‘Sloven Health’ fined £2m

A black and white picture of a white teenage boy wearing an open-necked white shirt with a dark coloured jacket over it, standing in front of some railings behind which a man is walking; there are trees (presumably those of Hyde Park) in the background.Today, the Hampshire based NHS trust Southern Health was fined nearly £2,000,000 for health and safety breaches in regard to the preventable deaths of two patients: Connor Sparrowhawk, the “Laughing Boy” of the Justice for LB campaign who died in the bath as a result of an epileptic seizure in 2013 in the now-closed Slade House unit in Oxfordshire, and Teresa “TJ” Colvin, who killed herself in a Southampton mental health unit where she was receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder following childhood abuse. The case was the result of several years of campaigning by the families of the two victims in which Connor’s family in particular were vilified in internal memos in the trust and subjected to whispering campaigns and personal abuse by both Trust and county council employees, but the campaign resulted in being vindicated in court on multiple occasions, notably at Connor’s inquest in 2005 which found that his death was preventable and contributed to by neglect. (Today’s sentencing remarks can be found here in PDF form.)

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Thinking of becoming a Tory?

Front cover of the Spectator from November 2005, headlined 'Eurabian nightmare', with a crescent linking various cities and a star at LondonThis week someone dug up a Facebook post from October 2012 by a muralist called “Mear One” which shows a mural of a bunch of bearded figures (which he explains as representing Jewish bankers) playing monopoly over a group of huddled human bodies, underneath a pyramid-and-eye symbol (the one that appears on the American Great Seal and on the one-dollar bill). The Facebook post with a picture of the mural has approving comments from Yvonne Ridley and Jeremy Corbyn (who was not considered by anyone a potential party leader at the time); the latter said “you are in good company; Rockerfeller (sic) destroyed Diego Viera’s mural because it includes a picture of Lenin”. Corbyn has claimed, through a spokesperson, that he “was responding to concerns about the removal of public art on the grounds of freedom of speech” but that the mural “was offensive, used antisemitic imagery which has no place in our society, and it is right it was removed”. This does not really chime with the sentiments he expressed in the comment — his first sentence was “why?”, as in “why would they want to remove it?”. I’d not be surprised if his leadership does not survive this, but anyone thinking of defecting to the Tories over this needs to look at their record of supporting and promoting bigotry.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Why I’m not closing my Facebook account (yet)

A red billboard with the claim "Turkey (population 76 million) is joining the EU. Vote leave". The poster has an image of a British passport with footsteps leading to it.Since the scandal broke about Facebook data being leaked to Cambridge Analytica, a New York-based political consultancy which served the Trump and Brexit campaigns and used the data to channel propaganda to susceptible voters, I’ve seen at least two people I follow on social media suggest that it’s time to close our Facebook accounts and it’s become fashionable to ask the question as a matter of when I’ll delete my account, not if. Yet I’ve not seen many people close their accounts (although, if they were not on chat, I would not notice it immediately) and my feed is as lively as it was before. I’m not planning to close my account just yet and this is why. (More: Philippa Willitts, Dean Burnett.)

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Why disrupt a picket line?

A white woman wearing a black puffy jacket with orange trimmings, with her finger pointing in the direction of the cameraFootage has emerged of a group of trans activists, all women, one of them perhaps trans, protesting at a Bectu union picket line outside a cinema in Brixton (where there is a long-running pay dispute) on the grounds that one of the women on the picket line is a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist) who attended the same meeting I went to last month organised by Woman’s Place UK. The women chanted “TERF, TERF” and shouted that she was not there in solidarity with anyone. The incident took place on International Women’s Day (8th March) and the focus of the protest has been named in the Morning Star as Paula Lamont, an elected member of the union’s Sector Executive Committee (SEC) who was visiting as an elected official. The accusation that she was “not in solidarity with anyone” is curious; she was there in solidarity with workers who were striking for a living wage, an issue not directly connected to the matter they were protesting about. (Note: ‘sector’ refers to BECTU itself, a media and entertainment workers’ union, within the wider Prospect union.)

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Enough of the naivety about Putin

A picture of an English cathedral with a tall spire, with a large two-storey red-brick house in front, across a large lawn.Last week the British prime minister, Theresa May, took most of the action she had promised to do after the Russian government did not answer for the attempted murder of a former spy and his daughter in Salisbury two weeks earlier. The attack used a nerve agent developed in Soviet Russia, an organophosphate compound of military grade (that is, much stronger and purer than the organophosphates that are notorious for making sheep farmers very ill), which it is thought no state other than Russia still has stocks of, and the victim is someone it is thought nobody other than his former homeland would want to harm. The action consisted of expelling 23 diplomats on the grounds that they were undeclared ‘security’ personnel. There was a suggestion that the Kremlin-backed TV channel RT (originally Russia Today) may have its licence to operate in the UK revoked and that England may not send a squad to next year’s World Cup in Moscow, but there is absolutely no talk of military reprisals.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Silent liberals?

