Category: Tories

Tories and thugs (#Savile warning)

The Leeds post on Savile required subtlety; it dealt with things like culture and class that only work that way. So what about Broadmoor, the asylum where the Tories put the psychopath in charge? Well, Leeds was about the things nobody was willing to say. As we will shortly see, Broadmoor was about precisely the things people said right out there in the open. The report is here.

If you followed mainstream media or indeed this blog, you’ll know that the minister responsible for putting Savile in charge of Broadmoor Special Hospital was none other than Edwina Currie. Here’s what she has to say for herself, at paragraph 7.14 of the report.

“He’d had a look at everything he could use to blackmail the Prison Officers’ Association…I thought it was a pretty classy piece of operation. He knew how to pin people to the wall and get from them what he wanted

She wasn’t wrong.

What was it Currie was talking about? Well, Savile claimed per paragraph 7.13 to have discovered that the Broadmoor staff were fiddling their overtime, that some people who weren’t working there had managed to keep tied accommodation, and that some £5 million was missing from a construction project. The reference to blackmail is that he proposed to leak this to a newspaper if the POA didn’t cooperate.

As the report says, the corollary of this is that he, Currie, and senior civil servants were willing to accept the alleged fraud in exchange for cooperation. As it doesn’t say, quite, the government in the person of Currie was also OK with using Savile’s gangster tactics as well as putting up with the illegality. Currie thought this “classy”.

The motive was, per paragraph 7.13, as follows. It is what you might guess.

He intended to bring the POA to heel

In 7.14, Currie says:

The principal question was “how can [the government] break the hold the POA has on the hospital

She also (reference 7.20) says:

a racket run by the union was like manna from heaven

In a brief for ministers dated February 1989, reference 7.19, we get this:

As a direct result of Mr Savile’s determined and at times ruthless leadership, 15 militant senior nurse managers are set to leave the hospital

It seems only surprising they were not found in a ditch in Guatemala, going by the style and tone here.

But, you say – a racket run by the union is still a racket. The report repeatedly points to the fact that many Broadmoor staff lived in tied accommodation as a reason why Savile got away with it. They were scared of being evicted. The racket didn’t end – he muscled in on it. Clearly, he provided some service and that service was putting the fear of God into people who were after all just in a union. It’s normal. It was the thuggery that impressed so much.

By the way, in fact he made a pass at the minister herself; an annexe to the document contains a civil service note of the meeting in which she says he tends to kiss right on the mouth. We’ll break here to pass round the brain-bleach.

If the convulsions have passed, we’ll continue. One of the big issues in Broadmoor and in the NHS at the time was the emergence of “management” as a thing as opposed to “administration”. “General managers” were appearing and gaining influence as a new profession. In Leeds, this was almost certainly a good thing. Professionalisation removed niches in which the roots of his tolerance lay. Access was reviewed. Policies were drawn up for things like protecting patients from abusers. The dual hierarchy of consultants and nurses, neither of whom necessarily took responsibility for basic security, was subordinated to management.

In Broadmoor, though, Savile was the agent of the rise of the manager. His appointment occurred in the context of efforts to create a management structure for the special hospitals. DHSS officials who believed strongly in “entrepreneurs” were instrumental in appointing him. The launch of playing-at-shops internal markets was closely bound up with it. The man who pressed the button, Cliff Graham, did so over the summer while key civil servants were on leave, ministers were out of the country, and Edwina Currie, bless her heart, was “covering but doing most of it from Yorkshire”. Graham acted, and then informed the minister when the damage was done. It is surely interesting that the report quotes another civil servant describing him as “a thug”. Graham has since died.

I didn’t know, before reading the report, that Broadmoor played an important role in the foundation of the POA. As such, it was perhaps a sort of carceral Yorkshire coalfield. The changes going on there were socially complex. Part of the story was the movement towards a less vicious form of psychiatry, which implied that the role of the staff would be more therapeutic and less punitive or security oriented. This is clearly a good thing. However, an important social aspect of this was that it meant that they would cease to be a trade, organised in the POA, and become a profession with a chartered institute, the Royal College of Nursing.

