March to save Bombardier jobs !

July 21, 2011 at 9:19 pm (Europe, Jim D, protest, solidarity, unions, Unite the union, workers)

This Saturday’s march in Derby (23 July) to protest the loss of 1,400 jobs at the Bombardier train manufacturing plant (and a further 13,000 jobs in the supply chain and other businesses), deserves the support of all trade unionists and socialists. But many of the arguments being used by the main unions involved (Unite and – especially bad – the RMT) do not.

The threat to the jobs results from the government’s decison in June to award the £1.5 million contract for new carriages for Thameslink, to the German company Siemens. RMT and Unite are demanding that the government withdraws the contract from Seimens and award it to Bombardier. Bob Crow of the RMT is also making a point of trying to blame the EU, stating: “If the government and their puppet-masters in the EU think the fight for the future of Bombardier is over then we’ve got news for them – it has only just begun.”

But demanding that German workers (and quite possibly some UK workers at the Siemans factory in Tyne and Wear) lose jobs so that Derby workers keep theirs, is a thoroughly reactionay, nationalist approach. And blaming the EU is a complete diversion: even a letter in the stridently anti-EU Morning Star points out:

“While I have no wish to defend the EU, Brian Denny [a leading anti-EU campaigner] is not entirely correct when he states that the loss of the train contract by Bombardier to Siemens is due to the ‘EU public procurement and liberalisation rules.’

“While these are stringent, they do allow local considerations to be factored into any tendering process.

“That’s how the Germans and French are able to protect their industries.

“If our government was also determined to protect British jobs it could do so, despite EU regulations.”

In rejecting nationalist “solutions” that seek to privilege UK workers above foreign workers, and/or which let the UK government off the hook by blaming the EU, we need to take human and ecological need as our starting point. It is clear that there are more than enough trains and rolling-stock that need making to provide work for both Siemens and Bombardier workers. And if not trains, then other socially useful products that the Derby plant could fairly easily be converted to make.

-Adapted from this much longer article.

Comrade Mark Catterall adds:

“The ridiculous thing is that Bombardier have a virtual monopoly on producing DMU’s (Diesel Multiple Units) since rail privatisation. The last Labour Government announced 1300 carriages would be produced to deal with overcrowding including hundreds [to be made by] Bombardier. Very little has materialised.

“Rather than getting drawn into a possibly nationalist argument about Siemens (German) rather than Bombardier (Canadian, manufacturing in Britain), there is a requirement for hundreds of DMU’s to deal with overcrowding and replace obsolete rolling stock. Order the bloody DMU trains NOW. I’m sick of travelling on 30 year-old DMU’s”



Join the Unite / RMT
rally in Derby city centre in support of Bombardier and help keep
UK rail manufacturing on track.

1,400 workers face
redundancy and the future of Bombardier, the UK’s
last train maker is at risk.

Join us to call on the government to
reverse its decision
to exclude Bombardier from a crucial contract to build new carriages for the
Thameslink project.

Saturday, 23 July, 2010 at 10.00

Meet at Bass’s Recreation Ground
(opposite Derby bus station),  at the intersection of A601 St Alkmund’s Way and
B6000 Station Approach, Derby and march to the rally at Cathedral Green at the
intersection of Full Street and Amen Alley, Derby.

Join us on the
march and rally and bring your families and friends, please note there will be a
childrens’ entertainer at the march to keep youngsters occupied.  Speakers
include Diana Holland, Unite Assistant General Secretary.

Dedicated car and
coach parking is available at:

Car parking at
The Meteor Park &

The Meteor Centre
(DE21 4SY) is located to the north of the city, on the A61.

It is easily accessible from the A38
North and from the Pentagon

Coach parking at
the Pride Park & Ride
Pride Park (DE24 8AN) is located to the east of the city, near
to the A52.
It is easily
accessible from the A52, the Pentagon
Island, London Road and Station
Approach in the city centre.

For more details on
Park & Ride visit:

If you are organising coaches to the
rally please email details to

Permalink 3 Comments

Intern Issues: The case for payment

July 21, 2011 at 8:32 pm (Max Dunbar, workers)

This is a guest post from Mikey, also posted on The Blog That Must Not Be Named.

This is the first post in a two part series dealing with payment and internships. In this post I discuss why interns should be paid for work. In part two tomorrow, I shall discuss why interns should not agree to work unpaid.

This series came about after from heated discussions surrounding my recent series of posts in relation to a specific matter, one that has been brought up in parliament. In this case, a magazine rescinded an offer of an unpaid internship to a young woman after she had enquired whether her £5 a day travel expenses would be reimbursed.