An image of Maajid Nawaz, a middle-aged South Asian man with greying hair, moustache and (short) beard, wearing a white, open-necked shirt, sitting in front of an LBC microphone and against the backdrop of a backlit LBC logo. Above the caption reads, "The uncomfortable truth about UK grooming gangs".Last week a half-hour feature by Nick Cohen of the Observer on the supposed “silence of the liberals” on the ‘plight’ of liberal Muslims in the UK who are, he alleges, facing death threats and being called unbelievers (which he claims is effectively a death warrant) for supporting women’s rights and advocating the same liberal vision they themselves do. He accuses them of a colonial attitude, preferring to speak to ‘leaders’, and accuses left-wing politicians of relying on those leaders to procure Asian votes through the ‘biraderi’ block-vote system. He interviews Amina Lone, Fiyaz Mughal of Tell MAMA/Faith Matters, Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam and the LBC radio station, and Maryam Namazie, an Iranian communist exile who runs “One Law for All” which opposes religious tribunals for settling personal and marital disputes. He makes much of the fact that no Labour MP would appear on the programme and claims he asked a wide section of the parliamentary party, including people for and against Corbyn’s leadership.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


The myth of the “conference of 72 sects”

The other day on Twitter someone retweeted a Qadiani (a member of the so-called Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam) repeating a much-rehearsed claim: that according to a newspaper report at the time, 72 sects of Muslims had a conference so as to denounce the 73rd, namely them. They claim that this was foretold by the Prophet Muhammad (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) in a hadith and thus the conference was the fulfilment of a prophecy and proof of the authenticity of their so-called prophet, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who lived in then British India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Who’s more culpable for the M1 truck crash?

A picture of a tractor unit with the Fedex logo being picked up by a winch attached to a blue mechanical arm with the word "COW" printed on it in white. The truck's front is very badly damaged, although the driver door is intact.Last August there was a three-vehicle crash on the M1 outside Milton Keynes in which eight people were killed, all of them in a minibus which was crushed when a moving truck from behind crashed into a stationary truck in front. Today, the British driver of the truck from behind, David Wagstaff, was cleared of eight counts of causing death by careless driving, having already pled guilty to the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving. The driver of the stationary truck, Ryszard Masierak from Evesham, was this week convicted of the more serious charge. He stopped his truck in the inside lane of the motorway when a hard shoulder was available, was drunk behind the wheel and his professional driving licence had been revoked (something his boss should be answering questions about, as they have a duty to make sure their drivers are legal). What the media was reporting today was just that Wagstaff had been ‘cleared’, but he has already admitted eight counts of a less serious offence which could easily mean he goes to prison. The question is: is Masierak really more culpable for this accident than the other two drivers?

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Corbyn stands no chance without a second referendum

Two lines of cars approaching a border post with three lanes visible. Signs say "keep right / garder la droite", a Canadian flag hangs from a pole to the left and there is an orange, diamond-shaped sign with an up arrow and the word "Construction" on it.With every week that passes, new disadvantages to this country from Brexit become clear: yesterday it was revealed that Theresa May had confirmed that the UK would not be part of the EU’s Digital Single Market, which means that roaming charges — abolished last year — would start to apply to British travellers again, while she also claimed to have been looking into the US/Canada border as a model for the border on the island of Ireland, a border which is very much a hard border with full passport controls (passports have been a requirement for US and Canadian citizens since 2005) and it is looking increasingly likely that the border will require a much greater physical presence and, probably, far fewer crossing points than there are now. Meanwhile, Labour have also caved in to the noise from the tabloids and some Labour MPs whose constituents voted for Brexit and increasingly advocates a hard Brexit, the end to free movement and so on. It talks of a “jobs-first Brexit” but cannot answer for how ‘jobs’ will be delivered in a Britain cut off from its neighbours, other than that fewer eastern Europeans will be able to take them.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Unite, but follow me

