Things I thought

Thursday 22 March 2012

Won't budge budget

Wednesday was budget day, and while George Osborne was delivering a gaping shit directly into the mouths of the poor, pensioners and anyone who likes fun, talented scoundrels UK Uncut were causing their usual colourful brand of mischief.

After a dole queue outside Downing Street, the crowd moved to Parliament square. Or tried to. Protesting anywhere near the seat of power has become a fucking nightmare (a group of my friends were detained for mass rough sleeping last year as their shivery shenanigans were considered protest) and police told us we weren't allowed. Which was a bit silly of them, for reasons that will become clear.

Walking towards Millbank, the crowd spied a large group of journalists and policy makers on what we assumed was Victoria Gardens, the space we'd been told to occupy. Makes sense, right? If it's a space being used for journalism, it should be available for protest. The result of our occupation can be seen here.

Funnily enough, the powers that be did not enjoy that piece of footage as much as I do, and it wasn't too long before we found ourselves chatting with Chief Inspector Davison, bronze command for Parliament. For a cop, he was very nice, but he'd had complaints from inside the big brown building with the pointy clock demanding to know why he was not enforcing the law (as Davison reports it, it took them a while to work out what laws they could enforce). The bourgeois media were also cross that the sudden arrival of news was getting in the way of their carefully scripted PR event, and police, parliament and papparazzi all wanted us gone.

Threats of arrest were made, alternative (but still illegal) sites offered, and Inspector Davison even made a pledge, to our camera, that he would not enforce the law if we just moved away from the journos. Yet when he later relayed this promise to the crowd they, for some reason, weren't buying it. The multitude stayed and the journalists (or at least the BBC) decided to do their broadcast elsewhere. Having been rather too chatty with bronze command, who I imagined was rather cross by this point, I decided it was also time for me to leave (which was a shame, as I hear both Ian Bone and Black Rod turned up and that's a fist fight I wouldn't have minded watching).

Despite all the threats, nobody got arrested.

So what did we learn? Well, we learned that protesting at a live broadcast is a lot of fun. We learned that it is a logistical nightmare to arrest big crowds of people, particularly if you stick together. We learned, courtesy of the Chief Inspector, that the SOCPA law banning protests around parliament expires on the 31 March. And we learned, as if we didn't know, that collusion between the press, the police and politicians is rampant. This Government is desperate to control their message, to marginalise protest and to silence the voices of people whose lives are being destroyed. Mainstream journalists who report on our demonstrations with anything less than utter contempt will get curt phone calls and a sudden cessation of access.

The BBC, who refused to continue their live broadcast, are amongst the worst. Terrified by the glint of Cameron's axe, they've dropped all but the pretence of impartiality. When the reality of dissent occurs around them, they flee, lest they be accused of reporting the news. When they do, we must chase them, and force our truth onto their airwaves.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Murder she rode

When it comes to distracting from inquiries, I'm a bit of an accidental expert. Which is why, when I encountered the spectacle of a horse galloping all over Leveson’s headlines, something smelled fishy. This fishy horse then began ringing alarm bells when I noticed that smarter people than me had spotted some utterly explosive revelations in that day’s evidence - revelations which one might have expected to be big news, had an equine usurper not taken the lead.

The testimony of Jacqueline Hames – available here – is as bizarre as it is damning. The whole thing is worth a read, but the relevant section runs from part 30 onwards. While reading the following story, you might like to imagine the various characters played by the cast of Channel 4’s Red Riding, if you watched it, which you probably didn’t, because it was shit.

In 1987 a private investigator called Daniel Morgan was murdered with an axe and later found dead in the back of a car. The investigation fell apart when it turned out that several cops on the murder squad had dealings with the private investigation firm (Southern Investigations) Morgan worked for, and that Morgan's business partner and chief suspect in the murder, Jonathan Rees, was good friends with investigating officer Sid Fillery. After the investigation collapsed, Fillery took early retirement and went into business with Rees.

I’ll give you all a moment to think libelous thoughts.

Done? Good. I think so too.

Morgan’s family understandably brought a complaint, and the case was reopened four separate times. In 2002 an appeal was made on the BBC’s vaguely fascist nightmare inhibitor Crimewatch offering big cash prizes to anyone who had any information. As a result, both Jacqueline Hames, then a Crimewatch presenter, and David Cook, who was the “public face” of the investigation were put under surveillance by Southern Investigations and, weirdly, the News of the World. Upon discovering this, both officers were placed under the witness protection programme. The police also decided to have a chat with Rebekah Brooks, NotW editor and future borrower of horses.

Ms Brooks claimed that the two had been put under surveillance as the NotW suspected them of having an affair. This was hardly groundbreaking journalism as, by the time the surveillance began, the couple had been together for 11 years, married for 4, were living with each other and had two kids.

In Ms Hames opinion, she and her husband were put under surveillance as part of an attempt to intimidate them out of further investigating the death of Daniel Morgan. I cannot begin to speculate on why the NotW would do this, mainly because I don’t want to end up in court again.

One person who can speculate is Tom Watson, who used his parliamentary privilege to suggest a strong connection between murder suspect Jonathan Rees and NotW journalist Andy Marunchak. According to Watson, Rees’ company paid Marunchak’s debts, and the two had businesses registered to the same address. Watson also alleges that, a week before he was found with an axe in his head, Daniel Morgan approached Andy Marunchak with a story about police corruption.

For what it’s worth (very little) Andy Marunchak vigorously denies these allegations. Yet for all his bluster, and all Brooks’ equine obfuscation, it’s clear that there may be a lethally cozy relationship between pigs, PIs and Fleet Street.

The Justice For Daniel campaign is online here and here.