight Scotland had the choice, of course, of including real people, ordinary Scots whose lives had been turned upside down by Glasgow City Council and the Commonwealth Games developers - the Dalmarnock families and small businesses, who have been forced out of their homes and have received no compensation whatsoever because they had the temerity to challenge the derisory sums offered to them, while already rich property developers were having millions thrown at them by GCC - or the mothers of the disabled children who are wholly dependent on The Accord Centre, which is being taken away from them, with no satisfactory replacement.

But such an injection of real life and real people into the debate would have been emotional, untidy and difficult to manage, whereas a couple a talking heads, however, irrelevant to the debate, was the infinitely easier option, the default choice of lazy journalists and lazy producers everywhere.

Alternatively, Newsnight Scotland could have given Libby Porter a place on the panel, or even the total slot, because she has lived and breathed the Dalmarnock experience, got involved with the real, vulnerable human beings who are obscured by the glib PR of politicians and Glasgow Council, and their ever-compliant companions, the Scottish Press. Libby, an Australian, didn’t just theorise in the groves of academe, she was there on the streets, and behind the barricades, sharing the pain when the full force of the Glasgow City Council, the law and the Glasgow Police were thrown against one of the families, the Jaconellis.

The Sun's horrifying eviction report and video

I look forward to the New Scotland after independence, but some of its people and its institutions are going to have to take a long, hard look at themselves if they are to be a part of it. The people of Dalmarnock have been betrayed by their media, their press and above all, by the professional classes of Scotland, with a tiny number of glowing exceptions.

The Human cost of the commonwealth Games

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The NUJ, the Herald and the freedom of the Press

The Herald carried a letter yesterday from Paul Holleran, NUJ Organiser calling for the press to hold the Trump organisation to account, a call one might have thought redundant, since the press and media have never let up on Trump since he first appeared on the Aberdeen scene.

Trump, in fact, is a popular target for the  press for the following reasons - he is a loud American with a bad hairdo, some risible political opinions, and not the most diplomatic of men. But more significantly, his project on the Menie Estate is a safe distance from the central belt of Scotland, where most of the media is centred, it is in Alex Salmond’s heartland, and because of the history of the project, it can usefully be laid at the First Minister’s doorstep.

But the press and media, with the honourable exception of the Scottish Sun, have carefully either avoided, underreported or misreported and misrepresented a much more egregious scandal involving a large property development in the central belt - the Glasgow East regeneration/Commonwealth Games project, especially as it affects Dalmarnock and its people.

The reasons for this neglect are fairly obvious - there is no single convenient foreign villain, there is little that can be presented sentimentally about rolling sand dunes and ecology, and most importantly, the ‘villain’  is the powerful monolith of Glasgow City Council, a Labour hegemony that up until May 2010 had intimate links with the UK Government, and still has links with a powerful Labour opposition party. The ordinary people of Dalmarnock can safely be sneered at, jeered at and ignored by the complacent Glasgow professional classes - a much safer option than offending the powerful.

This ‘villain’ can call on the Glasgow Police, the full resources of a council workforce and the draconian power of the law when necessary - and they have used all three to crush the hopes of the Dalmarnock families and businesses.

And it exercises powerful patronage through its political and commercial networks. GCC can make you rich; it has made many speculative property developers rich - or richer than they already were - through the settlements it reached with them over land purchase deals, all perfectly legal and a matter of public record, for those who take the trouble to look.

As far as my recollection serves me, the Herald has never published a letter of mine on the Jaconelli case - and I have sent many. I sent another yesterday (text below) - it has not appeared today.

The Herald, however, has no problem in using the services of Gerry Braiden today to attack the First Minister for supporting the Save the Accord campaign, a Dalmarnock disabled centre threatened with closure by GCC, obliquely accusing him of bowing to political pressure, and ‘kowtowing’ to the Save the Accord campaign. Of course, nothing the Labour-controlled GCC do is ever remotely political in the eyes of the Herald, and they fight only with the “sword of truth and trusty shield of fair play”.

A Google search, or Herald site search will give anyone interested a fair idea of how Gerry Braiden reported the Jaconelli case. It would be fair to say that neither he nor the Herald have been enthusiastic advocates of the cause of the Dalmarnock families and businesses, but have always managed to faithfully reflect the position of Glasgow City Council.

Glasgow councillors up the Eely-ALEO!

