Category: Uncategorized

An interesting chart on Ashcroft polls

Someone wanted an evaluation of Ashcroft polling (possibly Dan Hardie). LSE‘s election forecasting project has tried to characterise the difference between their model and Ashcroft observations. They are looking at this in the opposite sense, because they have a forecasting model and Ashcroft polls offer more observations to constrain it with, but you could also look at it as being how much they diverge from an adjusted, blended national VI uniform swing model. Going straight to a chart:


A higher result for LSE’s model than Ashcroft’s poll is to the right, and vice versa. Also, this chart shows us the degree of variance in these results through their spread.

So it looks like LSE reads high/Ashcroft low on UKIP and Ashcroft reads low/LSE high on Tories. There is quite a bit of variation, but the distinction is clear. LSE is high/Ashcroft low on the Greens, but not by much, although the difference is very consistent. On Labour and the Lib Dems, there doesn’t seem to be a systematic difference and there is a lot of variability, i.e. randomness.

I think I said earlier that the big difference between pollsters at the moment seems to be how they split Tories and ‘kippers.

Just like the Tories.

Last autumn, we were all arguing about Labour’s fiscal policy and to what extent it had pre-committed to sticking with Tory budget plans. This hinged on, among other things, whether they were going to exclude public sector capital investment from the numbers or include it. It looked for a while as if it was going to be excluded, but more recently the Eds have been talking about the current budget, i.e. the budget less capital investment. This is important, among other things, because capital investment is the primary channel for a Keynesian intervention in the economy.

If you doubt, recall 2010-2011 – a lot of people were in the habit of protesting that there “hadn’t been any austerity yet” but for some reason the economy was tanking. There hadn’t yet been much change in the overall budget balance, but there had been massive cuts to public sector capital investment, largely because it’s easy to cut investment projects. They are distinct, discrete lump sums and you can make them stop. Identifying and cutting spending in the NHS, say, or the civil service is much more difficult. Idling a lot of public sector construction was a great way to set everyone’s expectations low. In the first 2 years of the Coalition, they cut public investment by 40 per cent. They have taken it from 3.3% of GDP to 1.4% and their forward plans would take it down to 1.2%.

And then the Eds signed the Charter for Budget Responsibility. This is one of those tiresomely American devices that were fashionable at the time, when the Treasury was convinced that the public needed reassuring with austerity-y mouthnoise and extra committees to prevent that terrible out-of-control spending we had in 2005. It’s issued pursuant to the Budget Responsibility and National Audit Act 2011, which sounds like it should have a catchy acronym title even if it doesn’t. As a reminder, here’s that out-of-control spending in 2005-2006 again:

The Tories tout the fact Labour didn’t vote against this version as some sort of big concession. However, if you read the thing, you’ll find that it requires only cyclically-adjusted, current balance by the end of the five-year forecast horizon. Unpacking this, this means that it provides an escape hatch in the event of a recession, because the assessment is linked to the output gap, quite a bit of wiggle-room anyway in the determination of the economic cycle, and it excludes capital investment.

Signing up to it, therefore, actually grants Ed Balls substantially more freedom of action than he had before, not least because he can refer critics to the austere and solemn charter. We were arguing, before this, about whether it might be possible to sneak a school or two in. The Charter, as it stands today, explicitly keeps the option open. LSE’s John van Reenen reckons this could be a difference of £35bn over the five years to come, concentrated on public sector capital investment.

And, don’t forget, the horror is still to come. Under Tory plans, we’re going to get as much austerity again, packed into the next two years:


The Daily Hell seems to have recruited a visualisation designer from the Liberal Democrats, going by this little effort.

Screenshot from 2015-04-07 10:17:14

Why are the bars in the first one of varying thickness? Why is time represented as flowing from right to left? In the second, why is a change of 10 percentage points represented as equal to one of 13.5 percentage points?

In other trivia, I was amused by this interview with Tamara Rojo in which she claims what everyone else needs is more discipline, hard work, and dedication, and the government should subsidise the arts more generously. Well, yes.

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…