No ticket to ride with Sussex Police for the fascist March for England

Fascist marching in Brighton, 2012Sussex Police have revealed that they will not be paying for coaches for “groups” travelling into Brighton for the March for England on St George’s Day (27th April). For “groups“, read: fringe fascists loosely connected with what’s left of the English Defence League. People like those photographed here (from their 2012 day out at the seaside). People too disreputable even to make it into UKIP ~ although they do try and have had to be specifically banned from membership. This is the sixth year they’ve brought their brand of xenophobia to spoil our normally loved up seafront.

Fascist marching in Brighton, 2012It has been nationwide police practice to provide coaches for far-right organisations to protest in our city centres. They wave a practice manual at you, if you ask, which officialises this policy. Public policy and Human Rights mean that the police must facilitate public protest, so the argument goes. Therefore, when a few face a crowd of thousands of jeering, booing, overwhelmingly hostile locals, the few fascists require protection. So far, so good. However, when the protection is extended to transport, it is our taxes being spent helping the far-right travel to protest. It is a ticket too far.

Fascist marching in Brighton, 2012For the first few years, Brighton’s visiting Englanders tagged along with some other event and destroyed it along the way. Then they launched their own version three years ago. Consequently hundreds of people turned up to show their deep and heartfelt opposition against them. The police rounded up the enraged locals into a number of fiercely contested kettles. The fascists were encouraged to go for a beer and then allowed to go on the rampage.

Fascist marching in Brighton, 2012The following year, Sussex Police took a different approach. Interventions by a broad range of public figures, including the local MP, Caroline Lucas, worked. The police agreed not to kettle those united against fascism. The resulting March for England was cut rather short, not far down Queen’s Road, when a number of particularly small, skinny and generally weedy looking twenty something anarchist types kept getting under the hooves of the police horses. Say what you like about the black bloc, they are brave.

I confess I used to parade myself on St George’s Day, around Brighton. For my sins, I was in the Boy Scouts. Although my folks teased me at the time, saying the Hitler Youth League was modelled on the Scouts, huge crowds of counter-protesters didn’t rain contempt on our parade. It just wasn’t that kind of day out. I’ve no idea how many kids are in the local Scouts these days or whether they could muster as many as we had in our ranks. Certainly, they’d like to carry on. Last year they decided to postpone their annual event, again, lest their flags somehow got conflated with the March for England’s.

Fascist marching in Brighton, 2012Last year, Sussex Police thought that they had cracked the problem by providing transport for the March for Englanders, into Brighton. The usual 100 or so marchers confronted the usual vast crowd of complainants by parading up and down Marine Parade. I contacted the coach company to ask them if they knew that their bus was being used to transport people promoting politics not dissimilar to Adolph Hitler. They said that they did not. Apparently they contacted Sussex Police to inform them that they did not want that kind of work again. After their parade, most of the visiting protesters (only eleven or so live in Brighton) declined the coach back to the secret rendezvous point. They preferred to maraud around town, looking for beautiful people to beat up. The police declined to stop this general affray because, “the march is finished, the operation is over” and “we can’t force people to travel on our coach.” At least that’s what their officers on the ground said.

This year, it sFascist marching in Brighton, 2012eemed prudent to ask Sussex Police, in advance, to name the coach company it would be using. We’ll skip the prevarication involved. The estimable @MrDrem made the relevant Freedom of Information requests, in so doing persuading the police to accept FoI requests via twitter. A couple of days ago, Brighton & Hove Bus company was named but it turned out that they have only got the gig to transport the police about. One hurried apology later and it turns out that there are no plans to bus the little Englanders anywhere.

Fascist marching in Brighton, 2012So there’s a public health warning out for Brighton on 27th April 2014. If you were thinking of a nice day out at our legendary seaside, it’s probably best not to bother. That’s because Sussex Police, in collaboration with ‘their partners’, have decided that you, the cash rich tourist, the Boy Scout or the seafront business owner are less important than a tiny and rather tawdry gaggle of brutish left-behinds, whose arrival will inevitably lead to the closure of the town centre for most of the day. They spent £500,000 facilitating this closure last year. Er, … you will see us at our outspoken best. Do try not to get caught up in the evening’s running battles!