UNPUBLISHED LETTER TO The Herald - 14th June 2011

Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish Organiser (Letters 14th June) calls for a 'healthy, functioning Scottish press' to hold powerful people to account over the behaviour of the Trump organisation in Aberdeen. I agree wholeheartedly.
  But where was the Scottish press when ordinary families and small businesses were being forced out of their homes and livelihoods in Dalmarnock by Glasgow City Council to make way for the Athletes' Village for the Commonwealth Games. Where were they when the Jaconelli family were faced by 80 police, 20 riot vans and masked council workers with sledgehammers as they mounted a last, defiant protest against eight years of derisory offers and legal intimidation. The answer is that they initially gave inadequate and often wildly inaccurate coverage, virtually a slanted re-hash of GCC leaks and press releases, and only at the final brutal end of the siege of Ardenlea Street to behaviour that would have disgraced a totalitarian regime in other parts of the world.
  One newspaper, the Scottish Sun, actually engaged with the story, with the facts, and with Margaret Jaconelli and the other families, and actually had a journalist inside the house as the combined forces of municipal power broke into the last refuge of a hard-working Glasgow grandmother and her terrified family and friends.

  Unlike the Trump homeowners, none of these Dalmarnock owner-occupiers were refusing to sell their homes or businesses - they simply wanted to negotiate a fair price for having their lives uprooted. But they were denied this and subjected to arbitrary and unrealistic valuations under compulsory purchase legislation, and because they refused to be intimidated into accepting grossly inadequate settlements, are now homeless and virtually penniless, all that they had worked for destroyed in the name of progress. All of this happened in parallel with speculative property developers being allowed to negotiate and reap astronomical profits, in some cases for doing little more than opportunistically acquiring vacant lots and re-selling them for profits that reached into millions of pounds for modest investments of a few hundreds of thousands of pounds.
  It's not too late, Paul Holleran, for the Scottish Press to start holding powerful people to account, and they can start in the City of Glasgow, where the HQ of the NUJ is situated, with a much bigger story than the Trump story, and a much more egregious injustice to get their journalistic teeth into. Or are there some people who are just too powerful to be held to account? Is it just easier to go for a cardboard villain from another country with a bad hairdo?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The human cost of the Commonwealth Games - the destruction of Dalmarnock’s people by Glasgow City Labour Council

The election has been decisively won - the people of Scotland have spoken, dismissing the Tories and the LibDems as irrelevant to their lives, and dealing what I hope is a death blow to the long dominance of the Labour Party in Scotland.

Scottish Labour is in utter disarray, and is frantically attempting to place the blame for the end of their hegemony on any scapegoats they can find, and sedulously avoiding the real reasons for the decline in their fortunes that began with the SNP’s election victory in 2007. They are a party in denial, and this denial is being consolidated by their defenders in the media, some openly partisan and other trying to pretend that they are objective political commentators engaged in a dispassionate analysis of what went wrong, and how the party may reinvent itself and present a new face to the electorate.

At the heart of Scottish Labour’s problem is the city of Glasgow and Glasgow City Council,  a Labour fiefdom for decades that encapsulates all that is rotten about Labour at most fundamental level of government - self-serving machine politics that have been inimical to well-being of the people of Glasgow for two generations.

And now a spectre looms, that of next years local elections, when they face the prospect of losing control of Glasgow and much of their traditional heartland besides. 

There are many reasons why Scottish Labour supporters at last realised just what they have been voting for all these years, and shifted allegiance dramatically to the SNP, but one example epitomises the uncaring cynicism with which they treated their loyal supporters - the brutal and unfeeling clearance of the Dalmarnock area of Glasgow for private development and for the Commonwealth Games.

The Jaconelli Case, appalling enough in itself, was simply the most visible example of what was done to many families and small businesses in this travesty of justice. Margaret and Jack Jaconelli have repeatedly stated this fact to anyone who would listen - that they were not alone in this injustice, but simply one family who had been thrown into the media spotlight by the juggernaut of municipal and legal brutality rolling over them. Not one of them to my knowledge has received a penny in compensation or any interim payment. For most, this has been going on for eight years or more.

If anyone who followed the case has forgotten just how the City of Glasgow and the Glasgow Labour Party brutalised its own people, click the link below and watch the Scottish Sun video from inside 10 Ardenlea Street on that awful morning. For anyone unaware of the final denouement of the story, this is a must-view.

The Scottish Sun's horrifying video of the eviction - inside the house

(I have appended some of video clips and blog comments at the end of today’s piece.)

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN ENTRENCHED REGIME LOOKS LIKE LOSING POLITICAL POWER?