My co-blogger Libby T responded to my series with a general argument on unpaid internships. She comes down on the side of the free market and against legislation:  “Free people are able to decide if a course of action is in their own interests or not – and to act accordingly.”  This is the most powerful argument in favour of allowing companies to use unpaid interns and it is something that needs answering. That, I aim to do in this post. While this article deals with unpaid internships that are not merely work shadowing, it can be noted that according to a 2010 survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the majority (63 percent) of employers do pay their interns at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

Interns and the National Minimum Wage

There is semantic difficulty which often causes confusion. The term intern is used to describe a range of different activities some of which very obviously should be classified as work and in this context, interns are frequently a class of worker.  According to the government, “Whether someone is a worker does not depend on what they are called. Being called an intern, non-employed, a work experience trainee or a volunteer does not prevent someone from qualifying for the NMW.” What is relevant is what they are doing.  The government also make clear that someone who spends their time work “shadowing,” but “does not perform work” is not entitled to the NMW.  The National Minimum Wage Act allows an exemption for voluntary workers, but according to Practical Law Company, an online legal resource available via subscription, “it is not open to an employer to engage people to work on a ‘voluntary’ basis without paying the national minimum wage, if they are otherwise within the definition of a ‘worker’”.

Dupsy Abiola, the founder of Intern Avenue, an organisation that connects employers looking for skilled interns only offers paid internships on her site.  She explained to me as follows: “‘Work shadowing’ involves sitting quietly in the background and classically being ‘seen and not heard’ perhaps asking a few questions.  It does not involve writing articles, answering phones, doing research or any other activity which is useful to the company.  There is no lengthy or fixed durations or ‘working hours.’ Where employers are using interns to provide or produce work which is of benefit to their company then the National Minimum Wage will apply.”

The passing of the NMW into the statute books meant that it is established in law that those that work should be paid. There are certain exemptions. Charity volunteers, for example, are not entitled to the NMW and neither I, nor the legislation would want to prohibit, as an example, a retired person volunteering to work unpaid making tea in a local hospice. But the reality is, as the government make clear, “Most workers who are over compulsory school age and are working legally under a contract of employment or other form of worker’s contract, are entitled to be paid at least the NMW.”

Twenty years ago, unpaid internships, where people were working unpaid for months on end to simply gain “experience”, were virtually unknown. It used to be the case that young people commenced work in paid entry level positions. In certain industries, but by no means all industries, it appears that those paid positions have been replaced with unpaid positions and some companies now exploit graduates in a way that was previously unheard. I posit the theory that the reason that this situation has allowed to develop is that the minimum wage legislation is not being enforced.  According to the government, “refusal or wilful neglect to pay the NMW” is a criminal offence and “employers who deliberately fail to pay the NMW may face a potentially unlimited fine.” While there has recently been a successful claim by an unpaid intern to be paid, cases against companies for failure to pay the NMW appear few and far between. In the event HM Revenue and Customs, the government body responsible for enforcement of the NMW, took a more strident approach to serving notices of underpayment and fines on companies that failed to pay interns who carry out tasks that require payment, I suspect that the amount of companies in breach of the legislation would dramatically reduce.

Arguments against unpaid labour generally

The debate on paying interns reminds me of the one on the National Minimum Wage (NMW) that Tony Blair’s Labour Party pledged to introduce if they won the 1997 General Election.  To recall that debate, I have browsed through old copies of The Times. The Chairmen or Chief Executives of Dixons, Burton Group, Asda, J. Sainsbury and GUS had a letter published scaremongering that the introduction of the NMW could lead to up to 1.8 million job losses (The Times, January 23, 1997). The economist Roger Bootle ridiculed the NMW: “The minimum wage belongs to the God, Motherhood and Apple Pie School of Economics” (The Times, March 24, 1997).  Tim Melville-Ross, Director-General of the Institute of Directors, declared the NMW as “nonsense.” He viewed that its introduction would benefit the wealthy and lead to increased unemployment (The Times, April 24, 1997). The British Retail Consortium predicted dire price rises to cope with the cost of paying staff the NMW (The Times, November 4, 1997). Business in Sport and Leisure argued that depending on the level of minimum wage set, up to 90,000 jobs would be lost in that industry (The Times, November 24, 1997). The Times itself thundered in an editorial that the Bill to establish a NMW is “irrelevant, economically illiterate and potentially harmful” (The Times, November 28, 1997).

Despite the fierce objections, the introduction of the NMW in 1999 did not signal the end of the world, far from it. Last year, in a debate on the NMW, Lord Morris of Handsworth was able to tell the House of Lords “none of the predictions of the merchants of gloom and doom have occurred. The hysterical forecasts about economic Armageddon have proved to be totally without evidence and completely without foundation. The reality has been that the introduction and development of the minimum wage was accompanied not by job losses but by rapid job creation.”  The BBC reported (December 3, 2010) that according to researchers at the Institute of Government who polled 159 members of the Political Studies Association, the NMW has been the “most successful government policy” in thirty years, more successful than the Northern Ireland peace process, devolution and Margaret Thatcher’s privatisation policy.

Those who oppose compelling companies to pay interns at least the NMW for working are, by definition, opposed to the NMW. But they have lost this debate. Not only has the NMW been enacted, in their manifestos for the 2010 General Election all three major political parties were committed to its retention. The onus is not on me to justify why the NMW should be paid, the onus is on Libby T and those that think like her to justify why they believe the NMW legislation can be ignored. Do they think that parliament has no legitimacy?