Fascist marching in Brighton, 2012Last year Sussex Police were kind enough to answer a bunch of questions I posed about the March for England. They were pretty sketchy about which other venues were considered. Preston Park is often used for large scale crowd events. It is near a train station, it is close to the city centre and experience shows that it is easy to fence off. Furthermore, lots of police vans could be parked all around it and there are big fast access roads. It is a far better location to protect a few EDL stragglers from a few thousand counter-demonstrators. Apparently this year the police considered forcing the fascists up onto Kemptown Racecourse but dismissed the idea. Another wasted opportunity. The Boy Scouts could have had their parade back, on the day they’ve marched for decades. The tourists could have swanned about town spending their cash and our town centre businesses could have a break.

Further Information: Unite Against Fascism, Brighton Anti-Fascists; Twitter Hashtag: #StopMfE

Join UKIP without knowing what you’ve agreed to

UKIP’s website is a bit of a mess. There’s no search bar, no conspicuously placed cookie warning as required by the law since May 2011 and no warning when a link will take you to an external site. It’s hard to believe that none of their 45,000 members have any web design skills. It’s easier to imagine that the typical UKIP member doesn’t care that much about helping people find information, complying with UK law or basic politeness. Unfortunately, the problems do not stop there.

Let’s imagine that you want to join UKIP. The website hasn’t put you off, you reckon you could swig ale on expenses with the worst of them and want to poke The Establishment in its eye by promoting a privately educated rich man who avoids tax. You go to their website and complete the form, below.

Screen dump of UKIP's online membership application form

UKIP’s online membership application form ~ click to enlarge

You notice that the box marked, “To receive regular email updates from UKIP…” is pre-ticked for your convenience. Then you notice the box below, which requires you to tick it. It asks you to declare:

  • “I am not and have never been a member of the British National Party, National Front, British Freedom Party, British People’s Party, English Defence League, Britain First or the UK First Party.”
  • that you agree “To abide by the UKIP Constitution and the Terms and Conditions of Membership”

Let’s assume that you push worries about why the party of your choice feels the need to exclude, by specific reference, people who have previously been members of fascist parties. Of course, you’d rather that communists, anarchists and other fellow troublemakers were specifically excluded too. You may comfort yourself with the certainty that those brigands, ne’er-do-wells and general wrong-’uns are unlikely to consider joining UKIP.

You’re a stickler for reading the rules, so you click the link which which explains what you’ve agreed to. It’s a broken link. Remember, this is a link to within UKIP’s own website, not to some external site which has moved its web address. This is the place that UKIP advertises its internal rules. It didn’t exist all day today. Instead, we got this:

Screen dump of UKIP's website showing a blank page where the party's constitution should be

UKIP’s constitution is not for public consumption ~ click to enlarge

What’s the legal consequence of this? It’s a bit like signing a form which you haven’t read. The basic rule is that you have agreed to what you didn’t read. Of course, with the form you could have read it. With UKIP’s constitution and membership rules, you cannot. If it exists, it isn’t available publicly. So you can join but you can’t find out what you’ve agreed to. Ironically, that’s what UKIP say about the EU.

Brighton & Hove City Councillors: the good, the bad and the known unknowns

Well done to Jack for correctly guessing all the correct answers in last month’s political who’s who quiz for Brighton & Hove City Council. Here’s the names to go with the faces. I’m told that some of the older councillors are rather pleased with my soft satires because they have lost their wrinkle lines. When I heard that I almost felt sorry for them but, in a flash, I remembered that they are thieving Tory bastards. Then I felt a sharp pang of guilt. Had I flattered them with my art? You decide:

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Ania Kitcat (c) MArch 2014

1. Ania Kitcat ~ known for (a) refusing to reply to correspondence and referring people to her husband, the City Council Leader, Jason Kitcat; (b) turning up to meet protesters, who were trying to save a tree, wearing a fur hat, despite being a Green Party councillor; and (c) cracking the best political joke ever told in a meeting of Brighton & Hove City Council.

Amy Kennedy, a Brighton & Hove City Councillor, (c) Scrapper Duncan, March 2014

2. Amy Kennedy ~ one of the rare examples of a genuinely hard working politician. She overdid it, caught tuberculosis and nearly died. Luckily she is very much back in the land of the living but not in the political sense. She only retains her seat on the City Council because Caroline Lucas begged her to avoid another by-election.

Alan Robins, Brighton & Hove City Councillor (c) Scrapper Duncan, March 2014

3. Alan Robins ~ although resembling Jeremy Paxman in cartoon form, the real Mr Robins will not be appearing on a television screen near you any time soon. Or any other media. Or in print, unless it is produced and paid for by the Labour Party. You are unlikely to hear about him ever again.