Let’s look away from Glasgow for a moment, and consider what happens when any political machine loses power at the local level anywhere in the United Kingdom, indeed in any city in the democratic world.

I will use the term used by Private Eye, that indispensable publication that covers the ground that mainstream media are either too lazy, too complacent or too scared to address - rotten boroughs. Private Eye regularly publishes the sordid details of such rotten boroughs across the UK, where blatant corruption, the self-interest and the personal profit of councillors reign supreme over any concern for the people who have the misfortune to be dependent on them.

The mechanics of such corruption of local democracy across the UK are always the same - the award of contracts in disregard of best practice, failure to declare interest by councillors, nepotism, insider knowledge of land development, so-called consultancy and training contracts, lucrative sinecures for councillors on quasi-independent bodies, revolving door appointments to organisations that have benefited from council largesse. The necessary links with external organisations created by the giant budgets controlled by councils creates a potential for influence that should work for the good of the people, but all to often operates against their interests.

But like all political power, when the continuity of the hegemony is threatened, those external organisations whose relationship with the political power brokers  has been less than transparent begin to get jittery, and a process of disengagement begins that is deeply worrying to the politicians involved.

And within the central structure there are three groups - honest employees and politicians, dishonest employees and politicians who are up to their necks in the corrupt practices, and a crucial third group, those who are all too aware of what has been going on, have not participated in, or profited by it, but who have remained silent rather than blow the whistle.

It is this group who begin to break their silence when the power structure begins to look shaky, anxious not to be caught up in a scandal that they have never profited from. Once those first cracks appear, the honest group, often comprising senior professionals, becomes uneasily aware of what has been going on under their noses, and begins to probe the weakest parts of the edifice of corruption.

Soon thereafter, panic sets in among the truly corrupt. Having no allegiance to any person or principle other than that of expedient self-interest, they begin to try to distance themselves from what may be coming their way. At that point, the dam begins to burst- auditing bodies, professional organisations, the police, national government and the media acquire a sudden interest.

SUMMARY and APPENDICES

I make the above points as general observations about corrupt organisations. Glasgow City Council may be entirely free of corruption, especially since the end of the Purcell era, which may itself just have been the personal failings and the personal tragedy of one man. If this is so, then in the Dalmarnock case, they have been simply deeply misguided in the way they pursued otherwise laudable objectives in relation to the regeneration of the East End of Glasgow and the huge opportunity presented by the Commonwealth Games,  displaying professional callousness and a total lack of empathy towards an entire community of ordinary working people, and a highly selective view of the law as it relates to compulsory purchase and the acquisition of land for development purposes.

SOME PREVIOUS BLOGS AND YouTube CLIPS ON GLASGOW AND DALMARNOCK

Rotten boroughs - Glasgow City Council -

The desperations of GCC's shills

Reflections on the brutal end to the siege of Ardenlea Street

GCC Jaconelli misinformation

St. Patrick's Day 2011 - but forced eviction for the Jaconelli's?










Friday, 1 April 2011

Rotten boroughs - Glasgow City Council

Private Eye runs a feature called rotten boroughs. Quite how Glasgow City Council has escaped its notice of late is puzzling. Or maybe I missed it.

This Labour-controlled council has gone through scandal after scandal in the last couple of years, of which I need only mention Purcell, the ALEOs, the PTA, the Ccommonwealth Games clearances and the Jaconelli outrage.

A quivering, noxious, sticky web of questionable relationships and behaviour that embraced drug dealers, media, gangsters, PR firms, property developers, etc. has been regularly probed by those media channels who were not themselves enmeshed in it in one way or another, but to little avail.

Are there honest men and women in Glasgow City Council and the Glasgow Labour Party? Of course there are, and in significant numbers. But they are either impotent or timid - or downright afraid, with honourable exceptions.

I despaired of Glasgow Labour a long, long time ago but retained a blind loyalty to the Party until Iraq and all that followed. That kind of blind loyalty was challenged by what can now be seen as the false dawn of the Glasgow East by-election, when for a brief moment the voters of Glasgow East took the blinkers off and rejected the party that had crushed the heart and soul out of them, only to revert to the reflex Labour vote at the 2010 general election.

The Glasgow North East (Springburn) by-election was the most obvious example of this kind of voting-against-reality syndrome, when, following the ignominious resignation the the Speaker of the House of Commons - their MP Michael Martin - and the unfolding criminal behaviour of Labour MPs and Lords, they returned yet another Labour MP to Westminster.