I don’t know, but I’m guessing that the transition from a blue-collar ex-services culture to a pink-collar one probably came with a pay cut and not much future for non-graduates. Which would be why they wanted Savile and his merry gang from Leeds. Tellingly, the report says the most prison-minded old guard types were also the most successful at keeping him out of their wards – they weren’t likely to be bullied.

Which leaves us with a question I left hanging. Which newspaper was that again? It was, of course, the Sun. It goes without saying, really. And not much changed. Here’s David Hencke:

Matthew [D'Ancona] describes his [George Osborne's] view of Coulson as ”a street fighter who could take the battle to Labour and win in a media knife-fight.”

But Cameron comes over as besotted with Coulson. According to [D'Ancona] ” Cameron..was awestruck by his communications director, whom he privately described in lyrical language.”

” He treated Coulson as a red top shaman, a source of secret knowledge about the world of tabloids, Essex and kitchen- table politics..

Still far too keen on anyone who came across as: a thug.


I fucking told you. Eric Pickles has signed up for the deeply dodgy Create Streets agenda, on the basis of a report drawn up by a bunch of estate agents. On which planet isn’t this an outrageous conflict of interest?

Also, he wants to get rid of terribad concrete towers through….system building.

But Mr Pickles said he was keen to stop any more 1960s-style tower blocks, which he dismissed as “concrete carbuncles”.

Mr Pickles was today visiting Rainham, Kent, to promote affordable homes from new “offsite” construction techniques, billed as a modern successor to post-war pre-fabricated housing.

Meanwhile, I didn’t see any response from this event, bunch of plastic gangsters that you are.

sidewalk social scientist don’t get no satisfaction..

So I said you could hide a million-strong dole queue with enough bogus hairdressing and then it totally like happened.

Discussion follows. Fortunately it’s possible to answer this question with data and that’s precisely what Anjum Klair of the TUC policy division’s fine blog did. There’s a lot of detail there, but let’s focus on chart 2.


The green bars represent part-time self-employment, the red ones full-time self-employment. The blue line is the total. Earlier in the second recession, part-time self-employment is driving the total, up to about June 2012. Full-time is flat at this point. The first major uptick is the end of May or beginning of June, 2013. Then there’s a brief dip at the end of August. And then it takes off.

This is crucial, both because it matches Faisal Islam’s chart very closely in point of time, but also, as Anjum Klair points out, it accounts for 82% of the net increase in employment over that period.

So what happened in the spring of 2013? Back on the 3rd of March, 2013, I blogged on a variety of evidence that more or less fictitious self-employment was an emerging survival plan for the unemployed and for badgered Jobcentre Plus staff alike, as well as being a way for chancers like A4e to juice their billings to the government. I called this the bogus hairdresser phenomenon for reasons set out in the post.

I also pointed to this fine post of Voidy’s on the Universal Credit regulations and their tendency to encourage the self-employed to declare more hours.

Basically, declaring self-employment permits you to stop the abuse, permits the Work Programme chancer to bill the government, permits the Jobcentre Plus caseworker to close the file and therefore happy their manager up, and lets you claim Working Tax Credit. If you have kids, you also get additional tax credits in respect of this, which means that you may actually be better off than on JSA. The regulations sort-of get this, giving the DWP the power to bother you to do more hours – therefore pushing you to declare full-time.

So when did the regulations come into force? The 29th of April, 2013. Give them a month to spread through the bureaucracy and for all parties to learn about the new setup, and I think we’ve got a suspect. By October, other people using other methods had also noticed a rapidly growing gap between claimant-count and survey-based measures of unemployment and of underemployment.

Oh, and you were wondering about this? Wonder no more.

Your chance to meet Create Streets.

So, it’s well known that I’m an obsessive about Create Streets, the flaky Tory wanktank that wants a whole succession of gimmes for developers who are in no sense their mates, except when they are.

Single Aspect notes that the Urban Design Group is having a thing on Wednesday the 23rd of April, i.e next week, 6.20pm, The Gallery, 70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ to discuss “estate regeneration”, with an architect and none other than Create Streets identity Nicholas Boys Smith, Peter Lilley’s old bag-carrier.