Alex Phillips, a Brighton & Hove City Council (c) March 2014

4. Alex Phillips ~ Brighton’s most famous angry young woman, this intellectual is feted as a future leader of the Green Party, feared by her political rivals and envied by knitters everywhere for her ability to produce a complex crochet pattern whilst comprehending the intricacies of the most obscure corners of Green political debate.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Warren Morgan (c) March 2014

5. Warren Morgan ~ he leads the Brighton & Hove Labour Party in much the same way that Thatcher led the country: whether they like it or not.


6. Vanessa Brown ~ unremarkable

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Tony Janio (c) March 2014

7. Tony Janio ~ the darling of the local Conservative Party, as flamboyant as a funny hatstand, he catches the eye at the first glance but not in a good way. Locked into a love/hate relationship with Christopher Hawtree (see below).

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Sven Rufus (c) March 2014

8. Sven Rufus ~ won the worst ticket in the last local elections, which obliged him to pretend that he could work with Christina Summers (see below). Hugely respected, hard working, modest and in favour of sheep.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Sue Shanks (c) March 2014

9. Sue Shanks ~ very capable of repeating advice received from others, diligent and rather right-wing.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Stephanie Powell (c) March 2014

10. Stephanie Powell ~ noted for her skill in handling those interminably boring residents meetings. There isn’t an argument over parking charges which hasn’t entered her dreams.


11. Jeanne Lepper ~ a proper old school Labour attack dog. There’s no need to trouble Ms Lepper with the facts or even ask her to read anything for herself, just complain to her how upset you are about something and she’ll launch herself at your opponent, teeth bared, snarling and hungry for flesh wounds.


12. Ruth Buckley ~ is so radical that even hardened tree-huggers would find her ideological purity quite frightening, were she not also utterly charming. Oh dear, I’ve said it in public now.


13. Leigh Farrow ~ do not ask him for help if you are unemployed because he says he represents “the hardworking people of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean.”

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Ollie Sykes (c) March 2014

14. Ollie Sykes ~ a man very ready to have someone else put his name to a press release, thus proving that there is political credence in style triumphing over substance.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Lizzie Dean (c) March 2014

15. Lizzie Dean ~ the proverbial sack of potatoes, she was only elected because (a) the Greens were enormously popular locally (b) she represented the party in its safest seat.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Mike Jones (c) March 2014

16. Mike Jones ~ personally responsible for 60% of the pictures of cats on the internet. If the Animal Liberation Front didn’t exist, this man would invent it.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Lynda Hyde (c) March 2014

17. Lynda Hyde ~ Hyde by name, hide by nature. No meaningful contribution to City life whatsoever.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Phelim Mac Cafferty (c) March 2014

18. Phelim Mac Cafferty ~ would be leadership material if only he was capable of making a decision, prior to the deadline for deciding such things. Not after. [Update, next day: Phelim Mac Cafferty launched his leadership campaign a week late last year, this year's he's in time and a real official candidate] Please note he looks nothing like this cartoon. He is really difficult to draw with my blunt tools.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Leo Littman (c) March 2014

19. Leo Littman ~ considers being hoodwinked by bureaucrats whilst drinking lots of coffee with them, ‘hard work’. Noted for being a true born and bred Brightonian, as much loved by the local Tories. Requires advance notice of questions involving figures, otherwise he will claim that he didn’t expect, “to go into that level of detail.”

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Penny Gilbey (c) March 2014

20. Penny Gilbey ~ officially restricts herself to the modest ambition of raising “awareness of Portslade.” That’s somewhere to the West of Hove.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Les Hamilton (c) March 2014

21. Les Hamilton ~ favours devolution for Portslade!

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Mary Mears (c) March 2014

22. Mary Mears ~ rumours that her hobby is pulling the legs off spiders are completely untrue.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Mo Marsh (c) March 2014

23. Mo Marsh ~ remains a Labour councillor because she doesn’t know what else to do any more.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Ken Norman (c) March 2014

24. Ken Norman ~ yet to discover the internet, telephone answering machines and the biro.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Liz Wakefield (c) March 2014

25. Liz Wakefield ~ happier spray painting hippy slogans on the top of nuclear bomb silos than with the humdrum life of a councillor.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Bob Carden (c) March 2014

26. Bob Carden ~ considers the site of a new bus stop as his personal political triumph.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Christopher Hawtree (c) March 2014

27. Chris Hawtree ~ noted for his unusual rhetorical techniques, his obsession with Tony Janio (see above) and for hanging a sign over his toilet door with a Janio’s name on it.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Brian Pidgeon (c) March 2014

