Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Liar Receives Licence Payers' Money

A good deal of the criticism surrounding the BBC over the Savile affair is warranted. Augmenting that criticism, however, is opportunistic attack from those who have always been opposed to the corporation's presence over the airwaves. An obvious source of hostility is the Murdoch empire. It's therefore crass & grotesque for the BBC to have the well-known Murdoch lackey & proven liar Kelvin MacKenzie as one of the guests on the BBC TV show Would I Lie To You?, to be transmitted on Friday evening (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007r3n8 ).
Presumably, some genius at the Beeb thought having MacKenzie on a programme whose title draws attention to his mendacity would be oh so clever. One can only assume that the Savile affair has denuded those responsible for MacKenzie's appearance of all critical & ethical faculties. Perhaps the same people will invite Gary Glitter along to this year's Children In Need show.
There is, sadly, the probability that the show has already been recorded. However, you can still let the BBC know your views about MacKenzie's appearance & fee (understood to be about £1000) by visiting this site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/ .  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Multi Millionaire's Meltdown

The lamentable record of A4e has been well documented elsewhere. Tonight's Channel 4 News had some fresh information on the organisation chosen by the ConDems to force unemployed people into applying for wholly unsuitable vacancies. There followed a live studio exchange (let's not dignify it with the word interview) between Krishnan Guru Murthy & A4e's former boss Emma Harrison. What ensued came straight from The Thick Of It & warranted the term car crash TV. Sit back & enjoy, this is a YouTube moment:
http://www.channel4.com/news/emma-harrison-im-a-useful-face-to-have-a-go-at .

Time For Answers From Gustafson

Now that Norman Bettison has resigned as West Yorkshire Chief Constable with immediate effect, as opposed to March of next year, the time of his own choosing (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-20067716 ), it's as good a time as any to look again at the role played by Cllr Carol Gustafson as chairwoman of Merseyside Police Authority when Bettison was appointed as the force's Chief Constable in 1998. Gustafson has flatly refused to discuss or account for her decision to support Bettison, despite what was then suspected of his role in the Hillsborough cover-up (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/oct/23/hillsborough-police-chief-bettison-eagle ).
It is understood that a growing number of Gustafson's Labour colleagues on Sefton Council view her as a potential electoral liability & that only her resignation as a councillor will lance the boil. Bootle's Labour MP, Joe Benton, has refused to comment on Gustafson's position, a stance which may well jar with many of his constituents. He can be contacted on 0151 933 8432.
Just a reminder of Gustafson's contact details: phone no. : 0151 928 6130. 
email: carol.gustafson@councillors.sefton.gov.uk .

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Another Word

Former readers of the now-defunct Word Music Magazine have teamed up with the magazine's contributors to set up a website dedicated to continuing the magazine's spirit & tradition of irreverence & eclecticism called The Afterword (http://www.theafterword.co.uk ).
As with the sadly-missed magazine, it's well worth perusing.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bettison's Role In Hillsborough Smear Campaign To Be Investigated

Norman Bettison may have believed that taking early retirement from South Yorkshire Police would provide immunity from any possible criminal investigation into his role in the Hillsborough cover-up. Today's statements by the Director of Public Prosecutions & the Independent Police Complaints Commission will have disabused him of that notion (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/oct/12/hillsborough-disaster-biggest-inquiry-police ).
The words of the IPCC's Deborah Glass will concentrate Bettison's mind:
"We are going to be launching an independent investigation into those new matters. We've carried out a review of the report and begun looking at the 450,000 pages of underlying evidence. We have identified a large number of potential criminal and misconduct offences".
Just in case Bettison is slow to absorb the ramifications of those words, Glass helpfully elaborates:
"A large number of current and former officers will be under investigation, including Sir Norman Bettison". 
That Bettison is still very much under scrutiny will be welcome to the families of the 96. Scrutiny of the decision by Carol Gustafson to support Bettison's appointment as Merseyside Police Chief Constable in 1998 will also be intensified. The Labour councillor for Bootle's Derby Ward has caused anxiety within the ruling Labour group on Sefton Council; one councillor has privately conceded that Gustafson's stance could cost the party a couple of Bootle seats, a hitherto unthinkable notion. Many within the Bootle Constituency Labour Party are also livid that Gustafson's emphatic refusal to even discuss the issue has turned what may have been an entirely private matter into a political one; there are uncorroborated, though persistent, rumours that Gustafson's relationship with Bettison was more than professional & platonic.
Whatever the machinations of Sefton's Labour Group, one thing is for sure, today's news represents a quantum leap for the families in their long fight for justice, as David Conn expounds in a companion Guardian piece (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/oct/12/ipcc-hillsborough-inquiry-vindication-families ):
"The families want justice now, and they will not be satisfied until people and organisations are held accountable. Yet whatever happens, this is another day of complete vindication for their complaints, their outrage at perceived injustice, the knowledge they were subjected to police blame-shifting and cover-up, when also dealing with the needless, horrific deaths of their loved ones."
How galling it must be for the families that a local Labour councillor is of the view that personal considerations of ego & vanity should take precedence over justice for the 96.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Damned & Discredited By Her Own Reticence

