Tag Archives: Third World

Why comic Trevor Lock thinks some Third World aid is a holocaust of lies

Trevor Lock is Not Joking... again

Honest… Trevor Lock is Not Joking… again

The Proud Archivist venue in London’s Haggerston is suddenly, definitely trendy. I went to see Trevor Lock’s Not Joking show there last month. And he is performing it there again this Friday.

So I thought we should have a blog chat about it.

We did not.

“What else are you doing?” I asked him.

“Next Wednesday,” he told me, “I’m doing Paul B Edwards’ Crock of Mould at the Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green. It used to be regular, with Al Murray, Harry Hill and…”

Trevor is compering a Crock of Mould soon

Trevor is compering a Crock of Mould soon

“Was this last century?” I asked.

“Yes. And now he’s revamping it with me as host, Miles Lloyd, Joz Norris and various people.”

“A regular team?” I asked

“I guess so. We’re doing it up at the Edinburgh Fringe next year.”

“And,” I asked, “after Crock of Mould?”

“I’m flying to the South Americas at the beginning of December.”

“Ah,” I said, “I suspect there are many stories to be told about the South Americas and you have never told me any of them.”

“And I never shall,” said Trevor.

“Why are you flying to the South Americas?” I asked.

“Ah… erm… I don’t know my purpose, but… erm…”

“But you know your destination?”

“Exactly.”

“Colombia?”

“I may go to Colombia.”

“Bolivia?”

“I may go to Bolivia. I’m definitely going to end up in Rio.”

“Rio?” I asked. “It’s full of people with knives who want to rob you.”

“My ex-wife has landed up there.”

“Ah,” I said. “How long are you going for?”

“I don’t know. I will be back in the UK in the summer.”

“You lived in South America, didn’t you?” I asked.

“Yes. Not for very long. I told you the last time you blogged about me.”

“I only write it,” I said. “I don’t read it.”

Trevor Lock aka Mr Terrier in 2009 - now released

Trevor Lock was Mr Terrier in this 2009 film

“If you did read your own blog, “ said Trevor, “you would know that I made a movie. It was finally released in Peru in August. It was very well received and may come to the London Film Festival next year.”

“Lima was a tad unsafe when I was there in the 1983,” I said. “though not as dangerous as Bogota.”

“I feel safer in Lima than I do at Loughborough Junction in London,” said Trevor.

“But,” I said, “Lima’s a pisshole.”

“I love Lima,” said Trevor.

Children living in mud homes outside Puno in 1983

Children living alone in their mud homes outside Puno, 1983

“Puno was almost as bad,” I said. “Terribly poor. But I was there in 1983. It could now be the richest, most wonderful place on earth. I am feeling very old. When my grandfather was young, he went to Canada and he used to tell me as a kid what Canada was like with its raised wooden sidewalks instead of stone pavements. It wasn’t for ages that I realised what he was describing was not modern cities in the 1960s but 19th century Wild West style towns in the 1910s or whenever he went there. Because he was that old. So I tell people knowledgeably about what Peru and South America are like, but I am actually talking about what they were like when I saw them a third of a century ago in 1983.”

“Yeah,” said Trevor, “and that was before things got really bad. That was just before (the excesses of the Maoist guerrilla group) Sendero Luminoso. Peru was clearly suffering in the 1980s.”

Comrade Artemio and Shining Path guerrillas

Comrade Artemio and Sendero Luminoso Maorist guerrillas

“If ever anywhere deserved Sendero Luminoso,” I said, “it was Peru. There was no middle class. The poor were never ever going to get out of the shit. There was nothing to aspire to. Miraflores in Lima was all private tennis courts and Mercedes Benz cars and everywhere else was a shambolic nightmare of abject poverty.”

“Yes,” said Trevor, “that was basically my experience when I went there for the first time. I saw the poorest people I had ever seen and I met the richest people I had ever met. It was just absurd. Utterly absurd.”

“In the countryside,” I said, “you could see the way the Incas used to successfully farm the hills in terraces and yet, when I was there, people were starving at the bottom of the hills with cows with ribs which stuck out. Lima was absolute shit. It deserved to be nuked. But you like it.”

“I love it,” said Trevor. “What I like is the overlap of different classes and cultures.”

“But there is no overlap is there?” I asked.

“Well, there is,” said Trevor.

These are the rich. Those are the poor,” I said. “Ne’er the twain shall meet.”