28. Brian Pidgeon ~ is only a councillor because the Tories couldn’t find anyone else to stand in his seat and spent months promising him he wouldn’t have to do anything.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Christina Summers (c) March 2014

29. Christina Summers ~ expelled from Green Group of councillors for voting against gay marriage rights despite promising to promote them and also for picketing an abortion clinic. Sits as an independent. Retains Green Party membership. God botherer.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Rob Jarrett (c) March 2014

30. Rob Jarrett ~ tired of the barricades, thrilled by the corridors of power

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Emma Daniel (c) March 2014

31. Emma Daniel ~ the City’s foremost self-publicist. Bland. Tribal. Ambitious.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Graham Cox (c) March 2014

32. Graham Cox ~ a copper who climbed the greasy career pole and then couldn’t cope with retirement so he became a councillor instead

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Anne Meadows (c) March 2014

33. Ann Meadows ~ a former Mayor who helped herself to a gift she wasn’t entitled to

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Dawn Barnett (c) March 2014

34. Dawn Barnett ~ persistently campaigned against Travellers and argued that shops should be allowed to sell golliwog dolls

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Geoffrey Theobald (c) March 2014

35. Geoffrey Theobald ~ other councillors routinely used to vote him extra time to talk because they enjoyed silently laughing at his idiotic remarks. Famous for frequently ending a different sentence from the one he started.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Bill Randall (c) March 2014

36. Bill Randall ~ an ex-bare knuckle boxer, he’ll go ten rounds with anyone. Real politics unknown. Tribal. Hates his previous party, Labour, with visceral passion.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Dee Simpson (c) March 2014

37. Dee Simpson ~ Notable for nothing.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Anne Pissaridou (c) March 2014

38. Anne Pissaridou ~ nothing to see here.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Jayne Bennett (c) March 2014

39. Jayne Bennett ~ a loyal Tory

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Denise Cobb (c) March 2014

40. Denise Cobb ~ lots of tweets, nothing to say

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Brian Fitch (c) March 2014

41. Brian Fitch ~ talks the talk of Old Labour, walks the New Labour walk.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Gary Peltzer (c) March 2014

42. Gary Peltzer ~ Unremarkable.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Ian Davey (c) March 2014

43. Ian Davey ~ single-handedly responsible for 20mph speed limits and top of the range cycle lanes.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Ann Norman (c) March 2014

44. Ann Norman ~ another ex-Mayor with little to say.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Geoffrey Bowden (c) March 2014

45. Geoffrey Bowden ~ doesn’t actually look that much like the current Pope! On the Right of the Green Party. Witty in the way that only the wealthy can be.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Ben Duncan (c) March 2014

46. Ben Duncan ~ the most radical councillor in the country! Member of a non-existent running club. Without this man, the Brighton Argus would have virtually nothing to write about. Often it just republishes his blog verbatim, without permission. Personally responsible for hounding Sussex Police into actually prosecuting those breaking the Hunting Act.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of David Smith (c) March 2014

47. David Smith ~ who he?

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Gill Mitchell (c) March 2014

48. Gill Mitchell ~ Bland and boring.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Carol Theobald (c) March 2014

49. Carol Theobald ~ the Tories’ political equivalent of Ania Kitcat: she votes the way her husband tells her to and lets him handle the correspondence too.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Jason Kitcat (c) March 2014

50. Jason Kitcat ~ Currently the Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council. Technocrat. For some reason my computer insisted on making his cartoon bigger than anyone else’s. Exceptionally handsome. If I was gay, I would seduce Jason Kitcat. His being Catholic and married wouldn’t stop me. Hell, it would it make it more fun!

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Andrew Wealls (c) March 2014

51. Andrew Wealls ~ pew filler, just there to make up the numbers.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Geoffrey Wells (c) March 2014

52. Geoffrey Wells ~ another politician with nothing to say

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Pete West (c) March 2014

53. Pete West ~ despite being the first elected Green in the country, he has successfully completed the journey from comrade to colleague. Known for shouting at Green Party meetings, especially about topics already debated and decided.

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Chaun Wilson (c) March 2014

54. Chaun Wilson ~ elected in a blaze of publicity, quiet ever since.

The day I walked towards gunfire

Walking West Harting Downs before sunrise, midwinter 2007

Before sunrise, midwinter 2007

The Winter Solstice of 2007 was a beautifully cold and quiet day, which found me yet again walking alone, along the South Downs Way. Freezing fog enveloped Harting Downs, planting icicles in my beard and blinding the path ahead. It was a day for steady steps, solitude and contemplation, according to my plan.