The back of a red coach with the slogan "Brexit: Is It Worth It?" and the URL www.isitworthit.org.uk below, making its way down a narrow London street with cars either sideAs a Muslim I have much experience of being lectured about ‘unity’ by certain people and most of it has come from people primarily responsible for causing the division. For example, almost every Ramadan and every Eid-ul-Fitr (the festival after the end of Ramadan) we are told by people following misguided opinions (sometimes plainly contradicting the relevant facts) from Saudi Arabia that it’s Ramadan when it’s not, or (worse) that it’s Eid when it’s not. So I was not particularly receptive to the sentiment Theresa May was expressing, reported on the front page of today’s Guardian, claiming “we must bring our country back together, taking into account the views of everyone who cares about this issue, from both sides of the debate”. I presume ‘we’ refers to the government, but her speech is not about bringing anyone together but about reaffirming the supremacy of the extremist tendency that has gained the upper hand since the 2016 referendum. (The full speech can be found here.)

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Mental health campaigner Claire Greaves dies in Cygnet unit

Picture of a young white woman with dark hair tied up with a large clip at the back of her head, wearing a white T-shirt with the logo "Beat eating disorders", a rainbow-striped pair of long socks and a pair of black leggings with a white flower pattern on them.I learned this morning that Claire Greaves, a mental health blogger and campaigner who has worked with Mind, Fixers and eating disorder charity Beat until she was moved to a secure unit in 2016, and who tweeted under the handle @mentalbattle, has died in an eating disorders unit run by the private company Cygnet, owned by Pennsylvania-based Universal Health Services, in Coventry. Although she suffered from anorexia which nearly killed her in early 2017, sources on Twitter say she took her own life. She had been moved to that unit in May 2017 after five months in a mainstream hospital receiving tube-feeding after the crisis brought on by the anorexia in the Partnerships in ‘Care’/Priory-run secure unit, Ty Catrin, in south Wales, the conditions of which were the subject of this interview and which she wrote about on her blog here.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Woman’s Place: Is the tail wagging the dog?

Last night I went to a public meeting organised by a group called A Woman’s Place UK (@WomansPlaceUK on Twitter), ostensibly to discuss the potential impact on proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act on women’s safety. There were three speakers: Lucy Masoud, a woman fire-fighter and FBU regional officer, Steph Pike who is a co-founder of AWP and Pilgrim Tucker, a community organiser who became well-known after the Grenfell Tower fire last year. The chair was Megan Dobney, who is or has been regional secretary of SERTUC (Southern & Eastern Regional Council of the Trades Union Congress) but is simply called a “union organiser” in the programme. All of them claim to be “of the left” and a major bone of contention was the Labour party allowing a person in the early stages of transition, known as Lily Madigan, to become women’s officer, but there have been a number of women leaving or threatening to leave the party over this (as well as more general discontent over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and policies). For avoidance of doubt, I tweeted the organisers beforehand to ask if it was an all-women meeting; I was told all were welcome. I did not need to sneak in and there were a number of other men present, although mostly accompanying women.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Bawa-Garba supporters must stop attacking parents

A picture of a Black woman wearing a long grey overcoat and a white headscarf walking along a street next to a Black man of similar age wearing an orange shirt with a beige jacket and trousers.In a previous post I expressed the opinion that the erasure of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba (right) from the medical register was a miscarriage of justice and that a medical practitioners’ tribunal should not be expected to bow to a jury’s verdict when juries are prone to mistakes and prejudice and are not formed of experts. I joined a group of Dr Bawa-Garba’s supporters and have also witnessed some of the attitudes on Twitter of some of them. I must say at first that most of it is perfectly civil and I don’t blame them for concentrating on their colleague’s situation rather than the family’s grief or the fact that a boy died, any more than you can blame people who are opposed to the death penalty or in favour of prison reform or who seek to get an offender released after a certain time rather than throwing the key away for not always thinking about the victim or their family. However, I have come across some of them attacking the Adcock family themselves as well as other parent campaigners. This has to stop.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Another FGM wild goose chase

A picture of a youngish South Asian man with a short beard and moustache wearing a blue shirt with no tie and a dark jacket over it, sitting at an outdoor table under a black umbrella holding a small cup of an identifiable drink in his hand, with a saucer underneath it.Yesterday a Somali man living with his family in Bristol was cleared on the judge’s direction of a child cruelty charge, brought as a result of his supposedly telling a passenger in his taxi that he had allowed his daughter to undergo a form of female genital mutilation (FGM). The passenger, Sami Ullah (right), was an activist with Integrate UK, formerly known as Integrate Bristol, and as a result of his information, two separate examinations were carried out on the girl in question (aged 6) and one on her two younger sisters, the first suggesting that some injury might have been inflicted on her but the second finding nothing. The man swore his accuser was lying and that he would not discuss his private life with strangers, and also that he did not want his daughter to suffer the health problems associated with FGM. This is only the third prosecution of anyone for FGM-related offences in this country and the third acquittal. A detailed report of the case can be found here.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Swype dies unnoticed