Labour, especially Glasgow Labour, has systematically betrayed the interests of trades unions, their main party funders. To be more accurate, they have betrayed the interests of trade union members, but advanced the interests and political ambitions of  some trades union officials, who have never doubted where their unswerving loyalty lay - not to their members, but to the Labour Party machine that was going advance their ambitions.

Today, we have the latest manifestation of this in a Herald story, headlined Council chief under fire for perks as staff lose their jobs.

Even the unions found this a bitter pill to swallow - although swallow it they will as the Glasgow Tammany Hall persuaders and patronage promisers do their rounds. But the acceptance of lavish hospitality from the successful bidders for lucrative council contracts and sub-contracts that the unions claim are at the expense of in-house council workers, by the man at the eye of the storm, Robert Booth, head of GCC’s roads, parks and environmental health , will not easily be explained away by full-time union officials to their members.

Glasgow City Council’s feeble explanations for this are too laughable to repeat here. Even Eddie Izzard, an English comedian who chose to make a celebrity intervention in the Springburn by-election might find difficulty with them.

But this latest debacle, which will be speedily ended by George Square if they can get away with it, is only the tip of a big iceberg floating unstoppably towards the golden brown marble staircases of the City Chambers, and may even cause some of those on the lower decks of this Titanic to stop singing Rule Brittannia and voting for the Unionist Nuclear WMD Labour Party in Scotland.

Who knows, even the trades union officials may be roused from their torpor and actually act in the interests of their members.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The desperation of Glasgow City Council’s shills

One factoid stands out from all the others in the distortions, spin and outright lies that have characterised the anti-Jaconelli media coverage for most of the life of this sad case - the alleged £360,000 ‘demand’ for the Ardenlea Street flat.

I have explained this on numberless occasions, as have the Jaconelli’s and their lawyer, but it keeps rising to the surface, like a turd in a pond, because it serves the purpose of Glasgow City Council and those who post anonymously on their behalf.

So let me say this as clearly as I can, in the almost certainly vain hope that it will penetrate the minds of those shallow, hostile posters who cannot see beyond it - Margaret Jaconelli never asked for £360,000, never authorised such a claim, and has made it abundantly clear that it did not represent her expectations of compensation for the loss of her home.

What happened was that an illustrative figure was used to show the gross disparity between what she had been offered and the settlement made with one developer in relation to his investment. The Jaconellis invested £30k in her home, a buy-back in 1998 based on a 1990 valuation, and a developer invested £45k .

The developer accepted £5.5 million pounds - yes, million pounds - and proportionate to investment, this represented £3.5 million, and for example if the Jaconellis had got even a tenth or so of this, a figure of around £350,000 was theoretically relevant. No one for a moment intended to make such a claim, but the Sun ran a headline £3.5m Gran. Some confusion existed after this calculation was mentioned to Glasgow City Council, a confusion that they and their compliant media partners have exploited ever since.

Had they ever negotiated with Margaret Jaconelli - as they did with the developers - the true gap between the parties could easily have been identified.

Had mediation (ADR) been accepted by GCC, the realistic gap to be bridged would quickly have been brought out by the mediator. But Glasgow City Council were now determined to bludgeon the Jaconellis into submission by legal processes where there was, to quote Mike Dailly’s legal term “a gross inequality of arms”, i.e. GCC were represented by expensive and heavyweight lawyers and a QC, including during a critical court appearance where Margaret was unrepresented.

They rejected Margaret’s formal written request for mediation: they rejected two offers of mediation by the Scottish Government. Finally they tried to bully Margaret at the 11th hour by an offer of mediation only if she first gave up her flat, an ultimatum which she rejected.

The anonymous posters who for reasons best known to themselves have aligned with GCC against the Jaconellis on this dispute keep asking What about all the others?

The answer to that is that, far from going meekly and amicably, others have been equally badly treated, including tenants, house owners and the owners of small businesses. Many have understandably given up the unequal battle, but others have not. Most of them were among those forcibly cleared from the street by heavy-handed  policing in the dawn raid on Ardenlea Street, some sleeping in their cars overnight in the hope of  offering some kind of moral support to the woman who has become their champion.

So to those posters such as ‘observer’, who keeps coming back with his or her bad song and tired factoids, I have this to say -

If you are too numerically challenged to understand the fact of this case as set  out by me and others, or too verbally challenged to read and understand a complex argument, or too devoid of a social conscience or common humanity to recognise where the right lies, then please don’t take up my time with the same same tired old rubbish.