The plan was interrupted by the sound of gunfire. I’m no expert in weaponry but the rapidity of each round sounded more like shotguns than rookies. It was difficult to tell from which direction the noise came from and impossible to tell what direction they were shooting in.

Surely they would know that there was one of England’s most famous long distance paths in their vicinity? Although I could be certain no-one else was walking it that day, I began to ponder whether they would consider the possibility that there was at least one wanderer along the Way.


Whenever the fog lifted, so did the sound of shotguns

I walked on. What else could I do? Whichever direction I chose, I could be walking nearer to the firing. Spending the rest of the afternoon lying down on the frozen ground wasn’t an option. I peered into the crystals hanging in the air and peeled back my ears.

The gunfire abated. A few more minutes silence. Then it started again, much louder. Obviously I was walking towards it. What to do? I wanted to walk to Eastbourne, not turn back to Winchester. This was already my 6th attempt at the adventure. I kept walking.

Soldiers have to be trained to be calm when approaching battle. Had anyone seen me that day, I may have displayed a military grade discipline. Inside, I was in torment. To go on? Was this going to be my shortest day?

After another half an hour, the reports were very close indeed, echoing around the woodland. Then they paused again. I called out, lamely, a ‘hello’. Several times. No reply came. I walked on. Then the infernal sound began again, so close I could smell the cordite.

The unseen ghosts of archaic midwinter rituals surrounded me and loosed their anger against unknown victims. I began to wonder whether they even cared about hitting any target. How on earth could they see what they were doing? Despite my turmoil, I never quickened my pace. This journey was an act of faith in rights of way. How very different from a previous life-threatening situation a few years earlier, when I’d actually prayed for salvation.

Peculiarly, as the firing passed behind me, I calmed. The direction you get shot from isn’t relevant to the injury you receive, yet somehow walking slowly away from the madmen felt better than walking towards them.

At Cocking Down the fog’s fierceness settled a little. Leaving the trees behind, I descended towards the village. Two bright lights appeared in the distance. They turned out to be a landrover’s. It drove gently towards me. At the last minute it turned right through a gap in the fence and parked in the field on my left. Two more landrovers behind it followed.

Jacketed men got out, each with a shotgun limp over their arm. They all wore ear defenders. Shouting for their attention was futile. On the other side of a fence, they trudged no more than three feet away from me, in the opposite direction. Not one ever glanced in my direction. They were too busy passing large hip flasks around.

Then the shooting began again. I walked away. Slowly.

Will the real Satoshi Nakamoto please sit down?

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of the alleged founder of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto

One Mr Nakamoto’s private life no longer exists

A classic drama of the modern age played out this week when a man called Dorian S Nakamoto denied he was the Satoshi Nakamoto sought by the world’s media. It was a hypester’s wet dream, with old media salivating over the creators of the new. Newsweek relaunched its print edition on the back of the tale. Nakamoto the Denier is a modest looking 64 year old living in California. Accused of being the creator of bitcoin, he played his part in the theatre beautifully, declaring,

“I’m not involved in bitcoin. Wait a minute, I want my free lunch first. I’m going with this guy, I’m not in bitcoin, I don’t know anything about it.”

Then he off to lunch with a Japanese speaking journalist, with all the pack in pursuit. Then it turned out the whole thing was a misunderstanding, that something had been added in translation.

Who gives a toss who invented bitcoin? The point is that it exists. Anyone who wants to know about it has ample opportunity to read up on its history, discover its implications and pore over its recent headline grabbing moments. Like any new currency, its had its fair share of issues. Whether it will survive or prove to be fatally flawed, codally speaking, remains to be seen.

How long will we have to suffer these pointless reports? How long before old media accepts that we don’t want to watch a tv report which begins with a headline, followed by the headline repeated once by a newsreader, then twice by a reporter at some random location and a fourth time by the newsreader. How long will we have to endure established news corporations reporting the relevant hashtags on social media as if they somehow have a working relationship?

Mistakes occur with both old and new media. What new media gives us is detail and up to the moment reportage. If you want a blow by blow live account of the latest terrorist mass shooting in America, you turn to Twitter. CNN will be at least one hour behind. If you want to listen to the turn of the genuine political debate on the streets of Bejing, you turn to Weibo, which will tell you stuff that China Daily News won’t even acknowledge. Only you’d better be quick because that state’s censors will catch up within about an hour and delete the taboo conversations.