Those who have dealt with Carol Gustafson in the sometimes bitter world of Sefton Labour politics will all agree that reticence is not one of her character traits. It seems strange, therefore, that she should now declare a Garbo-esque wish to be left alone & not talk about her support of Norman Bettison's appointment as Merseyside Police Chief Constable in 1998 (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2012/10/09/merseyside-politician-who-oversaw-norman-bettison-police-appointment-should-hang-her-head-in-shame-100252-31994540/ ).
Moreover, it's instructive to read Cllr Gustafson's response when questioned about her decision: "I don't want to talk about Norman Bettison at all, it was a period of my life that was hell. I really don't want to talk about him."
I'm sure the families of those who died at Hillsborough will understand that Cllr Gustafson's hellish period should preclude any inquiries or discussion regarding her decision to back a discredited copper.Why persist with the trifling notion of securing justice for the 96 when we have the bruised ego of safe-seat Labour councillor to worry about?
Her unwillingness to be reminded of her association with Bettison is a source of surprise, as David Bartlett notes with his comment that "a rummage through the Post and ECHO archive shows that the pair were clearly not averse to doing photo calls together during Bettison's six years in Merseyside" (http://blogs.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/dalestreetblues/2012/10/carol-gustafson-and-norman-bet.html ).
Cllr Gustafson was re-elected as Labour representative for Bootle's Derby Ward last May. Given her refusal to account for the most fateful decision of her political career, the voters of Derby Ward may wonder about the character of the person they returned to office. It is, of course, possible that Cllr Gustafson's colleagues (of whom there are more opponents than allies, it's said) within the Sefton Labour Group will be forced to address the issue internally. They know as well as anybody else that this matter won't go away. The families of the 96 will see to that.

Postscript: It's worth noting that one of those Merseyside Police Authority members who supported Bettison's appointment was Doreen Jones, wife of well-known local businessman & former city council Liberal leader Trevor Jones (http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk/repository/docs/MPA000000090001.pdf ). Perhaps "The Dame of Disaster" (http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/letter-from-florence-gersten.html ) could now account for her decision.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Bettison Councillor Keeps Her Own Counsel

Now that Norman Bettison has shown that he had nothing to do with the Hillsborough cover-up by quitting as Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police & taking a generous pension (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/oct/05/hillsborough-bettison-role ), it's time we returned to the role played by Councillor Carol Gustafson when the discredited senior copper was appointed as Chief Constable of Merseyside Police in 1998 (http://condensedthoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/local-councillors-support-for-bettison.html ).
Many had hoped that Cllr Gustafson would have provided some sort of explanation by now about the role she played. Alas, the silence has been deafening.
Perhaps her own constituents could raise the matter at her council surgeries in the Derby Ward of Bootle (http://modgov.sefton.gov.uk/moderngov/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=604 ).
Cllr Gustafson will be at Bootle Library, 220 Stanley Road, L20 3EN, on October 10th between 12.00 & 1.00; Orrell Library, Linacre Lane, Bootle, later on the same day (time unknown); & Bedford Road Community Centre, Bedford Road, Bootle between 6.00 & 7.00, again on the 10th.
Others who want answers from Cllr Gustafson over her support for Bettison could contact her directly by phone (0151-928 6130), or by email (carol.gustafson@councillors.sefton.gov.uk ).

New Labour's Spin Operation Over Hillsborough

The sound of what sounded like a letter being posted through my door puzzled me. It was last Sunday. No post on Sundays, of course, but there it lay on the floor. It looked like a letter but it wasn't. It was, instead, an envelope containing a campaign leaflet from Jane Kennedy, Labour candidate for the Merseyside Police & Crime Commissioner election on November 15th. Kennedy drew attention to the ConDems' cuts in the budget for Merseyside Police before thoughtfully informing me how I could sign up for a postal vote.
Missing from her missive, however, was any mention of a matter which had just been reported in sections of the media, namely, the role Kennedy & other local Labour MPs played in 1998 when the discredited Stuart-Smith Report on Hillsborough was released. More specifically, the matter related to attempted media management of local news outlets at the time (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/hillsborough-families-fury-at-spin-operation-8191043.html & http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2012/09/28/government-aide-of-knowsley-mp-george-howarth-claimed-merseyside-mps-had-agreed-to-try-to-neutralise-local-media-over-hillsborough-100252-31923190/ ).
Also mentioned in the reports, quoting from the Hillsborough Panel's findings, were George Howarth, MP for Knowsley, & Peter Kilfoyle, MP for Liverpool Walton. All three MPs weren't just backbenchers. Howarth was a Home Office minister (working closely with his boss Jack Straw). Kilfoyle was a junior defence minister. Kennedy was the Labour whip.
The phrases used in government papers are very much of the time; the MPs were told of the importance of remaining "on message", a quintessential New Labour phrase.
Predictably, all three have indignantly squawked their innocence. Or, rather, Howarth & Kilfoyle have. Kennedy? Her response should not be confused with a denial:
"This wasn't a formal meeting; it was probably a conversation. The language that is attributable [in the memo] is completely alien to anything any of us would have used."
Sheltering behind the shield of circumlocution is a sure sign of panic & anxiety about being found out, & that very much applies in the case of Jane "Janus" Kennedy.
It is a grotesque turn of events that now sees Kennedy running as a candidate for a post whose remit revolves around accountability, transparency & justice.
So back to Kennedy's election leaflet. She declares:
"Although none of us have sought this election we can send the Tory/LibDems a message.
"Election day is 15th November. It may be cold, wet and dark on polling day but that doesn't need to put you off."
Actually, we can send Kennedy a message: yes, it will be cold & dark on polling day (something to do with winter weather, I'm informed), but voters on Merseyside, particularly her former constituents in Liverpool Wavertree, won't be put off from expressing their disdain for a politician who placed the machinations of New Labour ahead of justice for the Hillsborough families.  

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Bettison Falls On His Sword

Handing in your resignation while maintaining that such a move doesn't amount to an admission of culpability or involvement with the Hillsborough cover-up could be seen as a case study in cognitive dissonance. Norman Bettison has certainly invited scrutiny of his self-proclaimed integrity with the decision to step down as Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police next year (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19836760 ).
If Bettison, as he's always claimed, has nothing to hide over Hillsborough, you would think that a determination to continue in his post would be expressed & adhered to. Wouldn't you?