There is a cost to doing business in this country. Those costs include payment of taxes, the cost of compliance with regulations and obeying labour laws including the NMW.  There may be companies who do not want to have to pay for these things but that does not mean that the employment law of this country does not apply.  As many commentators have stated, ‘life is not always fair.’  Companies did not leave the UK because of the requirement to comply with health and safety regulations, likewise hoards of companies are not going to leave the UK because they need to pay their interns.

Weak arguments for non payment

Internships as training

Arguments about training or inexperience clearly do not apply to situations where students and graduates are actively working for the company.  It is disingenuous to suggest that asking someone young (as is true in many cases in media) to write articles, do detailed research, run a website or help reduce the costs of an unprofitable business is ‘training.’   The reality is that professional work experience never ends.  An employee who progresses up any organisation will learn skills which will benefit the organisation.  Companies do not ‘deduct’ this as training because it simply a feature of working anywhere. Consequently, it is also disingenuous to argue that because the intern benefits from the experience, even if that benefit is greater than the benefit the company receives, that the intern does not need to be paid. The logic follows that the cost of the training is irrelevant as to whether or not someone is deserved of the NMW. For example, it might be true that a three month intern in a technology company spends the first three weeks learning how to use a very expensive piece of equipment. The cost of that equipment should not be taking into consideration when determining if the intern is entitled to at least the NMW.

Libby T argues, “Interns often have no skills and even those with new qualifications may have no practical experience. Their use to the company is limited.” Writing in the Guardian, Shiv Malik has pointed that contrary to this claim, according to research carried out by YouGov on behalf of Internocracy, “Almost a fifth of British businesses have admitted to using unpaid interns to ‘get work done more cheaply’ and prop up company profits during the recession.” It can also be noted that some companies seem to rely on unpaid interns. In an interview for a documentary broadcast on BBC2 earlier this year, the joint Managing Director of a PR company that acts for Calvin Klein admitted that out of his 70 staff, 20 are unpaid interns. It is not surprising that he referred to those interns as a “vital resource.”

Company type

Libby T complains that I “lump multinationals, investment banks and struggling niche publications together.” The implication of this is that either small companies should be treated differently to large companies; that certain industries, e.g. media, should be treated differently to others, e.g. finance; or that struggling or unprofitable companies should be treated differently to profitable or successful companies, in a decision as to whether a company should pay interns.  There is no basis in the legislation for any of these claims.

There are plenty of small companies that do pay their interns. Tanya de Grunwald of Graduate Fog has also highlighted that large companies such as Harrods and Reed are included among those that use unpaid labour.

In so far as different industries, Inspiring Interns, a recruitment agency that specialises in finding unpaid interns for companies (and, according to Graduate Fog, charges those companies, £500 per month per unpaid intern that they locate), currently has advertised unpaid internships in finance, in information technology, in cosmetics, and the list goes on.

Impecuniosity is not an excuse for not paying an intern.  Ultimately, a business that cannot afford to pay its staff is not a proper business.  Perhaps the reason why some companies are struggling may be because they have failed to realise that it is their staff (at all levels) that will make or break their company. Organisations which run dubious internship programs with transient and demotivated candidates will inevitably reap what they sow.  Employers are not charities but neither are workers.  Even if we did not have a national minimum wage, smart companies have always paid for quality staff because they deserve to be paid and that is what great business are built upon.  Only a tyrant or a fool would argue otherwise.

Libby T also claims that some companies may have skilled staff who are able to allow young people to shadow them, but no budget to pay interns. She does not feel that it would make any sense to restrict such unpaid roles. In response, nobody is arguing that such positions, unpaid work shadowing, should be banned. But one wonders how this theoretical example from Libby compares to the actual example of Reed, who, last month, advertised for a 3 month intern to work unpaid, but with travel and lunch expenses, as a receptionist. One can also wonder how it compares to a currently advertised position for a trilingual intern to spend three to six month updating a database and translating documents in French and German for no pay. There are countless further examples.

Consensual free labour

Libby T claims “Interns are not in fact slaves – they are free to leave – so if they remain, it must be because they believe they’re benefiting themselves.” This point is misleading and also entirely irrelevant. The law in this regard is clear and has nothing to do with consent. One cannot consent to work in an unsafe work environment and likewise one cannot consent to violate the national minimum wage laws.  What Libby T fails to recognise is that many employers (and indeed interns) are unaware of the legislation. Shiv Malik points out that according to the YouGov Survey, already mentioned, “only 12% of company managers and 10% of young people knew unpaid internships could be illegal under employment law.” Commenting on this, Ms. Abiola informed me that she believes that employers who use unpaid interns are putting themselves at risk.  She refuses to offer unpaid internships on her site.

The pragmatic case for paid internships

The problem with unpaid internships is not the law, the NMW legislation is sufficient; it is law abidance and enforcement.  Away from the legal requirement to pay interns that carry out work entitled to at least the NMW, there are pragmatic reasons for paying interns:

1. A key reason for paying interns is the ability to attract the best.  A senior lawyer at a prestigious US law firm said to me the reason that they pay their interns is because “our internships are part of our recruitment process, and it makes sense to us to ensure that we get the best of the best: not just those who can afford to work for free.” His firm is not the only one. The truth is that the applicants for an unpaid internship are limited to the pool of people who can afford to work for free. Those from less financially well off backgrounds may simply not be able to do so. On a similar basis, the available labour pool is restricted further, because even if a young person can afford to work for free, they may not be able to afford to move elsewhere to work for free. For example, someone who lives in Blackpool might be the best potential recruit for a position available at an organisation in London, but if it is an unpaid position, the person from Blackpool would not apply if they could not afford the rent on somewhere to live within a reasonable commuting distance of the place of work.