An ordinary street in Lima in 1983

Street in 1983 Lima – either earthquake-hit or just run down

“They are completely intertwined,” argued Trevor. “You can’t have rich without poor. You can’t have poor without rich. And, being an alien, being a gringo, I can pass between these worlds. In a sense, you are right that they can’t mix. But the most obscenely richest people in Peru are all nursed and brought up by the poor. You go into the parks of the rich neighbourhoods and you see all these little white babies being pushed around by their much darker mothers. But, of course, they’re not their mothers – they are indiginous employees – wet-nurses, maids, household staff. The parents have played a very little role in the upbringing of their children.”

“Much like the English upper classes,” I said.

“It’s incredible,” said Trevor. “Amazing. It is really, really fascinating to see even quite old children who are not with their parents. My friend is from Spain – he’s got a little kid. He drops his kid off at school every morning and he is the only parent – the only blood relative – dropping a child off at school in the morning. Everyone else is being dropped off by their nannies.”

“It would have been like that when I was there,” I said.

Trevor Lock may go to a variety of counties in South America

Trevor Lock surely knows more about modern Peru than I do

“It’s changed since the 1980s, though,” said Trevor. “For a while, it was the fastest-growing economy in the world, though it’s slowed-down considerably now. They called it the Abu Dhabi of South America.”

“And you like it,” I said.

“You see the industrial, Western civilisation stripped naked,” said Trevor. “Like most of South America and much of Africa, compulsory schooling has destroyed the culture. The poor in the countryside have been sold the bullshit that, if you have a better education, you can have a better life in the cities. The subsistence farming that worked for centuries has been destroyed.”

“So,” I said, “good news and bad news for Peru.”

“Well,” said Trevor, “up in the remote places there are still communities that do live from the land, but most of the places are mono-cultural agriculture growing one crop for some money and then they have to buy shitty food from a shop. Their children now have to go to school and they have to be sent off at the beginning of term and travel three days to the nearest school and come home at the end. It’s horrific. But that’s progress. And some pricks over here go over there and facilitate it.

“I’m regularly asked to perform at benefit gigs to raise money to build schools in Third World countries.”

“And what,” I asked, “do you say?”

“Well,” said Trevor, “if it feels like they might have an open mind, I will explain and, if not, I will just politely decline.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because it’s a holocaust. It’s holocaust of lies. You’ve seen the slums of the major towns. You’ve seen it.”

“What’s the way round it?” I asked.

TrevorLock_Soho_Flowers

Trevor Lock: “I think a  lot of people have a religious instinct”

“There is no way round it,” said Trevor. “I don’t know what the answer is… I dunno… I think a lot of people have a religious instinct and, when you don’t have a church to go to – as many people now don’t – you have to get into something else. So you get into ‘helping’ developing countries and ‘saving’ the poor. You can’t export your religion any more, because you don’t have one. But you can export your values and your politics. You can export your world view.

“So you tell them: Stop growing all these different kind of vegetables, just grow this one kind of vegetable and I will give you all this money and then you can send your children to school and, in 20 years time, they can be lawyers and estate agents in the city. Brilliant.”

“When,” I said, “Japan managed to have a nuclear disaster AND a tidal wave, I was amazed people were donating money to them. Japan is one of the richest countries in the world.”

“It’s a religion,” said Trevor.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Filed under Charity, Peru, Poverty, Third World, Travel

“I need at least a good six inches to satisfy me,” reveals critic Kate Copstick

Last night, Funny People at Soho Theatre

Since coming home from the Edinburgh Fringe exactly one week ago, I keep waking up at 7.22am.

Last night, I got to bed around 3.30am. I set my alarm for 8.30am. I woke up again at 7.22am for no reason. Someone must make a noise in the square outside my house at around 7.22am, but I hear nothing when I wake up.

Getting back to sleep was confused by the fact that, at 3.30am, I had taken a Vicks Medinite cold cure to help me sleep; but, last night, doyenne of comedy critics Kate Copstick had bought me a Red Bull energy drink.

We had been at the Soho Theatre to see the Abnormally Funny People comedy show.

And they were.

It is rare to see a comedy show where there is not one duff act. But, last night, every act on the show was excellent. Don Biswas, Liz Carr, Tanyalee Davis, Steve Day and Stella Young, compered by Mat Fraser. All excellent.

Because of what comes later in this blog, it is worth pointing out that all these comics have worked exceptionally hard under exceptionally challenging circumstances to become exceptionally good comedy performers. Each one is wonderfully creative. Remember that phrase.

At Soho Theatre last night, Copstick talks to Bronston Jones and Will Franken. In background, in green, Tanyalee Davis.

After the show, Copstick and I had a meal at Soho Theatre with the lovely Tanyalee Davis and American comics Will Franken and Bronston Jones. All three are wonderfully creative. Remember that phrase.

