Inside the system
Tories hit pinnacle
THE TORIES are backing down all over the place over privatisation, even as William Hague pushes more lunatic right wing policies. Two weeks ago they abandoned tube privatisation. Now the flagship Tory council in Wandsworth in south London has effectively taken its entire housing management services back into public ownership.
The council took the contracts off private firm JSSPinnacle (it seems the in thing for privateers is to have a silly name) after public pressure.
Bitten by best dog?
- BOSCO, A German shepherd police dog, has bitten 54 people in four years including four cops and a man who was later awarded �16,000 in damages. The mutt has just won the top police dog award in Cleveland, north east England. Inspector Ross Sibley for Cleveland police says, "Bosco is a highly trained dog and would not be deployed if we were not 100 percent confident in his ability and that of his handler." Well, at least we know what the police are looking for from future employees.
- THE PAPERS were full of sympathy for PC Alison Armitage last week. She was run down and killed by a stolen car in Oldham, Greater Manchester. Most victims of speeding police cars do not get the same treatment. If they did, there would be several features on such cases every day. Greater Manchester police admit their vehicles were involved in 357 accidents from October to December last year. The police kill around 20 people every year in car crashes.
- JACK STRAW'S new Criminal Justice and Police Bill will remove even a glimmer of democratic control over the police. The bill changes the status of the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the National Crime Squad. They are currently funded by levies on local police authorities. This means that local councillors get to oversee what they do, in principle. Of course, that does not make the police accountable. But the two forces are now to be directly funded by the Home Office and overseen, astonishingly, by representatives of MI5, Customs and Excise and the RUC, and Home Office appointees. This will make them more like a British version of the FBI-which has a long history of undermining civil rights and liberties in the US.
THE CUT in working hours in France has had one unexpected consequence. The Poitiers public library in western France has reported record numbers of borrowers on Thursdays and Fridays, traditionally quiet days of the week. The library expects even more users when the law on the 35-hour week extends to the public sector later this year.
PEOPLE IN Dartford may be interested to know what their MP, Labour's Howard Stoate, is up to. According to the latest register of members interests at the House of Commons, he went to Puerto Rico with his wife last autumn to "present a paper to the International Pharmacy Conference in my capacity as the chair of the All Party Group on Pharmacy".
Sounds fine-but it took him a week to deliver the paper and his trip was paid for by one of Britain's major drugs companies, Unichem. The All Party Group on Pharmacy is not a neutral body. It is funded by the pharmacy industry associations-the people who have used the World Trade Organisation's rules to take countries such as South Africa to court for manufacturing cheap anti-AIDS drugs.
COVER UP for the rich. This �350 face cream featured in the Financial Times.
ARE genetically modified (GM) crops safe? New Labour tells us they are, but an example from the US says otherwise. A GM maize intended only for animals is threatening to contaminate grain supplies for the second year running.
The StarLink corn is not approved for human consumption because of fears it might provoke allergic reactions. But last year it turned up in hundreds of US foods such as taco shells. Now fresh traces of StarLink have turned up in seed supplies, probably because pollen from it has contaminated neighbouring crops.
THE Quebec City authorities in Canada have passed a law banning people from wearing scarves or covering their faces. The bylaw will come into effect in April, when the city hosts a meeting of the Summit of the Americas. The police are desperate to prevent a Seattle-style protest.
If arrested, the burden of proof rests with the accused for providing a valid excuse for wearing a scarf or covering their faces.
Boyce will beat boys
THE government's latest education wheeze is to hand disturbed school students to the army for training. The new head of the armed forces, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, gave some idea what those young people can expect in a recent interview. He said, "Society has overcorrected-people are more fearful about shouting at people, telling them to do a job properly, clipping them round the ear from time to time." That's bound to turn children with behavioural problems into well adjusted adults, isn't it?
Things they say
"UNLESS politicians take heed of public anger over refugees, the door will be open to extremists. Even the fairest minded nation has its breaking point. And Britain has reached it. Tony Blair must recognise the danger signals and act-before it is too late."
- The SUN, 4 March
"IF AN asylum seeker and his family are prepared to risk their lives to come here-might they not work hard? We're just asking-particularly because we will NEED immigrants to boost our workforce. No matter what Hague says, he was allowing his speechwriter to flirt with extremism. It left a nasty taste in the mouth. We have seen how another great country-America-can be built by 'foreigners'. And Blair should be more prepared to argue that case."
- The SUN, 7 March
"OH, I think he's a Thatcherite. Well, he's a damn sight more conservative than John Major was. Well look, half the Conservative Party are in public positions for Tony Blair... Heseltine and Patten... If Tony Blair offered me a public position, of course I'd take it. Minister for the arts-why not?"
- ALISTAIR McALPINE, Thatcher's Tory party treasurer
"THE group appeared to be well organised, well disciplined and coordinated. There was nothing particularly racially inflammatory about what they said. They demanded positive action and asked the Asian community to extract the small number of hooligans from their community."
- Police sergeant DAVID COOPER of the Racial Incident Unit describing the Nazi BNP "Rights for whites" rally outside Oldham police station