Candidates may claim that the main reason they wish to carry out the internship is for experience and not for financial gain. Irrespective of the truth of this, if two competing organisations are both offering similar internships with a difference that one is paid and the other unpaid, then, it seems intuitively obvious that the one offering the paid internship will attract the better candidates.

In the event that it is common practice in an industry to use unpaid interns, then a company that breaks the mould might find themselves with a competitive advantage. If this does not happen, whole industries might lose out of the chance to recruit some very talented people. As an example, I am aware of an exceptionally bright and capable American woman, a graduate of Yale University, who informed me that she took a job in investment banking solely because she “could not afford to work in publishing.

Libby T implies that a campaign to name and shame companies that appear not to be treating interns or intern applicants fairly “will promote nepotism and make ‘who you know’ even more important.”  The reason for this is because companies “will most likely not advertise internships any longer. Instead they will be informally organised through someone who can vouch for the prospective intern.”  Perhaps Libby is correct, companies that act unethically or potentially illegally, should not advertise the fact.  This does not take away from the fact that nepotism is not the most efficient hiring practice. Successful companies hire from broad applicant pool based on merit.

2. The majority of companies pay their interns. These companies are not charities. Staff retention and attraction is a major cost and getting talented staff early is the holy grail. The 2010 CIPD survey concluded: “Three-quarters (76%) of organisations agree that internships can be used as a way to test potential new staff …[and] seven in ten (69%) believe that internships are a good way to develop new talent in an industry.

3. An employment lawyer I spoke to, who wishes to remain anonymous, informed me that companies that use unpaid interns and do not provide them with an employment contract place themselves at substantial risk because they have will have little or no contractual protection against the intern utilising confidential information or intellectual property gained while at the organisation.

4. Organisations that do not pay their interns can damage their brand. Interns Anonymous is a website set up by disgruntled former interns which has generated lots of adverse media attention for offending employers. Stella McCartney is a fashion house named and shamed for its “toxic” atmosphere on Interns Anonymous in a story that was ultimately picked up by both Private Eye and the Daily Mail. Alexander McQueen is another fashion house that has received adverse publicity for its treatment of interns. An employment law expert barrister informed the Guardian that based on the material of which he was aware, he was fairly confident that the company was in breach of the NMW legislation.  Organisations should also be aware of the ease that a disgruntled unpaid intern or a former unpaid intern has to cause damage to their reputations simply via writing derogatory statements about them on social networking sites such as Facebook. Young people know how to use such sites and once a depreciatory comment is written, it might well remain on the internet for ever.

Against this, Internocracy, a self-declared “social enterprise passionate about changing the culture of internships for the better in the UK” encourages interns to write in and recommend employers who provide a worthwhile internship experience.

5. If unpaid interns are not paid and they take the organisation to a tribunal to recover the NMW, the time taken and legal costs that might be incurred defending the case, even if won, could well make it a Pyrrhic victory. Moreover, an employment tribunal hearing is public and therefore can be reported.  Accordingly, if a journalist picks up on the story, as they might, particularly if it is a high-profile employer, it could lead to bad publicity.  It might be simply easier to pay the interns the NMW for the duration of their internship to reduce the risk of such an action being taken.

6. Because there are far more young people staying on in higher education than a generation ago, those entering the work force are, on average, more educated with a commensurate higher skill base now than then. Young graduates can provide fresh energy and ideas to an office. Skills developed at university such as critical thinking or problem solving might be beneficial to an organisation in ways not even thought of before the intern came to the organisation in the first place. This is worth paying for.

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Simpson brings Unite into disrepute – again

July 20, 2011 at 8:16 am (Jim D, Unite the union)


Above: Simpson bringing the union into disrepute on a previous occasion

As Unite the union struggles to retain its membership and stem its financial losses, former joint general secretary Derek Simpson has pocketed a total of £510,000 including a £361,000 severance payment. Unite’s executive has demanded a legal opinion on the payoff and the present general secretary Len McCluskey has made no secret of his anger and dismay at Simpson’s greed. But it seems that as the payment was made under the financial arrangements that applied in Amicus, it may be that there is nothing that Unite can do about it. It occurred at precisely the time that McCluskey was denouncing the “obscene” payments being made to the bankers, and has come to light just as the union is stepping up its campaign against public spending cuts.

McCluskey is quoted in the Guardian saying, “It was absolutely unbeknownst to me or the Unite executive. It occurred under a different regime with a union that no longer exists and operated under a different governance.” This is true, but Simpson’s sheer greed, at a time when the union is (to put it tactfully) in serious financial difficulties, is nothing short of a disgrace and the present leadership should pursue all possible means of getting at least some of the money back.