Both the guys had played their first Edinburgh Fringe this year and both, to varying extents, said they were thinking of moving to the UK. Will Franken, in particular, seemed especially Anglophile as he had been to William Blake’s grave earlier that day, recited an entire Blake Poem (NOT Jerusalem or Tiger, Tiger) and sang Roxy Music songs with Copstick without the urging of excessive amounts of alcohol.

He is returning to San Francisco in three days time. Copstick is returning to the slums of Nairobi in two days time. She will be there for 18 days. She spends four months of every year in Kenya, working for her Mama Biashara charity. I have blogged about it before. If you want to know more, use the Search facility.

“You were telling me,” I said to Copstick when Will Franken and Bronston Jones had gone outside to smoke, “that, when you go to Kenya, within one day, it’s like none of this glittery Soho comedy stuff exists at all.”

“Especially,” said Copstick, “when you go out to a night like this, see the show and then you hang out with creative people and you have all these amazing ideas. It’s exciting that Will Franken is hanging around in London and half of me wants to go Oh! Before you go, we could meet up again and discuss ideas! and Tanyalee’s going to Liverpool but then she’s coming back and you think…”

“There must be a TV series in tonight’s show,” I interrupted.

“Well,” said Copstick, “the Abnormally Funny People had an idea for a sitcom involving the whole cast touring round the country. They had been pitching it for about two years, gradually crawling up the echelons of the BBC and, just as it got to the top, the BBC commissioned Life’s Too Short and, of course, television thinks it can only have one disabled-centric sitcom or programme of any sort at any one time. So the BBC didn’t commission the idea.”

“But, when you go to Kenya…” I said.

“As soon as I’m in Kenya,” said Copstick. “it’s like life in London doesn’t exist. Not Soho, not the Soho Theatre, none of this. Then, once I’ve been in Kenya for a few weeks, up to my nipples – my lovely nipples, as indeed remarked upon by a lovely man in Shepherd’s Bush only the other week – up to my nipples in sewage and poverty and despair and death – I come back and it takes much longer to adjust to life here in London. It takes me weeks not to be irritated by almost everything that I see and everyone I meet.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because we have so much and we don’t care and it would be so easy for us to help and do more and because my two totally different alternative universes are the Mama Biashara work in Kenya and comedy and performing here and most performers are, by their very nature, shallow, meaningless, pointless, self-obsessed people.

“It’s very difficult to get back to this from people who are absolutely up against death by starvation and malaria every day. People in Kenya say things to me like I had a touch of typhoid, but it’s fine and Let’s do the workshop; I only have a touch of malaria.

“Whereas, over here, you have people weeping into their cups because the audience didn’t like them as much as they thought they ought to. That culture clash is hard.”

“You’ll have to soften that They’re all shallow bastards implication,” I suggested. “Some comedy performers are wonderfully creative people.”

“Some of them are creative and wonderful, like the ones tonight,” Copstick agreed. “But some of them are just shallow ego-centric bastards. I’m not going to name names, but I may do in one of your future blogs!”

“That’s softer?” I asked. “So where do you live when you’re in Kenya? Last time I mentioned you in Nairobi, you were eating goats’ innards and jelly babies. The jelly babies sounded a bit luxurious.”

“Well, you can get jelly babies there,” said Copstick. “They’re not Bassett’s jelly babies. But you can get Maynards’ over there. That last time was the night I had this fantastic sausage made by a lovely, lovely man who stokes up a barbecue in the middle of the slum and he grills a sausage called mutura, made from goat intestines. It’s a cousin of the haggis but there’s no oatmeal. They just mash up the intestines and the blood and coil it up and roast it on the barbie and chop it up and you can buy yourself a good six inches for a couple of pence.”

“And that’s something you like,” I prompted.

“I need at least a good six inches to satisfy me,” Copstick agreed. “So that night I think I spent about 10 pence on a good six inches, which I took home and set about with my usual enthusiasm and, afterwards, I had half a dozen jelly babies.”

“You live in the slums of Nairobi,” I said.

“I live in a slum,” said Copstick, “among the people we work with.”

“I’ve never lived in the slums and seen real poverty and death like you,” I said, “but when I’ve come back from seeing abject poverty in places like Nepal, I walk around the streets of London and total nihilism sets in for a couple of weeks. Doesn’t it make you terribly nihilistic?”

“I get…” said Copstick. “I get angry because we waste so much and it’s all so easy and nobody thinks about anything and we’re all so obsessed about tiny, pointless things. We have no idea how hard life can be. With performers, the ego-centricity is a necessary part and parcel of the whole thing, but we get obsessed with tiny, pathetic things.”

“Maybe that’s the difference between us,” I said. “I get nihilistic; you get angry.”