To the people of Glasgow East

An attempt to say something in verse, especially when it carries a political and social message, is challenging even for those with infinitely more talent and skill than I can muster. And the spectre of  McGonagall hovers beside me as I struggle …

But sometimes, only verse will serve the emotions.

(I shrink from calling it a poem but hope that it is more than doggerel)

So here goes -

The spirit of Ardenlea Street

Mungo came to a dear, green place

where Fergus chose to die

He built a church near a sylvan stream

where Fergus chose to lie

The Molendinar ran beneath

the hard grey rock above

And a great cathedral - stone by stone -

was built by men, with love

And from this place, a city grew

from the grove of the Lady Well

Some say that Wallace was betrayed

by men in this leafy dell

A child of the East, I knew this place

I played in light and dark

in the waters foul that the stream became

below the old fir park

The City now - a giant place

A second war has come

with death and devastation, yet

a spark of hope for some

In the East end of the City

In tenements dark and grey

lived a great, resilient people

And they live there to this day

But the wealth and power shifted

to the centre, west and south

and the great betrayal started

from the People's Party's mouth

So these ordinary people

must be broken on the wheel

And the things that they most value

must be ground beneath the heel

Of politicians venal

and the men that fund their greed

And while the riches flow to some

The Glesca people bleed

Among this devastation

A woman held her ground

She tried to fight for all she loved

in the wasteland all around

The brutal heart of power

to its eternal shame

has used the force that it commands

to play its dirty game

The men who fund their party

are on the inside track

and they become obscenely rich because

the poor are on the rack

And all the rich Glaswegians

believe the Council's claims

They're dazzled by the PR spin

and the promise of great Games

But back in Ardenlea Street

the doors are battered in

Unequal force has forced them out

The Party has to win

Now, for the Jaconellis,

a life begins anew

They're out, but not defeated

Although a great wind blew

And there are those among us

Who'll never let this rest

A great injustice has been done

and now begins a quest ...

To find the truth for Glasgow

and bring a cleansing rain

Then Mungo's spirit may return

to Glaschu once again

Friday, 25 March 2011

Reflections on the brutal end to the Siege of Ardenlea Street

Margaret and Jack Jaconelli’s 35-year life in their family home ended yesterday under a brutal assault by over 80 police officers, council workers and 20 riot vans, initiated by Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council.

The Jaconellis are now homeless, but this indomitable, archetypal Glasgow working class family won’t be for long - they will pick themselves up and start again, finding a new home, and making a new life. But one thing is certain - they won’t give up their fight for justice, aided by their lawyer, Mike Dailly of the Govan Law Centre.

THE SCOTTISH PRESS

The coverage of this story by the Scottish media can be characterised in general as belated, inaccurate and in some case, deliberately and consciously biased in favour of Glasgow City Council. Journalists, if some can even be dignified by this honourable appellation, were lazy and incurious, accepting at face value the many distorted misrepresentations fed to them by GCC’s publicity mill and rumour machine, cooperating supinely in the Council’s attempts to present the Jaconelli’s as greedy and unreasonable.

These people would not have recognised a significant human interest story and the dubious political dealings that surrounded it if it reared up and bit them on the arse. That is the most charitable explanation of their behaviour: there are others.

I suppose if your journalistic instincts begin and end with scanning a press release by the powerful and well-resourced, or having cosy lunches and briefings from their minions, instead of taking a trip to the heart of the problem - 10 Ardenlea Street - and talking to those directly involved, then this is the kind of lazy copy you will deliver to equally uninterested editors.

But many of these news outlets had another agenda - they were Labour-supporting organs, unionist to their core, and an election was coming up. A story that showed a relentless and unfeeling persecution of ordinary Glaswegians did not sit well with the image of the People’s Party, Labour - the party of John MacLean and Keir Hardie, of  Red Clydeside, champions of the under-privileged. Such a story might bring home to Scottish voters that Scottish Labour, the puppet regime of Blair/Mandelson'/Brown’s New Labour, in the run-up to May 5th, had been hiding for decades behind the corpse of the old Labour Party, trotting it out, decaying and rotten, but covered in bright paint , to fool the people of Scotland.

This could not be allowed to happen. Bluntly, they hoped to bury the story, and when the Jaconellis inconveniently and bravely put their heads above the parapet to shout that the Labour emperor had no clothes, to shoot them down with a volley of lies, distortions and unfounded accusations.