The idea that dozens of press people cold-calling on an elderly man and pursuing him down the street, without even a sliver of a suggestion that he has done anything wrong, is somehow morally acceptable by old media. None of the old titles are exempt, even the immaculately smug Guardian, now breaking into the US market, gleefully presented a video of Nakamoto the Denier locking up his front door and having to struggle for space to plant his feet on the pavement. Journalists even have a self-deprecating name for that behaviour: monstering. When the monster sets off flash guns in their victim’s face so as to swifly afterwards obtain a picture of someone looking disorientated and ugly, that is called “hosing them down“. In any other context, these people would likely find themselves on charges of harassment and, very likely, worse. Conspiracy to assault springs to mind. Yet this is their stock in trade.

We’ll have to suffer these non-stories, these public outrages and the general delay so long as our population retains its current older generation. The people who will not or cannot use computers. We cannot cut off their news service just yet. It’s just not fair. However, one day we’ll realise that the only people offline are the genuine refuseniks. Will new media then romanticise the old and speak of it fondly? Our memories are short. Perhaps in a decade or two, we’ll be making dramas about the noble work conducted under fire in places like Murdoch’s propaganda factories. I hope not. It’s a nasty business, dedicated to abuse, and we’re better off without it.

Greens throw towel in over resistance to cuts in Brighton & Hove

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Jason Kitcat on the phone

“Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir.”

After two and a half years in office, Brighton & Hove Green Party has accepted that it cannot maintain its election promise to resist the cuts imposed by the Coalition Government. With the exception of a handful of leftist stalwarts, the majority of the Green Group of councillors, led by Jason Kitcat, supported Labour’s version of the City Budget. Consequently, council tax will be raised by 1.99%, there will be substantial cuts to services, the Greens will continue in office and get the blame and in 2015 the voters will most likely eject almost all the Green councillors in the City. As the Scots said upon the Act of Union, “there’s the end of an auld song.

The last few months of politicking in Brighton & Hove has been dominated by an utterly tedious twitter based squabble between a tiny number of councillors and professional policy wonks. We’ve all absolutely had enough of it. It went nowhere at all and was characterised by rather bog standard insults and question dodging. Incredibly, there are those who are still continuing that ‘debate’.

Luckily, I have something else to share with you. Leaked phone calls are all the rage these days. Late last night the following transcript was passed to me, from a reliable man in a pub. It is supposedly the crucial conversation between Jason Kitcat and Warren Morgan.

JK: Hello Mr Morgan, how are you?

WM: I’ve got nothing to say to you. I fart in your general direction.

JK: Thank-you sir. [sound of JK inhaling deeply] Nice. What did you have for dinner?

WM: How did you get this number? Call it again and I’ll do you under the 1997 Harassment Act. Now fuck off.

JK: I just wondered if we could discuss how many of our Green councillors should vote for Labour at the budget meeting?

WM: All of them, except the usual suspects, will do.

JK: Yes sir, I’ll be sure to turn them round. Will you write me a reference for my next job application? Hello? Hello?

The really funny fact is that there actually is a tape of a conversation between Warren Morgan and a prominent Green councillor. I haven’t heard it but I heard about it from the people who illegally made it ~ yes, you need permission to tape people in the UK. The word is that it records Warren Morgan admitting that Labour would have handled last year’s pay dispute with the CityClean workers in exactly the same way as the Green council did. Warren Morgan declared that the situation just happened to arise on the Greens’ watch and thus they had to deal with the political flak, instead of Labour. Almost all of the flak was shot by Labour. Politics eh? Nasty business, populated by hypocrites.

Homily #4: Religious leaders fail to bless armies in Ukraine

Scrapper Duncan's cartoom of Patriarch Kirill

Kirill says do not kill

Yesterday I posed the question of which side in the Ukrainian crisis had the benefit of God’s blessing. Today I’ve been talking to the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Being a somewhat impoverished Archbishop myself, the morning was largely wasted convincing them to call me, so that I didn’t have to stomach the telephony charges. Patriarch Kirill bravely made contact first:

“You’re not connected with Tony Blair, are you? We’ve got enough troublemakers here already…”

After some perfunctory ecclesiastical pleasantries and a brief discussion of whether I could help him buy an English football team (I couldn’t, sadly), we turned to the serious question of which side in the crisis was likely to receive God’s blessing. Kirill was evasive to start with:

“God does not take sides. He may play football but not on a competitive basis…”

Kirill had spoken to the acting president of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov, to whom he expressed his:

“…deep concern about the latest developments in Ukraine,”

He went on to tell him that:

“… everything possible should be done to put an end to the suffering of the people, and to stop the violence and all manifestations of ethnic and religious discrimination.”