At the very least, McCluskey must state even more plainly than he already has, that this kind of behaviour is a thing of the past that will no longer be tolerated in Unite. The old T&G tradition was far from perfect, but it is clear that Amicus had a real problem with greed and laziness amongst its officials and leaders. This malaise infected much of the Amicus “left” (including Simpson) as well as the right. Until recently, McCluskey and Woodley (now head of the union’s organising department) have felt obliged to play down their concerns about ex-Amicus bureaucrats, for fear of appearing to be hostile to the ex-Amicus element of Unite. But they must now make it clear that the era of greedy, self-serving bureacrats is well and truly over: it’s not an exaggeration to state that the future of the union depends on it.

Permalink 2 Comments

Breaking news! Exclusive scoop from Socialist Unity!

July 19, 2011 at 3:24 pm (bloggocks, blogosphere, capitalist crisis, censorship, Champagne Charlie, drama, surrealism)

This is a major development that the bourgeois press are too frightened to cover. Thank goodness for Nooman and the fearless ‘Socialist Unity’ site:

Story Image H/t Mr Jelly

Permalink 21 Comments

Ireland is becoming a proper modern republic!

July 19, 2011 at 9:38 am (Catholicism, Christianity, Civil liberties, democracy, Ireland, Jim D, religion, secularism)

Comrade Tom C reports:
If you’ve been following the news from Ireland you will be aware that the
26 counties are throwing off Rome rule and becoming a republic, a proper modern
capitalist secular republic.
The latest investigation into child abuse in the Cloyne Diocese has
revealed that the Vatican has been advising the Vicar General of the diocese
that the joint State- Church guidelines on reporting sexual abuse are
This is the third diocese to be exposed for systemic abuse.
The UN initiated an investigation into the “Magdelene Laundries” concentration
camps for girls and young women who had babies out of wedlock, runaway domestic
servants and young girls beyond parental control. Notoriously children and young
women in all these categories in Ireland were quite often victims of rape
by those in authority over them. These were institutions totally under the
control of religious orders which inmates voluntarily entered for their
protection. But if they left, the police arrested and returned them to the
All this is the routine drip of revelations that have been coming out since
the “Celtic Tiger” boom took off.
The big change is that the state has gone on the offensive against the
Fine Gael Taoiseach, Enda Kenny Said that that Vatican’s behaviour was
disgraceful and that  “The law of the Land should not be stopped by a crozier or
a collar.” Socialist Party TDs and the chairman of Fine Gael, Charlie Flanagan
called for the expulsion of the Papal Nuncio and Kenny has not ruled out closing
the Irish Embassy to the Holy See.
Labour Party leader and Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore told the Papal Nuncio that
he wants the Vatican to explain its behaviour, he described the Vatican’s
interference in Irish affairs as  “absolutely unacceptable” and “inappropriate”.
He said “ I want to know why this state, with which we have diplomatic
relations,issued a communication,the effect of which ,was that very serious
matters of the abuse of children  in this country was not reported to the
Both governing parties are hinting fairly broadly that the new dispensation
will mark the end of “ The seal of the confession”, that priests will not be
excused from reporting confessed crimes to the Garda.
Eamon O Cuiv (Fianna Fáil)  said that the feeling of anger and disgust was shared by
everybody and that Fianna Fáil would support any initiative to ensure it never
happened again.
Mary Lou MacDonald of Sinn Fein shared the general repulsion but emphasised
the failure of the state not the church.
There is nothing surprising in the revelations, the sexual abuse was never
really hidden and the beatings and psychological torture were completely open
and were the declared policies of the institutions concerned. Many religious
orders eg Christian Brothers have already withdrawn from their old roles
following other scandals but this could mark the end of the policy of
subcontracting educational, care and medical institutions to the church, which
has existed since the founding of the Free State.
The immediate task for not only socialists but all decent people is to make
sure there is not a retreat when the pressure dies down.  Fine Gael and Labour
may be happy to push the secular agenda, although that is far from guaranteed by
their history, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin will struggle to legislate to make the
Church as an institution subservient to the state without destroying their
electoral bases.
The Irish Labour movement and the Irish people as a whole have come a long
way since the 1948 inter-party government grovelled at the feet of John Charles
McQuaid and betrayed Noel Browne and the women and children of Ireland.

Permalink 8 Comments

Googie Withers RIP

July 18, 2011 at 5:12 pm (cinema, Guardian, Jim D, women)

Born 12 March 1917; died 15 July 2011

A very great actor and “the best bad girl in British films.”

My Dad once told me someting to the effect that she was proof that a person (well, he specified “woman”) doesn’t need to be conventionally good looking in order to be very, very sexy. He was right about that. As the Graun‘s obituarist Dennis Barker writes: “Too strong a face and too grand a manner prevented her being thought conventionally pretty, but she was imposingly watchable because of an obvious vigour and sexuality. Thus equipped, she acquired great skill at playing wives in various states of dissatisfaction because of the implied sexual shortcomings of their husbands.”

Here she is in It Always Rains On Sunday, a British noir (!) from 1947 with her soon-to-be real life husband John McCullum:

The Graun‘s obit is here.