But not even such a feeble excuse for a democratic press could not ignore a story when it got legs, and they were reluctantly forced into correcting some of their inaccuracies by events.

THE SCOTTISH SUN

It must be said that there have been honourable exceptions to this behaviour, notably in the form of the Scottish Sun’s coverage of the Jaconellis, significantly attributable to a freelance journalist, Paul Drury, who did what real journalists do - went to the source, went to the locations, got to know the people involved, asked real questions, checked and cross checked facts.

Of course the Sun sensationalised the coverage a bit - after all, they are the tabloid’s tabloid and that’s what they do. Unfortunately, in their attempts to point up the egregious disparity of treatment between that meted out to the Jaconellis and the enrichment of the developers who swarmed over the Commonwealth Games site, they may have at times unintentionally harmed the Jaconelli’s interest with their ‘£3.5 million pound Gran’ headlines, unwittingly feeding the Glasgow City Council lie that Margaret Jaconelli was pursuing a huge and unrealistic settlement figure, something that was never true.

But on overwhelming balance, the Jaconellis and their supporters are grateful to Paul Drury and the Sun for acting as virtually the only real counterbalance to the hostile and biased coverage of the rest.

TELEVISION

The Scottish television coverage, although not visibly biased, was belated and superficial, and predictably only interested when the saga entered its last, more sensational stages. Newsnight Scotland, often a byword for leaden, dull coverage of Scottish affairs, with occasional flashes of brilliance - usually when Isabel Fraser is in the interviewer’s seat - never touched the story.

Even in the last few days, they have given a much higher profile to the Glasgow University student protest evictions than to the much more significant brutal and over-the-top storming of the Jaconelli’s home. But then that’s the West End, much closer to the hearts of Scottish media types than the forgotten ghettos and people of Glasgow East.

Television, of course, completely missed Margaret Jaconelli’s confrontation, first with Gordon Matheson, Leader of the GCC Labour Group, then with Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party outside the Scottish Labour Party Conference on Saturday last. Only the Sunday Post, as far as I know, ran this story and published the photograph of Margaret and Ed Miliband.

THE POLITICAL PARTIES

Labour in Scotland maintained a deathly silence on this, as well they might have, since Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council under Gordon Matheson are the villains of this sordid piece. The Tories were predictably absent - after all, they are the party of money, privilege and exploitation of working people: Why would they speak? The pathetic Scottish LibDems don’t have their troubles to seek, and stayed well below the parapet.

But the strange behaviour of the Scottish National Party over the Jaconelli case deserves some examination. After a couple of statements  of concern by the First Minister some considerable time ago, a brief visit by Alison Thewliss, GCC SNP councillor for the Jaconelli’s, and one or two minor expressions of concern by others, a great blanket of silence fell over the issue.

Using such limited resources as I have, I repeatedly and persistently tried to secure some level of involvement from the Party at all levels. The responses to this have, in the main, been to ignore me completely (the SNP have been terrified of bloggers since the University of Cheese scandal, although they recognise their value) or to offer feeble excuses such as “Well, Margaret hasn’t come to my constituency surgery”, prompting the irascible response from me that this vulnerable, overstretched woman, struggling with her problem, with the terminal illness of her brother in England, the abandonment of her virtually at the door of the courtroom by her previous lawyer, and facing the full weight of QCs, District Valuers, et al, needed her elected representatives to visit her, not the other way around.

The Jaconellis are - or at least were - SNP supporters. Much bloody good it did them, at least up to the eleventh hour, when two offers offers to mediate in the dispute came from the Scottish Government,  a fact little reported anywhere in the media. (GCC declined both offers, as they had refused Margaret’s formal request for mediation and ADR.)

I repeatedly told the SNP that this story would get bigger, and eventually break into the media when the inevitable confrontation occurred. I had secured tentative interest from Jon Snow and Channel Four News, but then world events of staggering implications took over their whole agenda. (I have also kept Ken Loach informed through his film production company.)

The SNP should have been publicly and vocally on the right side of this dispute since the start, because it is a uniquely Scottish dispute in the Labour heartland that they need so badly to capture. Doing the right things was clearly the right thing to do here - but they didn’t, displaying all too often the rather uncertain grasp of new media - an occasionally old media - and its significance that too often characterises the Party’s approach.

They are going to have to do a damned sight better if they are to remain in power after May 5th. They still have my full and committed support, but, I regret, my faith is a liitle dented after the Jaconelli failure.