It seems that the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia must be similarly impecunious because he ended the call by saying,

“My assistant tells me that you have tricked us into calling you on false pretences. I cannot see any advantage in continuing this ridiculous conversation. Goodbye.”

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Major_Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych

King of Bling: Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk

Next, the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Ukraine, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych called, asking to speak to the Archbishop of Canterbury! Obviously I pointed out that he is jolly hard to get hold of and that he could talk to me instead, since I was the Archbishop of Southover. Oddly, he had not heard of Southover:

“I thought that there were only two Archbishops in England…”

Obviously I pointed out that there were seven Archbishops in Lewes alone! He was pleased to hear that England was much more religious than he had previously thought. Our conversation turned the weighty question of the day, would God support the Russian government or the Ukrainian government in the event of a conflict? He didn’t like the tone of my question at all:

“What sort of question is that? You’re not from the Daily Mail are you? We’ve got enough troublemakers here already…”

I convinced him that I was not a journalist of the newspaper which supported Adolf Hitler’s vision for Europe and asked him what he thought of the crisis situation:

“Russia is tried to provoke a civil war in Ukraine as a pretext for invading to restore stability. When that didn’t happen they came anyway.”

Did he accept that if the Supreme Being was Putin’s bedfellow, the sensible option was to immediately ditch the Catholic bling and take a beginner’s course in Russian as a matter of urgency?

“No. God wants peace on earth. He commanded us not to kill.”

Oh dear. I pointed out that the Old Testament clearly reported God was an angry, vengeful being, very capable of not only supporting murderers but also killing plenty of people himself. More than Satan, in fact. Unfortunately at that point the telephone line was cut.

Tomorrow I will make contact with lower ranking clerics in Ukraine and Russia. It seems that their supervisors are too concerned about their political role to speak openly. Either that or they’re hedging their bets.

Homily #3: Does God support Russia, Ukraine… or Crimea?

Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow who anathematized the Soviet government... Scrapper Duncan cartoon

Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow who anathematized the Soviet government… doh!

100 years after the war to end all wars began, Europe stands on the brink of yet another military inspired disaster. The stand-off between Russia and the new Ukrainian government is an ugly situation indeed. The politics of it are remarkably simple. Russia does not want Ukraine to join the EU because it fears losing control of its so-called ‘near-abroad’ and it wants to obliterate even the slightest risk to its Black Sea ports in the Crimea. The Ukrainian government wants to step away from being in the shadow of Russia’s long-standing imperialism. Control of territory is the oldest reason for war.

The religious take on the conflict is a much more complicated affair but one which, as an Archbishop, I must devote myself to. The question is which side does God support?

In ancient times, these questions were also easy to answer. Your local gods supported your local army. Simple. When the Roman campaign in North Africa got into difficulty, they found this explanation a simple justification for their early defeats: the local gods were stronger than their imported Roman gods. The Romans didn’t have a problem with the concept of gods competing for power and glory with each other.

However, the current conflict is dominated by nations which are predominately all of the same faith, albeit in different denominations. Everyone in every branch of the Abrahamic faiths believe that they all worship the same God. God has to make a choice.

Which side will God choose? Both sides are fervent, both are in the same church, both have an excellent sense of architecture, costume, ritual and historical significance. Surely it is a dilemma designed by humans to tax even the most superior of superior beings.

When the conflict ends, we’ll know the answer. Obviously God will have supported the winners! God does not fight losing battles. Right now, as I type this humble homily, preachers on both sides are blessing lines of troops, calling their coming conflict “just” and perhaps even preparing larger graveyards for the bodies of the departed souls. We can’t expect them to proffer much in the way of religious leadership. When did you last hear a vicar at a wedding say anything which stretched your view of interpersonal relationships or changed your view on the morality of killing? It’s above their pay grade.

In the meantime, we have to look to the religious hierarchy to sort out the relevant theological questions. That’s where I see my role in the commentator’s war. As an Archbishop of a dissenter’s congregation, I have to face an annual barrage of abuse which is generally regarded as occupying the no-man’s land in between a riot and a battle. I face down discipline, faith, confusion and fear and then dine out on it every other night of the year. Over the coming week, I’ll be examining the responses from the world’s religious leaders, analysing their theological accuracy and wondering aloud whether God agrees with them or not. One thing is certain: most of them will be wrong. Odd that.