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Curse of the Wolfman

July 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm (cops, crime, gloating, Jim D, law, London, media)

Quizzed: Neil Wallis leaves Hammersmith police station in London, after his arrest over phone hacking allegations
Above: Neil ‘Wolfman’ Wallis

Statement from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Stephenson:

17 July 2011

I have this afternoon informed the Palace, Home Secretary and the Mayor of my intention to resign as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service.

I have taken this decision as a consequence of the ongoing speculation and accusations relating to the Met’s links with News International at a senior level and in particular in relation to Mr Neil Wallis who as you know was arrested in connection with Operation Weeting last week.

Firstly, I want to say what an enormous privilege it has been for me to lead this great organisation that is the Met. The recent example of the heroism and bravery of Met officers in chasing armed suspects, involving the shooting of one of my officers, is typical; but is in danger of being eclipsed by the ongoing debate about relationships between senior officers and the media. This can never be right.

Crime levels in the Met are at a ten year low. You have seen the Met at its glorious and unobtrusive best on the occasion of the royal wedding; the professional and restrained approach to unexpected levels of violence in recent student demonstrations; the vital ongoing work to secure the safety of the capital from terrorism; the reductions in homicide; and continuing increased levels of confidence as the jewel in our crown of Safer Neighbourhoods Teams serve the needs of Londoners.

I am deeply proud of the achievements of the Met since I became Commissioner.

Let me turn to phone hacking and my relationship with Neil Wallis. I want to put the record straight.

I met Mr Wallis in 2006. The purpose of that meeting was, as with other journalists, to represent the context of policing and to better inform the public debate carried out through the media on policing issues.

I had no knowledge of, or involvement in, the original investigation into phone hacking in 2006 that successfully led to the conviction and imprisonment of two men. I had no reason to believe this was anything other than a successful investigation. I was unaware that there were any other documents in our possession of the nature that have now emerged.

I have acknowledged the statement by John Yates that if he had known then what he knows now he would have made different decisions.

My relationship with Mr Wallis continued over the following years and the frequency of our meetings is a matter of public record. The record clearly accords with my description of the relationship as one maintained for professional purposes and an acquaintance.

In 2009 the Met entered into a contractual arrangement with Neil Wallis, terminating in 2010. I played no role in the letting or management of that contract.

I have heard suggestions that we must have suspected the alleged involvement of Mr Wallis in phone hacking. Let me say unequivocally that I did not and had no reason to have done so. I do not occupy a position in the world of journalism; I had no knowledge of the extent of this disgraceful practice and the repugnant nature of the selection of victims that is now emerging; nor of its apparent reach into senior levels. I saw senior figures from News International providing evidence that the misbehaviour was confined to a rogue few and not known about at the top.

One can only wonder about the motives of those within the newspaper industry or beyond, who now claim that they did know but kept quiet. Though mine and the Met’s current severe discomfort is a consequence of those few that did speak out, I am grateful to them for doing so, giving us the opportunity to right the wrong done to victims – and here I think most of those especially vulnerable people who deserved so much better from us all.

Now let me turn to the suspicion that the contractual relationship with Mr Wallis was somehow kept secret. The contracting of Mr Wallis only became of relevance when his name became linked with the new investigation into phone hacking. I recognise that the interests of transparency might have made earlier disclosure of this information desirable. However my priority, despite the embarrassment it might cause, has been to maintain the integrity of Operation Weeting. To make it public would have immediately tainted him and potentially compromised any future Operation Weeting action.

Now let me turn to the reported displeasure of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary of the relationship with Mr Wallis.

The reasons for not having told them are two fold. Firstly, I repeat my earlier comments of having at the time no reason for considering the contractual relationship to be a matter of concern. Unlike Mr Coulson, Mr Wallis had not resigned from News of the World or, to the best of my knowledge been in any way associated with the original phone hacking investigation.

Secondly, once Mr Wallis’s name did become associated with Operation Weeting, I did not want to compromise the Prime Minister in any way by revealing or discussing a potential suspect who clearly had a close relationship with Mr Coulson. I am aware of the many political exchanges in relation to Mr Coulson’s previous employment – I believe it would have been extraordinarily clumsy of me to have exposed the Prime Minister, or by association the Home Secretary, to any accusation, however unfair, as a consequence of them being in possession of operational information in this regard. Similarly, the Mayor. Because of the individuals involved, their positions and relationships, these were I believe unique circumstances.

Consequently, we informed the Chair of the MPA, Mr Malthouse, of the Met’s contractual arrangements with Mr Wallis on the morning of the latter’s arrest. It is our practice not to release the names of suspects under arrest, making it difficult to make public details of the arrangements prior to Mr Wallis’s release the same day. The timing of the MPA Committee that I appeared before at 2pm that day was most unfortunate.

Now let me briefly deal with the recent story in relation to my use of Champney’s facilities. There has been no impropriety and I am extremely happy with what I did and the reasons for it – to do everything possible to return to running the Met full time, significantly ahead of medical, family and friends’ advice. The attempt to represent this in a negative way is both cynical and disappointing.