Swype, for a long time my favourite keypad to use on Android phones which I first encountered on my Samsung Galaxy S back in 2011, has been killed off after years of slow development by Nuance, who bought it out in 2012. The announcement was made at the start of this month but has only just been picked up by the tech media which some might say demonstrates why its owner felt the need to discontinue it. Swype was the original keypad that let you trace words by moving your finger from letter to letter without removing it from the screen; other keypads just predicted words as you tapped on letters (you might recall that iOS lacked even this until version 8). Nuance is best-known for its Dragon dictation and voice-control software (widely used by quadriplegics who cannot use their hands to control their computers) and a version of this was included with Swype which for a while was branded “Swype + Dragon”. However, Nuance was a relative minnow once SwiftKey, its major competition among ‘independent’ Android keypads, was acquired by Microsoft, Google improved its own keypad and both were offered for free on the app stores.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Review: Dispatches, “Inside the Priory”

Picture of Amy el-Keria, a young white girl with dark hair brushed across her forehead, wearing a maroon T-shirt with a dark blue apron over it, holding a plate of unidentifable food in both hands.This documentary on Channel 4 last night (19th Feb) exposed abusive practices, short staff, over-reliance on temporary staff (including the undercover reporter for this programme) and poor safety at a hospital unit, The Dene near Burgess Hill, Sussex, run by a company called Partnerships in Care which was taken over by the Priory Group in 2014. As it happens, many of us know of abusive practices in both pre-merger Priory and PIC units going back years, and had been waiting for a programme like this to be shown; it was a bitter disappointment, as it only focussed on one unit rather than a selection, and was too short at 25 minutes — when it finished, my thought was “is that it?” because Dispatches was always an hour-long investigative programme and there was so much more to expose than what was shown, which was bad enough but not the most egregious abuse I have heard of from both former patients and their families over the past few years. (Available on the Channel 4 website in the UK for the next 29 days.)

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Let’s investigate “death threats”

A small bottle of a red ink-like substance with a skull symbol on the side of the bottle. In the background is an old-style fountain pen and an inkwell.So, in the wake of Mary Beard’s ill-considered (patrician, soft-racist) tweet last week about how she wouldn’t go out to a disaster zone and do what those brave Oxfam staff (accused of sexually exploiting local girls) did, the usual accusations have been made by various journalists, political and media groupies and various other well-placed individuals, that Prof Beard has been “bullied” off Twitter by mobs of one sort of another. Beard may well have taken her Twitter account offline for a while, but I witnessed a lot of the reaction to her original tweet and it was roundly critical of her and much of it linked her attitude to her race and class, but a lot of that aimed at a public figure hardly counts as bullying. Ava Vidal, the comedian who has also carried out disaster relief work in Dominica after last year’s hurricane, suggested that “if someone uses their huge platform to make unsubstantiated claims of bullying, and this leads to someone being attacked, that person should be prosecuted”.

I would go a stage further: all accusations of “death threats” or other threats of violence should be investigated by the police. If you go public with such claims, you should have a duty to provide evidence to the authorities; if they are genuine, it is in everyone’s interest for the perpetrators to be found, and if they are not, it is in everyone’s interest for the falsehood to be exposed. In my experience every time there is a campaign of any kind and there is a lot at stake for some people and feelings run high (because there are people with a lot at stake, such as their health or independence, rather than small change), someone makes an accusation of “death threats” and this is used to discredit the whole campaign. I saw it with ME five or six years ago and I’ve seen it with almost every political campaign since the Tories came to power in 2010. It’s always the establishment, and people taking a pro-establishment line, that make these accusations, particularly Tories and the right-wing of the Labour party, and very often a little examination will reveal the claims to be, at the very least, exaggerated. It deflects from the fact that they are the powerful ones and encourages the audience to regard them as people who are being brave in the face of hostility, persecution or threatened violence. It is about time perfectly valid and necessary campaigns stopped being derailed or discredited by claims about what it at most a tiny minority of clowns and often, I suspect, outright fabrications.