I would totally go to this, but I’m out of town until the next day.

Check the meetings register in a month’s time

We refer of course to this Daily Hell story, in which best mate of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, David Cameron, is supposedly astonished and deeply shocked to hear the word sex. So is Joanna Shields, ex-Googler, born 1962.

I find this deeply unconvincing to say the least. As Stian points out, it was probably published so the Hell could enjoy it. But I would go further. Did the meeting ever happen? I’m basically blogging this to remind myself to check the register.

If Miller goes, so must Osborne.

So, down goes DCMS Secretary Maria Miller. Paul Lewis explains, with 140-character concision.

It’s probably time to delve into the archive for a TYR Flashback! I think Flipper is trying to tell us something. This post swung off a story in the Daily Telegraph, specifically this quote:

Shortly before Mr Osborne entered Parliament in 2001, he bought a large farmhouse in his Tatton constituency. Instead of taking out a mortgage on it he increased the mortgage on the London property to pay for his new home. When he had been elected an MP, he designated his London property as his second home with the House of Commons fees office, allowing him to claim back on his additional costs allowance the interest on the portion of the mortgage representing the farmhouse.

Two years later, Mr Osborne took out a separate £450,000 mortgage on the farmhouse and flipped his second home designation, enabling him to claim those mortgage interest payments on his ACA. Since then he has claimed up to £100,000 in mortgage interest payments for the farmhouse mortgage. During this whole period, Mr Osborne told the Inland Revenue that his primary residence for tax purposes was his London home.

In 2006, Mr Osborne sold his London home for £1.48million, making a £748,000 profit. Because it had been declared for tax purposes as his primary residence since he bought it in 1998, he did not have to pay capital gains tax.

Osborne, outrageously, got off scot-free, with more than a little help from the Telegraph, which chose to run this story buried deep in the paper, in a rare exception from the front-page treatment it gave all the other expenses dodgers.

Another Tory who was too important to make the front page was Michael Gove, who is suddenly all principles:

Michael Gove, the education secretary who was elected to parliament on the same day as Miller in 2005, said that her resignation should serve as a warning to the political class as a whole about their expenses.

In a sign that Downing Street acknowledges the need for further reform of the policing of MPs, Gove told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: “The political class as a whole need to reflect on the events of the last few days. It reinforces in my mind the fact that the public still feel a degree of anger about the expenses scandal.”

Yes, yes, we do. Anyway, playtime over, back to double maths.

That the Chancellor not only cleared a huge profit on his exes, but used the process for tax purposes, must be well known – the author of the piece is none other than enormously popular Tory journalist, Melissa Kite. Personally, I absolutely welcome the reopening of the expenses issue. Will Osborne finally pay his capital gains tax?

Dave from PR in the French Revolution

Being a Salmagundi from the Talking-Pointes of the late Sieur Davide du Camerone, Gentleman of the Privy and Counsellier upon the Fourth Estate to his most Catholic Majesty, the late King Louis XVI

An unexpectedly large forecast error in the Budget leads Finance Minister Necker to call an emergency Estates-General:

We’re all in this together. Only a balanced parliament reflecting the national consensus to deal with the debt can keep us from ending up like Spain. M. Colbert didn’t fix the roof while the sun was shining, but His Majesty is determined to get our finances in surplus by 1792. That’s on a rolling five-year cash basis excluding interventions in North America and royal mistresses.

Serious disorder breaks out in central Paris, and unruly demonstrators set the Bastille on fire:

You have to understand that there were only a very small number of low-category prisoners in the Bastille. In fact, as part of Finance Minister Necker’s austerity plan to deal with the debt, we were thinking of closing it next year. In a sense, and speaking entirely off the record, the rioters have done us a favour, and have driven the silent majority to support our new decapitation-based law and order strategy

Queen Marie Antoinette’s ill-advised selfie with the cakes goes viral on

Her Majesty understands aspirational households’ aims to do better in life more than her elite Parisian critics ever will. I’m confident the country sees that she speaks for hard-working families.

Entirely off the record, this is why Prime Minister Richelieu is so keen to get immigration under control. The country’s swamped with Austrians. The sooner we can deport her the better. You didn’t hear that from me

The King leaves Paris, in disguise and a hurry, under cover of darkness:

His Majesty’s eyes have been suffering under his heavy responsibilities. He’s decided to take a brief vacation in our beautiful French countryside. Does Robespierre promise to support the tourist industry this summer?

Entirely off the record, do you know a good shipbroker?

The royal family is put to death, and the Sieur with them. In a final unattributable briefing on the tumbril en route to the guillotine:

I don’t see this as my brutal execution in front of a screaming mob, but more of an example of the Big Society in action, and the opportunity to launch a new phase of my career. Entirely off the record, I never used my head anyway…

So we found out how the coalition would perform in a crisis

I seem to remember having said I worried about this government’s response to a major crisis like the floods of 2007. The current situation shows all the basic flaws in the government. Our key source for this post is the Daily Hell.

First up, we have the lack of administrative grip. This lot are routinely taken by surprise by all kinds of things, and struggle to recover from the surprise. They don’t do detail. This has been going on since Christmas.

Secondly, they are heavily lightweight. After the 2007 experience, was it really wise to give DECC the biggest percentage cut out of the departments, when so many Tories (and other people) very obviously depend on the Environment Agency’s management of engineered landscapes? Was anybody thinking? Actual experts seem to feel nothing but contempt for this bunch of amateurs.

Third, they know they lack chops and therefore they turn to what they know, which is PR. They would spin anything. This leads them to do crazy things. The prime minister announces that he will chair the COBRA meetings, and then that he will fly to the Soggy Zone to be seen in his wellies. Naturally, if he’s in Somerset he can’t also be in Whitehall, so he has to go there and then rush off somewhere (probably a military installation) to find a secure teleconference bridge to dial into the COBRA.

As a result, we end up with the genuinely hilarious idea that the COBRA chair will rotate among the ministers. Let’s all hope and pray Iain Duncan Smith is last in the rotation.

And I mean the wellies thing.

Mr Paterson in particular is accused of botching the response, leaving his wellington boots in his car while visiting Somerset, blaming Dutch settlers under Charles I for draining the Levels and refusing to support claims the storms are linked to climate change.

And I mean the COBRA thing.

However, he [the No.10 spokesman] was unable to say who was now leading the response to the flooding on behalf of the government. Asked who was in charge, the spokesman said it was a cross-party effort to tackle the storms, with different cabinet ministers likely to chair each meeting of the Cobra disaster committee.

Disaster committee is putting it mildly.

Fourth, they don’t know how to shut up. Having fucked up, they insist on bombarding us with announcements, tours, photo calls, etc. When you’re in the doghouse, it’s best to shut your mouth. The Daily Hell piece was released this morning, but since then it’s gained a ton of photos of Cameron standing meaningfully near Royal Engineer plant doing jazz hands. (No. Look.) He also visits First Great Western’s Plymouth Laira depot – earlier in the day, I heard that FGW is seriously looking into how to evacuate trains stuck there by the floods, perhaps by sea.

Fifth, they are obsessively partisan. Suddenly, there is a Tory way of water management, which is “dredging”, and a Labour way which is…something else. Never mind that nobody involved could comment intelligently on this, or that the supposed pause in dredging was more than a decade ago. I can’t imagine anyone who has less to say about this than Nick Clegg. It’s not so much blind men describing colour, as blind men fighting over the definition of yellow because their PR advisors said so. You have no idea. Shut up!

Sixth, their mean streak shows. As soon as it finally became too bad to deny any more, it all came out. Pickles kicks down, like the undignified bully he is, on the EA workers wading thigh deep in the shit. Unknown colleague tells us that Owen Paterson is a buffoon:

One Cabinet minister told MailOnline: ‘He just isn’t very bright. Most of the people around the Cabinet table are bright, even if I disagree with them, but not Owen. He isn’t climate sceptic, he’s climate stupid.’

The prime minister then turns around and stabs Pickles to defend Paterson. The shark ethic prevails, in the shallow murky waters. Omnishambles rules.