I thought it necessary to provide this lengthy and detailed account of my position on aspects of the current media questions and speculation concerning my conduct. I do this to provide the backcloth to the main purpose of this statement.

There are a great number of things I value as part of my professional life – very high in this list are my reputation for judgement and integrity.

On judgement: running a large and overwhelmingly successful organisation like the Met must be dependent to a great extent on others providing the right information and assurances. I could reiterate that I had no reason to doubt the original investigation into phone hacking or be aware of the documents and information in our possession and only recently provided by News International. I could point to the many other successes of the Met. I could point to the long history of how and why the relationship between the Met and media has developed a way of doing business that has brought real benefits but perhaps runs the risk of misinterpretation or worse. In this particular regard it is clear to me that the current furore marks a point in time, a need to learn and change.

However, as Commissioner I carry ultimate responsibility for the position we find ourselves in. With hindsight, I wish we had judged some matters involved in this affair differently. I didn’t and that’s it.

I do not believe this on its own would be a matter for me to consider my position as Commissioner.

However, the issue of my integrity is different. Let me state clearly, I and the people who know me know that my integrity is completely intact. I may wish we had done some things differently, but I will not lose sleep over my personal integrity.

Nevertheless, I must accept that the intense media coverage, questions, commentary and indeed allegations, as demonstrated by this weekend’s attempt to misrepresent my arrangements for my recovery from illness, not only provide excessive distraction both for myself and colleagues, but are likely to continue for some time. In particular the Public Inquiry must take time, with even the first part scheduled not to report within a year. A year in which the Met must face not only the enormous challenges that are the staple diet of this incredible organisation, but also the Olympics.

This is not a 12 months that can afford any doubts about the Commissioner of the Met, I have seen at first hand the distractions for this organisation when the story becomes about the leaders as opposed to what we do as a service. I was always clear that I would never allow that. We the Met cannot afford this – not this year.

If I stayed I know that the Inquiry outcomes would reaffirm my personal integrity. But time is short before we face the enormous challenge of policing the Olympics – this is not the time for ongoing speculation about the security of the position of the Commissioner. Even a small chance that that there could be a change of leadership must be avoided.

Therefore, although I have received continued personal support from both the Home Secretary and the Mayor, I have with great sadness informed both of my intention to resign. This will allow time for the appointment of my successor and for that person to take a firm hold of the helm of this great organisation and steer it through the great challenges and necessary change ahead, unencumbered by the current controversy. I will miss many things, but most of all it will be the overwhelming majority of honest, hard working professionals who it has been such a great pleasure to lead


Even the coppers’ friend Richard Littlejohn, is in despair:

Hacking? They can all go to hell in a handcart!

By Richard Littlejohn (Daily Mail 15/07/11)

Since the start of the phone hacking scandal I’ve tried to stand back from the hysteria. But on days like this, I give up.

Last night, I was halfway through a full-throated defence of the police, when I received a phone call informing me that in 2009 Scotland Yard hired Neil ‘Wolfman’ Wallis as a strategic public relations adviser.

Wallis had just resigned as executive editor of the News of the World, which was hacking the voicemails of just about everyone with a mobile phone.

Littlejohn: 'From the start I¿ve tried not to join the piranhas in the pool and have sought to put the whole business into some kind of perspective'

Yesterday, the Wolfman was arrested in a 6.30am raid by officers investigating phone hacking. You couldn’t make it up.

I had intended to defend the integrity of Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and his senior commanders in the face of a deranged fusillade of abuse from MPs.

But then it emerged that Wallis was paid £24,000 to advise personally both the commissioner and assistant commissioner John Yates, whom I had thought unfairly maligned by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.

What were they thinking?

From the start I’ve tried not to join the piranhas in the pool and have sought to put the whole business into some kind of perspective.

Despite this column’s deserved reputation for mocking the police, I have always been prepared to give Scotland Yard the benefit of the doubt in this case.

I was going to point out that five years ago, when hacking first came to light, terrorists were within a whisker of bringing down ten airliners over the North Atlantic.

The liquid bomb plot was only intercepted at the last minute by Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch.

It was the culmination of a long-running investigation, which involved 1,000 officers from the Metropolitan Police and a further 220 from other forces.

As many as 70 individual surveillance operations were being carried out. It takes at least 20 officers to watch just one suspect round the clock.

If the plot to detonate explosives disguised as fizzy drinks had succeeded, it would have been the worst loss of civilian lives since 9/11.

More than 3,000 people could have been killed and Al Qaeda would have scored a  stunning victory.

Mercifully, the culprits were arrested before they could board planes in London bound for America. But just imagine the recriminations on both sides of the Atlantic if this dastardly plan had succeeded.

George W. Bush would probably have nuked Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as a basis for negotiation, and sent the Navy SEALS into Belmarsh to take out Captain Hook. No more Mr Nice Guy.

At the very least, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee would have summoned the senior police officers in charge of the operation to explain their abject failure to prevent the loss of thousands of innocent lives.

You can just see sleazebag Keith Vaz sarcastically cross-examining the head of the anti-terrorist squad. ‘Tell me, Assistant Commissioner, why did you take your eye off the ball?’

