Tag Archives: Ken Livingstone

De Menezes: Police Cowardice or Incompetence?

I’m amazed at the low standards to which the Metropolitan Police are being held, and the degree to which commentators are choosing to defer to police ‘fear’ or ‘bravery’ in examining the death of Jean Charles De Menezes, when the inquest jury determined their account was based on incompetence and lies. Why should it matter that suicide bombers had finally acted against London? I expect the police to behave in the same, cool, evidence-based manner at all times because that’s what they’re trained to do. I don’t expect CO19 officers to run into a tube station, with little information, garbled commands, and to kill innocent people with no warning and no chance to identify themselves ever. Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone would have you believe:

Cressida Dick (w)as the “most talented” officer he worked with.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Livingstone said the police officers made mistakes because of the “unbelievable” pressure they were under.

Ms Dick, who was in command of the operation and subsequently promoted, has “commissioner potential” he says.

Now ‘pressure’ is an excuse to write off a human life. Can someone tell me how Dick is ‘commissioner potential’ when she changed her orders multiple times, allowed De Menezes onto the train, and never properly articulated what ‘stop(ping)’ him meant? And is ‘pressure’ a justifiable excuse for surveillance officer ‘Frank’ to have made a spotty initial identification of De Menezes as ‘European’ (which his features were), having been distracted by a call of nature, but to then to change his mind to being unsure if he was failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman, despite there being no resemblance whatsoever? For a lay person, terrified of the potential suicide bombing wave perhaps, but a trained surveillance officer?

Was it fear, pressure or bravery which allowed the surveillance team on the train to either  misidentify De Menezes as Osman or fail to inform C2 and C12 otherwise, when other passengers on the train confirm they had plenty of time to determine De Menezes clearly wasn’t dark-skinned in appearance (approx 5 mins in):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And what about the surveillance officer on the bus whose positive identification of De Menezes as Osman legitimised C2 to open fire when he eventually arrived? Could fear or pressure have caused him not to notice that De Menezes was Caucasian (which Osman was not)?

“I heard over the radio that there was a surveillance officer on the bus and I heard them say ‘this was definitely our man’.”

When asked what else he heard as he pursued the bus in a silver Mercedes with two other firearms officers, he said: “I heard over the radio that he was nervous (he wasn’t), acting strangely (he wasn’t) and that he was standing up in the stairs acting very twitchy (he wasn’t).”

C2 said it was the greatest threat he had faced during 17 years as a specialist firearms officer.

He said: “I have been in the firearms unit for a number of years and we have never faced a threat like that.

“It occurred to me that it was very likely, sooner or later, that we were going to have to confront these people and, if it all went wrong, we were aware the consequences were huge.

“It did occur to me that I might not get home if it all went wrong.”

Or maybe he never said it at all:

One of the firearms officers told the jury he heard surveillance officers positively identify the suspect over the radio. The surveillance officer in question contradicted this in court.

And then there’s the above video, which reports that C2 said his actual reason for opening fire was De Menezes getting up from his seat (he did) and approaching him in a threatening manner (he didn’t). Maybe it was fear or pressure which caused him to shoot him anyway, but if that’s true, wouldn’t that have justified him shooting pretty much anyone? Is that what we’re really saying, that a highly trained police officer should be able to justify trigger-happiness through ‘fear’, ‘pressure’ or ‘bravery’ (via the spin of their colleagues)? And if, as the jury maintains, he did lie about De Menezes’ movements (and bear in mind with then-Commissioner Sir Ian Blair’s deliberate obstruction of the IPCC from investigating immediately all participants in the killing had time to confer and indeed change evidence) doesn’t that mean he shot him for no reason? Can that be justified by the context in which they were operating? Hugh Muir says:

Let’s look at what the judge decided. He said no reasonable person having heard the evidence could conclude that what occurred was murder. That’s surely right. Whatever happened underground at Stockwell, there was no malice aforethought. It was a horrible and scary time. Those of us who live in the capital well remember it. People had died on 7/7 and had been maimed in the most horrible circumstances and the talk was of an immediate repetition, of young men queuing up to martyr themselves. The context is important.

I don’t agree. If I were let loose with a gun the context would be everything, yet these were supposedly highly trained firearms officers. They should and must be held to the highest possible standards at all times. When does gung ho become malice? When do unchallenged racism and trigger-happiness become murder or manslaughter? When does arriving inexplicably late mean you rely on more than a single, uncorroborated (and by then dated) confirmation of the subject’s identity before opening fire? Isn’t malice aforethought an execution without any reason? Yesterday afternoon however the Independent Police Complaints Commission and Crown Prosecution indicated their level of interest in pursuing charges of perjury against the officers:

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said Ms Wistrich’s call for a perjury inquiry was “wrong”.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it had not received any referrals in relation to perjury charges.

A spokesman for the police watchdog said: “It is wrong to construe that there has been possible perjury from the findings of the jury because they were asked to decide on the balance of probability.

“The jury could not indicate whether they believed certain witnesses were mistaken or lied.”

Erm they answered the Coroner’s question – did C12 issue an ‘armed police’ warning? No. Did De Menezes stand up when confronted with the kill team? Yes. Did he approach them in any way? No. All the police said all three statements were true, the witnesses said otherwise and the jury agreed. No perjury? Really?

“Noone set out that day to kill an innocent man,” said Sir Paul Stephenson.

Yet by the end of the day Jean Charles De Menezes had been killed, the Metropolitan Police had initiated a cover-up of the truth and started smearing his name to justify their actions. Cowardice, incompetence or something more?


Buck Foris

Boris Johnson has taken office as Mayor of London.

I would like to thank first the vast multitudes who voted against me – and I have met quite a few in the last nine months, not all of them entirely polite.

I will work flat out from now on to earn your trust and to dispel some of the myths that have been created about me.

There is nothing you can do to earn my trust you idiot. You’ve already lied about your transport policy, you’ve shown disinterest, dislike and ignorance about diversity, and offered policies on crime which were just plain stupid. How do you think you can earn my trust, when the ‘myths’ have to a number already been proven to be true? When you’ve written in an outright homophobic manner for years and then when you have the opportunity to explain your platform’s contradictory support for gay Londoners you refuse – when you say you were against Section 28 but still support the point of it, what are we supposed to think?

Where there are neglected opportunities we will seize on them, and we will focus on the priorities of the people of London: cutting crime, improving transport, protecting green space, delivering affordable housing, giving taxpayers value for money in every one of the 32 boroughs.

Putting metal detectors in schools and tube stations to weed out those carrying metallic weapons is economically impossible. It’s also impossible in terms of manpower, and is hardly a step towards tackling the reasons for why knives and guns are being used by young people to kill one another with. Improving transport won’t be done by attempting a no-strike deal with unions ideologically opposed to you, with clout no central government would currently dare stand up to for long.

And I hope that everybody who loves this city will put aside party differences to try in the making of Greater London greater still.

You are an Old Etonian who hasn’t as an MP voted for the best interests of London. Put aside party differences? Are you completely mad? Your sponsors the Evening Standard went through the whole gamut – from saying Ken’s campaign was being managed by suicide bombers to claiming he was setting up a socialist cabal in City Hall – maybe you’re the one guilty of negatively inflating party differences.

To the young people who voted for the goofball celebrity of Have I Got News For You, to the self-loathing gay Tories who voted for a man who hates you, to the ungrateful taxi drivers who voted down the man who inflated your fares well past the point of reason, to the racists and homophobes who took their opportunity to stab London’s minorities in the back, I say thank you. Thank you for making London look as stupid as the United States. We now have no political capital to expend in attacking the Americans for voting for a hateful, ignorant and stupid buffoon as their leader. Where they voted him in anyway for his affability, it seems London just did too, proving once again that most people really are stupid.

Mayor BoJo

I’m aghast.

Was Ken brought down by Gordon Brown’s poisonous effect on the Labour Party? Was it the £25 4×4 congestion charge? Was it a backlash against his embracing of London’s diversity or his meeting Yusuf Al-Qaradawi? Was it his support for Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez or his failure to get the tube running properly? Was it his support for the corrupt Sir Ian Blair, or the street crime which spiralled out of control, despite the figures the Metropolitan Police lazily fell back on? Worse still was it Brian Paddick’s failure to direct his supporters’ second votes to go to Ken?

Boris Johnson isn’t a fan of ethnic minorities, homosexuals, poor people or London for that matter, yet London has just voted him Mayor. London elected someone with the right attitude and experience for two terms, then reflected and decided “he’s been in the job too long” and supplanted him with a bumbling oaf of a man, who’s never prioritised London’s affairs as an MP, and doesn’t support measures such as the congestion charge which have already been proven to improve London’s environment. Seems a bit bonkers doesn’t it? But whilst extremely upsetting and worrying, it was actually quite predictable.

The diversity agenda quite simply doesn’t operate in a straight line. Livingstone came in with the creation of the job in 2000 promising genuine change, and he delivered. More than anything he set about breaking the disproportionate privilege previously only held by the white middle-class – the funding of ethnic minority groups, the congestion charge, the promotion of ethnic and subcultural events like Pride by City Hall – Trafalgar Square has never been busier, more educational or diverse – these have all acted to raise the profile and power of London’s minorities. Except a) now there’s more of a level playing field they’re all flexing their muscles in ways previously unthinkable and b) the middle classes will never overwhelmingly support the championing of policies, approaches or attitudes which act in others’ best interests.

So Ken was in large measure a victim of his own success. But the Guardian is also right I think – a perception of arrogance, being above what the voters might want – also did him in. Was the Oliver Finegold affair his Monica Lewinksy moment? Maybe, in that it didn’t reflect badly on him in his job, but was a distraction he could have done without, and:

(whilst) every success brought acclaim (it) also seemed to erode his sense of humility. The line between self-belief and arrogance can be a thin one. Self-belief was a essential component of the construct Livingstone had so successfully sold to the public over almost 30 years. Arrogance, descending all too frequently into shows of petulance, only served to degrade it.

That’s a really strong analysis I think. He was right to battle the disgusting Evening Standard, but it was a pointless battle. He was right to bid for the Olympics, but London wanted to hear he wanted it for community and sport, not merely for the development money (which was, after all, a prime priority for his position). He may have championed gay rights with his partnership register (the precursor to civil partnerships), but his open support of Islamist cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi compromised a key component of his support from the gay community. Was he right in saying the right wing tabloids didn’t represent Al-Qaradawi’s views fairly? Probably. But he also refused to acknowledge that the cleric might have misrepresented his real views to him too. And then he really backed the wrong horse with Sir Ian Blair (whom Boris now needs to fire from chairing the Metropolitan Police Authority, as promised). Supporting a Metropolitan Police Commissioner who remained more concerned with saving his own neck following his corrupt attempt to block the investigation into the Met’s murder of Jean Charles de Menezes was just bananas. With people’s experience of street, knife and gun crime escalating out of control in Ken’s last term, he could then never say he was the Mayor of law and order.

It’s the worst result we could have expected – London even now has the BNP in the Assembly. I hope at least that a London which has become more political than at any time since the 80s will still have the courage to ignore the Evening Standards of this world and hold this new bunch forcefully to account. But given how stupid certain elements in London have been this last week – voting for an unqualified, elitist, celebrity (George W anyone?) idiot because it’s “time for a change” – things don’t look positive. At least the 2012 Olympics, which most of us believe will be a shambles will be presided over by a shambles. Just don’t forget what this man really thinks of diversity, Ken’s championing of which was chiefly responsible for winning the bid and putting London back on the map:

Vote Paddick

It’s the London Election at last. All the lies, slander and garbage printed by the disgusting and disreputable Evening Standard can now get shoved to one side and the candidate who really is prepared to do what is needed the most in London can win. That candidate isn’t Boris Johnson. Even if you discount the racist and homophobic comments and articles in his past, it’s been conclusively proven that his platform is a lie. When pushed his transport budget is an outright lie. When pushed his sudden Damascene conversion to supporting diversity is a lie.

In my mind, Paddick’s priority of reforming the governance and operating culture of the Metropolitan Police is the single biggest issue for London. Crime isn’t getting better, whatever the statistics show. The Met isn’t getting any less racist or homophobic – the stats on the former show increasingly racist outcomes, the latter problem is known even by their Commissioner, who is at the least borderline corrupt for attempting to inhibit the investigation into the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes. Paddick insists his priority is to chair the Metropolitan Police Authority himself and thereby overpower Sir Ian Blair when he lapses into ‘old Met’ behaviour. Ken Livingstone, despite his many strengths and achievements, isn’t offering any change for the Met at all – merely to add more to their number. The days of them operating as a quasi-autonomous militia really have to stop, and Paddick has stated his intention many times in hustings I’ve attended to modernise and reform the way they operate.

Given that Paddick’s gay himself, it’s hard to imagine him not supporting the diversity which makes up London, the promotion of which has been one of Livingstone’s finest achievements.

Of course he hasn’t a chance of winning, but this is where proportional representation gets fun. Vote Ken for your second choice. There’s no way of letting Boris Johnson through in that way, don’t worry. When the first votes are tallied, all but the top two candidates are simply knocked out and their second votes are reallocated. Paddick 1 Livingstone 2 allows you to vote what’s right and get the right overall outcome too.

Don’t let the Tories screw this city up yet again. Ken’s done a lot in the last 8 years to fix the problems they caused, and he’s done extremely well. Environmentalism, poverty reduction, buses, an initial improvement in police numbers, innovations in housing, and support for London’s multitude of ethnic and subcultures – all of these have made London better after the hatchet job inflicted on London from the mid-80s. Does Ken have the answers to take it from here? Not enough of them I’d argue, but this was the Mayor who brought the Olympics to London not for the sport, but to tap into the vast regeneration funds to make this place better. He needs to continue what he started.

Isn’t PR fun, being able to support two candidates at the same time? And I’m going to vote Green till it hurts for the London Assembly. They can and have done wonders already at local level.

Of London, Elections and Police

Controversy is raging tonight – is the Metropolitan Police Authority witholding publication of its report into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes for political reasons or not? The Evening Standard (who, remember hate Ken Livingstone’s guts, and Ken is Sir Ian Blair’s biggest political patron) says:

Today, however, the Metropolitan Police Authority admitted publication of the report had been delayed because of “political sensitivities” surrounding the mayoral and London Assembly elections.

A spokesman said the report into the 2005 shooting had still not been completed but had been held over because of the election “purdah“. The spokesman added that there was the possibility of “people making political capital out of it”

Could it be that the report is damning towards the Met’s behaviour and their apologist leader at a time when Ken Livingstone is fighting for his political life? Wouldn’t withholding publication at such a vital time be pretty shady? But wait, that’s not all that’s going on. Another spokesman (the same one? A different one? A *cough cough* real one?) contradicted the normally *guffaw* reliable Standard, saying:

“It is a gross misinterpretation to allege that the MPA Stockwell scrutiny report has been delayed because it is critical of the Commissioner, or for political reasons.”

“The scrutiny was set up to look at lessons learnt and new processes put in place to prevent such a tragedy happening again. It is not specifically about the Commissioner.”

“Scrutiny panel members have not seen a draft report and therefore it is completely misleading to make any assumptions about the contents.”

“The timetable for completion of the report has slipped due to the huge volume of evidence presented to the panel and the meticulous analysis required to complete the report. The panel members unanimously decided to extend the timetable for the production of the report.”

“The report is not yet written, work is ongoing and we will present the report to the full Authority before the summer. The report will be publicly available.”

But the damage is done. Lib Dem Brian Paddick (who has ruthlessly attacked Ken Livingstone), has used the story to further his platform of demanding the ousting of Blair and his unconditionally supportive patron Livingstone. In an election where the issues of crime and accountability of the Metropolitan Police are significant, the timing of this report (whatever the truth is) couldn’t be worse for Blair. We can only hope, despite the target of the Standard’s attack having been Livingstone. Whatever the truth is, Brian Paddick is right when he says:

“Londoners deserve to know the truth. If this report has been withheld for political purposes, this proves there is need for radical change in the way London and the Metropolitan Police Authority are led.”

There’s need for it anyway. The Metropolitan Police is anything but accountable, in very large measure because of Sir Ian Blair’s failure in reforming the service, stemming directly because of his dishonest behaviour in trying to block the initial investigation into Jean Charles de Menezes’ murder, and Ken Livingstone’s refusal even to criticise him one iota. The elected London Assembly tried to impeach Blair, but the MPA voted against a motion of no confidence in him shortly afterwards. Brian Paddick and Boris Johnson have both said if they win they will chair the MPA themselves; Johnson saying he would remove Blair, Paddick already voicing putative successors’ names. I hope that, should Ken yet win, he’s listening, but there’s no indication of anything but unconditional support for a force and Commissioner which are failing Londoners.

Balance of Power

It’s a healthy indictment I think of London’s post-2000 political system that the balance of power in the upcoming Mayoral election will be held by the Lib Dems and the Greens. With Ken and Boris each on about 50% each, it’s abundantly clear that the second vote preferences will determine this contest. The Greens have already committed to Ken, at least as a party (with Peter Tatchell providing a good example), but the Lib Dems are only doing so informally. Ken may finally be leading in the polls once again, but it remains a volatile contest with an unclear outcome.

It’s excellent evidence to the rest of England that proportional representation really can allow you to vote for your preference and the most realistic candidate at the same time; sort of voting for Obama and Hillary. It means that the two-party grip on power, which is inhibiting change in England, can be broken – neither Ken nor Boris is likely to win without the help of sympathetic voters in other parties. Green and Lib Dem voters really have to vote Ken as their second choice, unless they want the buffoonish Boris Johnson – the man who scarcely paid any attention to London’s affairs – to win. Vote, people.

You don’t have to take it from me though – go to any of the upcoming hustings (try the gay hustings run by Stonewall on the 19th April) and connect directly with any of these people – make your mind up for yourself. Or merely watch these videos below:

It’s important stuff – vote for candidates with environmental priorities, vote for progressive, anti-poverty politics, socially liberal norms, or for candidates who have a track record against diversity, with no understanding or interest of what has to be done to combat poverty. Has Ken Livingstone been a faultless Mayor? Hell no. But his achievements have been significant. What you have to decide is who’s best suited to build on them and push London even further forward and on an even more progressive platform. It’s a good thing that Johnson has proposed an amnesty for illegal immigrants, which his party opposes. But would he really be an effective Chief Executive when he wasn’t even interested enough to vote on the Crossrail bill? 21 days to go…

Abusing Ken – Are We Back in the 80’s?

I’d say I didn’t understand the upcoming London Mayoral election, but the reality is one which Polly Toynbee regularly directs us to: the British newspaper media is overwhelmingly right wing, and in this case the Associated Newspapers group which have always hated Ken Livingstone with a passion, scent the possibility of revenge. Of what you may ask? Remember his fight with Evening Standard (Associated Newspapers) reporter Oliver Finegold? Well a newspaper group with a noted history of anti-semitism chose to call Livingstone anti-semitic (a blatantly preposterous charge). He successfully fought them off, and now we’re at election time…who’s leading the pro-Boris, anti-Ken drive? Surprise surprise.

It’s really sick. I’m not saying for a moment that he hasn’t made serious mistakes (supporting Sir Ian Blair in the aftermath of Jean Charles de Menezes’ murder to name but one example – I’m sure Peter Tatchell could come up with many more), but this isn’t politics. Even his desperate opponent Boris Johnson is joining in the frenzy. Having links with a Trotskyite faction? Is the ‘Red Ken’ jibe really supposed to resonate with anyone anymore (hint: the polls suggest it really doesn’t)? Let’s also not forget that Boris’ sudden animosity against Ken is more than a little staged

Livingstone’s a maverick, was before he was elected in 2000, and has supported factions and causes which have been politically incorrect before becoming the political norm for over a generation. As Mayor he’s actually made progress in redistribution of income in a city with levels of poverty unmatched anywhere in the pre-enlargement EU. Whilst the tube hasn’t improved, much of that can be laid at the feet of Gordon Brown, whose PFI contract hasn’t exactly been an incentive to improve our underground transport! Is he a petty bureaucrat? Yes, and I don’t like it. Is he a benign dictator? Yes, by his own admission the powers he assumed in 2000 were needed in order to force through progressive changes like the congestion charge – changes which worked to the betterment of all Londoners. This is a reason to be as uncontrollably brutal against him now? I said a few weeks ago we’d get a Jacques Chirac v Jean-Marie Le Pen-type election here and it’s sadly shaping up quite nicely.

I have reservations about him on principle, after basically admitting it was ok for the Metropolitan Police to murder Jean Charles de Menezes. But I don’t agree with this character assassination which is going on right now. Is he probably a bastard in private? Sure. When did that become a bar to high office? We need to see through the ridiculous distortions of what’s really going on, and see his achievements (check out the press conference Martin Bright tries to cut through by the way, if you can make it work, and make your own mind up). If you don’t think they amount to much then vote for someone else, but otherwise grow up!