Possibly Related Posts:


Mary Beard and the defence of low expectations

Two men dispensing rice and curry of some sort out of large tubs into small plastic containers. There is a queue of women in black niqaabs waiting.Earlier today Mary Beard, the Cambridge historian well-known for championing the role of women in academia as well as for her TV series, posted tweet defending aid workers accused of sexual abuse in disaster zones such as Haiti. She said,

Of course one can’t condone the (alleged) behaviour of Oxfam staff in Haiti and elsewhere. But I do wonder how hard it must be to sustain “civilised” values in a disaster zone. And overall I still respect those who go in to help out, where most of us [would] not tread.

In response to people who criticised that tweet, she elaborated that, for example, “disaster zones are regions that none who have not been there understand” and that “from what I have read it involves the breakdown of fundamental values”. The original tweet and her defence of it was roundly condemned as colonialist and racist, defending white men who “gave into temptation” while stuck in parts of the world most people, including Beard herself, would not venture into, some of which are often given stereotypically as examples of places that are not very civilised at the best of times (for this critique see Anaïs Duong-Pedica and Jude Wanga; Priyamvada Gopal has called it “the progressive end of the institutional culture I have to survive day in day out”). I find the argument objectionable for another reason: it is a very common defence of abuse in institutions and by soldiers, and is no more valid there than here.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


A lesson they’ll never forget

A cover of a book, Collected Poems, by Roger McGough, a drawing of whom -- a white man in his 60s bald in the middle with white hair on the sides, wearing glasses, a blue shirt with no tie and a black jacket, standing against what looks like a kitchen with plants and flowers on the worktopEvery time there’s a mass shooting in the United States, the anti-gun-control lobby insist that the right way to stop such incidents is for there to be more guns rather than less; that the best defence against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. If the massacre is at a school, as with yesterday’s atrocity in Florida, the same people will call for teachers to be armed. The fact that no other country in the world has such massacres on a regular basis, and most other developed countries have none at all (or at least one or so every decade or two) does not occur to them. We last had such a massacre here more than 20 years ago, at Dunblane in Scotland, and the result was that the government introduced legislation to ban the keeping of handguns and automatic weapons by private individuals; only single-shot rifles are allowed, and then only by vetted and authorised individuals who need them for a lawful purpose such as hunting. When the founding fathers of the USA passed the Second Amendment, the weapons that they had access to were much less powerful than some of these.

Growing up in the 1980s, a staple of children’s verse that we all read was the work of Roger McGough, a Liverpool poet best known right now for presenting the Radio 4 show Poetry Please. One of the most memorable is called The Lesson, which opens with the caption “this poem raises the question: should there be capital punishment in schools?”. In it a teacher, angered by struggling yet again to make his voice heard above the din of the “nooligans”, uses a sword, a shotgun and his bare hands to slaughter the lot of them. Mid-way through, the headmaster put his head through the doorway and on seeing what was going on, “nodded understandingly, then tossed in a grenade”. Given that state school teachers are not the best-paid profession in most western countries and in some schools have to deal with threatening or abusive situations on a regular basis from children and adolescents that are bigger than them but with whom they are required absolutely never to transgress the limits of reasonable force, as well as having family crises, mental health problems (diagnosed or otherwise) or grudges and embitterments of their own, the chances of a teacher with an automatic weapon perpetrating a McGough-style “Lesson” are probably greater than one becoming the proverbial “good guy with a gun”. And that’s if teachers even want to carry guns into lessons.

Possibly Related Posts:


Why Aditya Chakrabortty (may have) called himself Paul

A 'Welcome to Haringey' sign outside a shop on a road in Wood GreenThis morning I saw a Twitter thread (starts here, ends here) from Haringey councillor Joe Goldberg, purporting to expose the middle-classness and inauthenticity of the pro-little-people and anti-establishment stance of the Guardian columnist Aditya Chakrabortty, who has been a strong critic of the Labour council’s “Haringey Development Vehicle” (HDV), which involves selling off whole tracts of public property, including housing and a library, to a private developer which is expected to demolish most of it. This has led to a local revolt with a number of pro-HDV councillors deselected from the forthcoming local election and the (female) council chair resigning, blaming bullying and intimidation. The thread claims that on a previous occasion, Mr Chakrabortty took a similar “David versus Goliath” position on a major redevelopment project, championing the opponents as “David” and conveniently ignoring an ‘elected’ chair of a local residents’ association (I have not investigated this myself so I do not know how representative this “residents’ association” was) which supported the project. The Twitter thread claimed that Chakrabortty claimed to have been brought up in Edmonton, a deprived part of neighbouring Enfield borough, but in fact was brought up in well-heeled Winchmore Hill and went to a grammar school there.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts: