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A bit more #biryaniproject.

So I noticed Jahan Mahmood was on twitter. I had some stuff I wanted to know so I thought I’d ask him and find out.

Interesting; I don’t yet know what he means by the direction Afzal Amin wanted to pursue. But there’s more (the conversation is here). He identifies Samir Rauf as a schoolteacher, which we knew, and Mohammed Hanif as neither the councillor nor the cop, but yet another schoolteacher albeit one who’s managed to stay entirely off the web, which is news. This is presumably why a free school was meant to be part of the whole scheme.

He says Tassaduq Hussain was “a former employee of Green Lane”, which is a masjid, but thinks he didn’t have anything to do with Curzon companies although he manifestly did, a discrepancy that probably arises because Hussain joined the board after he left.

Demand your right to own a monkey

In DEFRA’s Q1 2013 lobbying disclosure, I see that DEFRA PUSS Lord de Mauley (yes! really) had the following meeting:

February: Private individual. To discuss the private keeping of primates.

Who is it that’s lobbying government for the right to keep monkeys? Not just that, who is this nameless private citizen who gets access to ministers in pursuit of their campaign for monkey freedom? I hope it’s Prince Charles. I really do.

(Less excitingly, I wonder why Jonathan Ashworth MP decided to ask the other DEFRA PUSS if they had any contracts with the Curzon Institute or Curzon Education Ltd. Going by this I think he was asking all the departments in turn.)

Even more #biryaniproject

This Reuters piece repays close reading:

Crucially, for the people around Alum Rock, [Jahan] Mahmood takes no public funding for this part of his work. The fact his initiative lies outside of Prevent gives it credibility…


Prevent is derided by many Muslim groups for relying heavily on the police, for bureaucracy and incompetence, and for being open to exploitation by cash-hungry groups with questionable claims to community leadership.

portfolios combine to deliver world-class services. and biryanis

Would it amaze anyone if this piece of shit turned out to be registered to the same no-name provider and hosted on the same server at as the Curzon Institute? Also, all the image filenames are of the form Alamin_Img_[0-9].jpg, implying they’re basically his holiday snaps dumped onto the web. Some are clearly in Iraq or Afghanistan, but one or more look like a nice beach holiday, another is the front of Birmingham town hall, and yet a third appears to be Wraysbury station. “UK Strategy Support Services”, my arse.

Biryani Project: the Webcheck remix

Which companies did Afzal Amin intend to use for his various schemes? Here’s a rundown.

1) Curzon Education Ltd. This was formed on the 30th of July, 2013, as a company limited by guarantee (i.e. a nonprofit), by Afzal Amin as sole director. Its address is given as 1 VICTORIA SQUARE, BIRMINGHAM, B1 1BD, and its business is described as “educational support services”. It is active and filed a return on 10th November 2014, although not its accounts.

2) The Curzon Initiative Ltd, company number 08631604. This was formed on the 31st of July, 2013, as a private limited company (i.e. a commercial, profitmaking entity), with £10,000 founding capital, by Afzal Amin and Michelle Clayton. She is described as an education consultant, but quit the board in October 2013. However, the company didn’t get around to notifying Companies House until November 2014. This may not be surprising as it hasn’t filed its accounts either, which are now so overdue that it is threatened with being struck off the register. Its address is also given as 1 VICTORIA SQUARE, BIRMINGHAM, B1 1BD.

3) UKS3 Ltd. This was formed on the 11th of June, 2012, as a private limited company, with £10,000 capital, by Afzal Amin as sole director. It was also tardy, failing to file for 2012-2013 for a full 12 months until it was threatened with being struck off on the 10th of June, 2014, whereupon Amin rattled his dags, as the Aussies say, and filed on the 17th. Its business is described as “Management consultancy other than financial”. Its address is 3RD FLOOR, 207 REGENT STREET, LONDON, W1B 3HH, which it shares with no fewer than 5,282 other directors – that is to say, it’s a mail drop address. Google Street View shows it to be next door to a rather nice Italian caff I occasionally used when I worked around the corner in Mortimer Street.

4) Now this is distinctly odd. Birmingham has multiple Curzon Initiatives and they’re both in the education business. This one – company number 07163796 for the avoidance of confusion – was incorporated in February 2010, providing “Other educational services” from an address at 1022-1026 COVENTRY ROAD, HAYMILLS, BIRMINGHAM, WEST MIDLANDS, B25 8DP, before it moved to 1 VICTORIA SQUARE, BIRMINGHAM, WEST MIDLANDS, B1 1BD, the same address as the other Curzon Initiative, on the 17th of February, 2011. Not long after the move, it became tardy as well – it filed its accounts and return for 2010-2011 very late and never filed anything again, until it was struck-off on the 18th of June, 2013 after ignoring two warnings from Companies House, i.e. six weeks before the other Curzon Initiative stood up.