‘We had other priorities, sir.’

‘What could possibly be more important than investigating a terrorist plot which culminated in the murder of thousands of innocent civilians and led to the start of World War III?’

‘We were looking into whether or not the News of the World had been hacking Sienna Miller’s voicemails from her beautician, sir.’

No doubt some will accuse me of being flippant. But the evisceration of the three senior police officers by Vaz’s smug little committee this week was despicable.

At the time of the inquiry into the original allegations that the News of the Screws had been listening to the voicemails of Prince  William, Prince Harry and members of the Royal Household, Scotland Yard was — and still is — flat out trying to keep us safe from terrorism.

Prince William: Allegations that Prince William, Prince William and other Royal family members had their voicemails hacked

A year earlier, more than 50  people had been killed and hundreds more injured in the July 7 attacks on the  London transport network

In addition to that inquiry, the Met was also pursuing its investigation into the liquid bomb plot.

The subsequent court case heard that officers had conducted 102 property searches and collected 26,000 pieces of evidence.

Specialists were combing through 320 computers, including 226  seized from internet cafes.

They also had to examine 14,000 ‘gigs’ of data on 15,000 CDs and 500 floppy disks.

The only reason the phone hacking  report landed on the desks of assistant commissioners Andy Hayman and  Peter Clarke was because royal security and anti-terrorism fell under  the same directorate at the Yard.

Despite their other pressures, they  brought that case to a successful conclusion, convicting the News of  the World’s royal editor and a private investigator.

During this crucial period, Scotland Yard was in turmoil under the dysfunctional leadership of Labour’s favourite copper, Ian Blair.

They were also having to deal with the fall-out from the shooting of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes in the aftermath of the 7/7 attacks.

So maybe they could be forgiven for not sifting through a few bin bags of evidence in the basement on the off-chance that they might stumble across evidence that Ulrika Jonsson’s voicemail had been hacked.

Peter Clarke is one of the outstanding policemen of his generation.

There’s never been a whiff of impropriety attached to him.

Andy Hayman may have left the Met under a cloud after he allegedly went over the side with a bird from the police complaints authority and was investigated, and cleared, of expenses irregularities.

Then again, a bit of extra-marital is hardly unknown at Westminster, is it Two Jags?

And, of course, when it comes to expenses, people in glasshouses etc . .

No one has ever accused Hayman of being anything other than a good copper.

He may now write the occasional commentary for The Times, a News of the World stablemate, but that doesn’t make him guilty by association.

MPs write for News International titles, so why not ex-police officers?

John Yates is a ferociously intelligent and dedicated detective, who has been given some tough assignments, including investigating cash-for-honours and royal butler Paul Burrell.

If he wasn’t intimidated by Buckingham Palace and Downing Street, he was hardly going to be frightened of News International.

And he had admitted making a mistake in not reopening the inquiry in 2009.

John Yates: Who has expressed his
Above: John Yates

But All that was before I heard about the Wolfman. Yates and Stephenson both knew that Wallis had been deputy editor when royal correspondent Clive Goodman was jailed for phone hacking.

So what possessed them to hire him as a special adviser?

As of 2010, we had the ex-editor of the News of the World advising the Prime Minister and his former deputy working for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Today I should be monstering the self-appointed moral conscience of the nation,

Chris Bryant — last seen posing on the internet in his underpants, soliciting for casual gay sex — and slaughtering  Gordon Brown’s hypocritical and self-serving intervention.

Now all that has been over-shadowed by the arrest of a man who this time last year was writing speeches for the Commissioner and giving strategic advice to senior Scotland Yard officers.

Incidentally, yesterday when I was checking the facts and figures behind the liquid bomb plot, I asked the Yard’s communications director, Dick Fedorcio, if there was anything else I should know before I rallied to the defence of the police.

I didn’t want anything nasty  coming back to bite me.

He assured me categorically there was not. To hell with the lot of them.

I am left with the conclusion that the entire political class, police and all, are rotten to the core.

They deserve each other, but I’m damned if I know what we have done to deserve any of them.

Frankly, I can’t keep up. God alone knows what you must make of it. I’m off on holiday. See you in a couple of weeks.

Permalink 8 Comments

Brooks arrested: enjoy!

July 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm (crime, gloating, Jim D, media, plutocrats)

Play this clip over and over again…

Permalink 2 Comments

Sweet Smell of… Murdoch

July 16, 2011 at 6:14 pm (cinema, crime, jazz, Jim D, media, plutocrats)

Back in 1957: an amazing premonition:

All we lack right now is the Chico Hamilton Quintet.

Permalink 3 Comments

That Murdoch ‘apology’

July 16, 2011 at 11:42 am (Asshole, Champagne Charlie, crime, grovelling, media)

Rupert Murdoch's apology letter
“We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred…”
-Rupert Murdoch in the ads published today.
 “Mr. Murdoch said News Corp. has handled the crisis ‘extremely well in every way possible,’ making just ‘minor mistakes.'”
Wall Street Journal yesterday.
(NB: News Corp. owns the Wall Street Journal)
Live gloating, updated every few minutes, here courtesy the Graun.

Permalink 48 Comments

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