Regretting giving humans free will isn’t much use now. One wonders if our God has started another world somewhere else in the Universe, populated only by automatons, set along vastly complicated lines of operation, working out the problems that God couldn’t figure. We live in hope.

Who’s who on Brighton & Hove City Council?

Here’s a little quiz for the weekend, for Brighton & Hove’s political geeks who are struggling to know how to obtain light relief from the daily grind of arguing with each other. Local politics is a difficult faith to maintain at the best of times with piss poor voter turnout, general contempt for everyone involved and an almost universal failure to grasp the basics of the constitutional arrangements governing local authorities. Some of these characters are relatively easy to spot, with only a passing knowledge of local politics. Identifying others will baffle even the most hardcore local activists. That’s got nothing to do with the quality of my satirical artistry and everything to do with them contributing nothing to our political discourse.

Answers in the comment section please. I’ll let the quiz run for a month before publishing any comments to let everyone have a fair crack at the quiz. If you want the real answers, please request an email in your comment and I’ll email them to you.

Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

Quiz Councillor No.1

Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

Quiz Councillor No.2

Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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Brighton & Hove City Councillor Satirical Cartoon (2014)

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WhatsApp could not legally operate from the UK

Facebook’s decision to purchase WhatsApp this week proved how remarkably different the online economy is to the conventional business market, in a number of key facts of commercial life:

  • the biggest online corporations are terrified by younger, poorer, rivals
  • privacy breaking technology is the most valuable commercial asset
  • online businesses can freely choose the laws they want to work with

Everyone on this side of the pond knows about the UK’s Data Protection Act. It is impossible to sign any contract in the UK, online or otherwise, which doesn’t involve some sort tick-box to exclude yourself from having your personal information shared. Businesses which wish to comply with the law will find an easy to understand explanation at the Information Commissioner’s Office.

How many people have actually read WhatsApp’s contractual Terms and Conditions, which incorporates their Privacy Notice? I have. If you’re really keen, I’ve posted a screen dump of today’s version of them at the bottom of this post. They can, of course, be changed at any time, without notice.

To cut a long story short, WhatsApp users agree to

  • a contract governed by the law in California
  • to give WhatsApp all the numbers in their phone’s address book
  • to allow WhatsApp to retain those phone numbers forever

In other words, using WhatsApp gives Facebook ~ a company with a woeful disregard for the privacy of your personal data ~ a licence to hoover up all the phone numbers in your address book. That’s a massive dataset of 430,00,000 people which purports to prove which people actually know which other people at any point in time. Let’s skip over the inconvenient fact of some people having other people’s phone numbers without their permission. That’s probably a minor irritation when it comes to coding a commercial recommendation engine or the various other uses these databases are put to. Suffice it to say that Facebook considers it worth quite a few dollars per person to both take over its biggest rival in the mobile web market and obtain an accurate dataset of who genuinely knows who.

WhatsApp could not operate in the UK because the retention of personal information after a customer has terminated their account with a company is illegal according to the 5th Principle of Data Protection in the UK. Every part of WhatsApp’s terms and conditions which mention the sharing of your own phone number and the sharing of the other phone numbers you personally know appear to relate to the way the service works. There are no references to those numbers being used for any other purpose. Therefore, after an account is deleted, neither Facebook nor WhatsApp should retain any data at all relating to those numbers. That includes their so-called irreversible hashes of them and any data signifying their relationship to each other.

Doubtless both Facebook and WhatsApp could afford really expensive lawyers to make eloquent arguments in favour of their preferred interpretation of the meaning of “personal data“. However they don’t need to because when you use WhatsApp, you are not legally in the UK. With every moment that app is installed on your phone, you have legally moved to California.

This begs the question as to whether there is any real point in the UK’s Data Protection Act? With so many of us relying on net services either created in California or purchased by mother-ship companies there, has our domestic law become pointless? After all, there is nothing to stop American corporations from selling their data to UK companies. Not to mention simply giving it away to their National Security Agency. Have the Wild West early days of the internet been replaced by a new kind of commercial colonialism, whereby national laws and citizen’s rights are replaced by the power of Californian Rules Capitalism?

WhatsApp Terms and Conditions and Privacy Statement on 21st February 2014

WhatsApp Terms and Conditions and Privacy Statement on 21st February 2014