At the time of its demise, it had one director, Mr Mohammed Hanif. But it was not always so. Jahan Mahmood and Samir Rauf were also founding directors, but Mahmood quit after a month. Tassadduq Hussain Razzaq then joined, on the 22nd of April, 2010. He and Rauf would both quit on the 16th of November, 2011, just after it was threatened with being struck-off for the second time and was spurred into filing.

Would that be Jahan Mahmood, “former adviser to the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) in the Home Office” and “historian and former lecturer at the University of Birmingham, specialising in the martial traditions of Afghan and Pakistani diaspora communities”? I think it might, especially in the light of this:

In an email to a member of a military think tank, sent just after the attack on Lee Rigby in Woolwich in May, which he asked to be passed to General Sir David Richards, then Chief of the Defence Staff, Mr Mahmood said that he “can only hope” that the OSCT communicated his concerns “to army personnel”.

“Military thinktank”? Uh huh. This parliamentary report strongly suggests the whole “talks in schools about the Indian Army” scheme might have been his idea. They were quite…compelling, too.

In a community centre in the British Midlands, 12 teenage boys — all of south Asian descent — watch intently as Jahan Mahmood unzips a canvas bag and pulls out the dark, angular shape of a World War Two machine gun. He unfolds the tripod, places the unloaded weapon on a table and pulls back the cocking handle. The boys crane forward. Mahmood pulls the trigger; a sharp snap rings out.

As for Samir Rauf, is that the school governor who was either plotting to set up his own classroom caliphate, or smeared outrageously by Michael Gove, depending on who you believe? I rather think he might be.

Mr Razzaq is a little more complicated, due to variant spellings, but he seems to have been a director of….

5) Yet another Curzon entity, The Curzon Foundation Ltd, company number 07211459. This was set up on April Fools’ Day 2010, appropriately enough, and struck-off at its own request in November 2011. Its address was UNIT 5 HIGHGATE BUSINESS CENTRE, HIGHGATE ROAD, BIRMINGHAM, B12 8EA, which was also the final resting place of 07163796 above, and before that it was based at 1 Victoria Square. As well as Razzaq, it had another director, Mohammed Hanif, presumably the same man found in 07163796. You will not be surprised to know its filings were also late.

Razzaq seems to have been a director of Xpress Healthcare Ltd and possibly also Easy Lettings Ltd and a law firm, and maybe more. Alternatively it might be this guy who seems to be a property developer. (It’s always property developers.) I’m guessing he’s the money, as he doesn’t seem to be in the news ever.

You’ll notice that although there is a Foundation and Education and a couple of Initiatives, there is no Institute. Dan Davies points out on twitter that this is because calling yourself an Institute is illegal in itself.

A question, though? Is Mohammed Hanif the Mohammed Hanif who is a Labour councillor for Dudley? If so he’s got some explaining to do as his declaration of interests says nothing about them, but I think the councillor is this man and our Hanif is this one. There are plenty of options – drugs farmer is one, but he’s 52 and our man is 46. A Mohammed Hanif from Birmingham was a mortgage broker until he was banned in 2009 as a fraudster and tax-evader, which would be fun and might explain why none of these people manage to FILE THEIR DAMN ACCOUNTS on time. A man from Walsall who has been banned from operating buses. Here’s a LinkedIn profile for a Mohammed Hanif described as “Director, Operations for the Curzon Institute”, which is uninformative but does substantiate the link between this Curzon entity and Afzal Amin’s.

Or maybe Inspector Mohammed Hanif (Inspector and National coordinator of the Muslim Police Association)? I think we may have a winner, because he joined the force in 1992. If he’s our man he would have been 23, which is a sensible age for a probationer cop. Are cops allowed to have outside business interests?

And finally, perhaps convicted mortgage fraudster Stephen Yaxley-Lennon might not have been entirely honest with the Mail. Here’s the Dudley News from the 26th of February.

Afzal Amin, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Dudley North, added: “The event was very peaceful, it was the calmest EDL event I have ever seen.”

I bet it was. After all:

Chief Supt Johnson said the force did not organise the event but it was important to have “an element of control”. He said he understood why people were fearful but said he hoped the way the event was controlled would give residents the confidence to carry on as normal

That’s Chief Superintendent Chris Johnson, named in the Amin/SYL tapes. So Project Biryani really did go into action after all. And guess who else is here?

