If you think it’s over, Glasgow Labour City Council – think again …
MORIDURA BLOG LINKS
If you think it’s over, Glasgow Labour City Council – think again …
MORIDURA BLOG LINKS
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.
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 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.
(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
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.
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
I commend these excerpts from MacDiarmid’s poem to Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council, to the Glasgow Labour Party, to Michael Kelly (for his facile Scotsman article today) and to all those shallow, complacent journalists who could not find the facts other than the ones fed to them by Glasgow City Council’s PR handouts, and who would not have recognised a true human interest story - and tragedy in the making - if it had reared up and bit them.
John Maclean would have recoiled in utter disbelief and revulsion from the thing the Labour Party has become in the country of its birth, Scotland, and notoriously, in the City of Glasgow.
And I pay tribute to those who did recognise the truth and the facts, and who offered objective reporting to the Jaconellis, and their wholehearted support.
(I am indebted to my friend Gordon Cowell, a true Scot living in Spain, for immediately seeing the relevance of the poem and telling me about it. Thanks Gordon!)
JOHN MACLEAN (1879-1923)
All the buildings in Glasgow are grey
With cruelty and meanness of spirit,
But once in a while one greyer than the rest
A song shall merit
Since a miracle of true courage is seen
For a moment its walls between.
Look at it, you fools, with unseeing eyes
And deny it with lying lips!
And ‘justice’ may well do its filthy work
Behind walls as filthy as these
And congratulate itself blindly and never know
The prisoner takes the light with him as he goes below.
Stand close, stand close, and block out the light
As long as you can, you ministers and lawyers,
the light of truth in on the base pretence
Of Justice that sentenced him behind these grey walls.
All law is the contemptible fraud he declared it.
Like a lightning-bolt at last the workers’ wrath falls
On all such castles of cowards whether they be
Uniformed in ermine, or blue, or khaki.
Royal honours for murderers and fools! The ‘fount of honour’
Is poisoned and spreads its corruption all through,
But Scotland will think yet of the broken body
And unbreakable spirit …
Hugh MacDiarmid (1934)
Margaret Jaconelli has announced her candidacy as an independent for the Scottish Parliament today. Her campaign HQ will be 10 Ardenlea Street Dalmarnock, her threatened home of 35 years, under siege by Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council.
Last Saturday, Margaret confronted Glasgow City Council Labour leader, Gordon Matheson outside the Labour Party Conference. Her persecutor-in-chief hastily ran away, refusing to talk when he realised who he had by the hand.
Undeterred, Margaret went on to confront Ed Miliband, who did listen, took her phone number and promised to act. (reported in the Sunday Post with picture.)
Margaret exhibits fully the qualities and hopes that Jack McConnell, former Scottish First Minister, expressed in his farewell speech at Holyrood today -
“ … will walk a little taller, cringe a little less and have ideas above their station.”