Councillor Mohammed Hanif also praised the police for the work they did before the event, reassuring the local Muslim community of what to expect on the day.

For it is he! I wonder if he’s related to the cop? Anyway, the Dudley News piece reminded me of this:

Because somebody has to stay in control…

Looking ahead to the #defenduss 60-day consultation

So USS. It strikes me that this was, in the end, a total and avoidable mess and the UCU should take a lot of responsibility.

The only way to find out what was going on was to check a friend of a friend’s facebook page. The only campaign resources were, well, whatever you came up with. The tactics were hopeless – the marking boycott never had strong support in the school I’m best informed about and not really anywhere else, and it had a number of real flaws, notably that only a handful of individuals were actually involved at any one time and that the timing meant most students wouldn’t be affected. The negotiating team seems to have been overawed by the issues involved and poorly prepared.

Further, the stand-down over Christmas seems to have been a bad idea, losing whatever momentum the campaign had built up. In part this was just going to be imposed by the Christmas break itself, but the problem is that it wasn’t a credible proposition to call everyone out again, and therefore it didn’t support the negotiators effectively. To be honest we might have done better as an amorphous online mob, but of course a lot of the work here is being done by UCU’s failure.

So now we’re stuck with the mad-headed scheme to hedge poor returns on gilts by buying yet more gilts, the gender and other problems of a CRB scheme, no answers about the AVCs, and a weakened union.

Mike Otsuka points out that the statutory 60-day consultation on USS should open in mid-March, and will work something like this, so it’s not exactly true that it’s all over but the shouting.

This is important, as it seems there is still some give about the length of the recovery period and therefore the annual wedge of money involved, the fate of the AVCs and added years, the management of the defined-contribution element, and the all-crucial valuation.

One thing the UCU did achieve was a commitment, for what it’s worth, that the USS benefits and contribution rates would be revised again if the finances improved significantly. This means it is well worth while keeping the valuation issue alive, and keeping the claim on any future improvement this represents alive.

Your ration of campaign material, therefore, is here, in a rather technical piece of Mike’s. The key issue is that Test 1 must die.

OK, that’s the long-term element. What about the short-term? Well, voting is now open for the UCU national executive committee, until Friday 27th February. (If you’ve not got a ballot, make a fuss, because the organisation sucks!) The UCU Left recommendations are here – I don’t warrant for them in any way (for example, does anyone believe they’ll reopen the dispute?), but the first step is always to chuck the bums out.

#defenduss arrives at an unsatisfactory compromise

So yer #defenduss.

The UCU delegation came back with a new offer, the same stuff but with a slightly higher accrual rate, some more money from the other side, a higher cap, and promises to use any improvement in the scheme finances to put back the cuts and also to review the valuation methodology. And it looks like two-thirds of one-third of the membership voted for it. One third of the membership that ever received a ballot.

Nobody seems to have any idea about the people who voluntarily put more money in, about what this further review means, or about how the defined contribution fund above the cap would work. On the other hand, nobody had any idea what the UCU’s strategy was if the dispute went on. The marking boycott had already been turned down by a lot of universities and nobody liked it in the first place.

There is now a statutory consultation period, for what it may be worth. The lesson, though, is that negative numbers are scary, and that the UCU can’t manage to send out e-mail. No song, because I’m not feeling it.

#simpleplan begins to scale up

A bit of #SimplePlan in action.

Enfield set up a wholly owned private company called Housing Gateway this year. Officials have viewed 122 properties, made offers on 77 and had 48 accepted. The company currently owns 22 homes and has tenants in five of them.

Oykener said he ensured tenants in those homes would not be eligible to take up the right-to-buy offer. “I specifically ensured that was the case. These special purchase vehicles, along with other benefits, are exempt from right-to-buy so that we won’t end up in this predicament in three years. We are not alone, councils all over are doing this.”

Other councils taking the radical step include Sheffield, Sutton and Ealing, according to Labour MP Gareth Thomas….

“Given the huge loss of affordable homes in London, in part because of the failure to replace those sold under the right-to-buy, the next mayor of London needs to consider setting up a London housing company to help build high-quality social housing, particularly co-operative housing of the sort found on London’s South Bank,” said Thomas.

I know Owen Hatherley will hate me for saying anything nice about Coin Street. But hey, it’s an emergency, dammit. (Speaking of him, not only is this a good piece, but most of the below-the-line screamers seem to think it’s by Owen Jones, who is not the same person.)

I note that Enfield has managed to double its properties viewed, close to double its offers, more than double its accepted offers, and multiply its closings by 10 since end-August (see discussion). The dream is alive.

Has anyone got numbers for the Sutton, Ealing, or Sheffield deployments?