“One of the things that spending all that time in Kenya has done for me,” said Copstick,  “is that… you certainly don’t sweat the small stuff when you spend four months there every year… Things that used to drive me crazy in London, I just now think Yeah, whatever… I don’t get so upset about things. I really don’t and it’s entirely Kenya which has done that to me. I have absolutely – apart from the fact that bin seems to be on fire in the street outside – I have absolutely nothing to complain about.”

“The bin appears to be smoking along with Will Franken,” I said.

“Indeed,” said Copstick.”

“It’s like a New York street scene with smoke coming up through the road,” I said.

“Will Franken – the brilliant Will Franken,” said Copstick, “has set a bin on fire.”

“I feel I should photograph it for my blog,” I said, “not that I want you to think the blog controls my life. Perish the thought that I should be so shallow.”

“That is quite a serious amount of smoke,” Copstick said. “You should go out and get a picture. This could be the second Great Fire of London.”

“I can’t shoot a picture through the window,” I said, “because of the reflections. I will have to go out.”

The not-now-smoking bin outside the Soho Theatre last night

And I did go out but, before I got to the bin, a security man from Soho Theatre had got there with two glass jugs of water and had poured them into the bin.

“It happens quite a lot,” he said to me. “There were flames last time.”

“Bastard thing!” I said to Copstick, more in nihilism than in anger, when I came back inside. “He doused the smoke before I could get a decent picture for my blog.”

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Filed under Charity, Comedy, Kenya, Poverty, Third World

News of the World. Forget the hacks. It’s The Bill you always have to pay.

I have worked as a researcher and sub-editor for BBC TV News (via their old Ceefax teletext service) and, briefly, in the newsrooms at Anglia TV, Granada TV and ITN. I have known a lot of journalists. But even I was shocked by the News of the World and other tabloids’ amorality.

I don’t mean the telephone hacking scandal which has now seen Rupert Murdoch close down Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper.

I mean the cheap Killer Bitch movie and Katie Price’s ex-husband Alex Reid being caught on camera with his trousers down.

Police corruption comes later in this blog.

In what must have been a moment of madness I financed Killer Bitch without reading the script (look, it was cheap) and I was away at the Edinburgh Fringe for weeks when shooting started.

While I was away, a sex scene was shot between Alex Reid and the lead actress, the director’s girlfriend/partner.

Alex Reid’s chum/manager asked the director if it was OK to have a photographer on set that day – not to take photos of the sex scene itself but just of Alex arriving, being on-set, being glamorous. The director said Yes.

And, of course, when the sex scene happened, click-click-click and off in a corner Alex’s photographer goes to e-mail out his photos.

What the director didn’t know was that the manager guy had, all week, been playing-off the News of the World against The People to get a higher price for the sex scene pictures. The People ran their photos on the cover and in an “exclusive” double-page spread that Sunday.

But the News of the World, unknown to anyone else, had secretly set up a hidden camera in the grotto where filming took place. They took their own photos and ran a single-page ’spoiler’ about “sickening footage” in the “vile and degrading hardcore porn film” in which Alex had been involved in a “disgusting rape”.

In fact, it wasn’t a rape scene at all. Never was. Never scripted as rape (I read that bit later); wasn’t shot as rape; wasn’t edited as rape. I saw the uncut footage when I came back from Edinburgh and it simply wasn’t rape.

But, bizarrely, journalists often believe what they read in tabloid newspapers, so this story about the vile rape scene in a hardcore porn movie (which is wasn’t) quickly spread across the world, sometimes using the same words the original News of the World had used.

The movie, which had only just started shooting and which was months away from being edited, was reviled as “violent porn” by The Times of India, a “vile and degrading movie” on Australia’s Perth Now website and “violent, aggressive… icky stuff” by TheHollyoodGossip.com. Back home, totally unseen, the Daily Mirror slammed it as “a sick movie” with “vile scenes…stomach churning”

Fair enough. Good publicity for a small film, though sadly much too early to profit from.

Two weeks later, The People ran a new cover story and two-page spread about how Alex Reid had “returned” to the Killer Bitch set “to shoot more torrid outdoor sex shots”. This had never happened. It was a complete fiction. But The People had detailed descriptions, actual photos from this supposed second sex scene (they were re-cycled from the original scene) and they even had a direct quote from the director saying, “I can confirm that Alex filmed these scenes within the last seven days”.

The director told me not only that The People had never talked to him about this alleged re-shoot but, at that point in time, he had never actually talked to anyone at the newspaper about the film ever.

Obviously, you expect to be mis-quoted and have your words twisted by newspapers. Now, it seems, it’s common to simply make up entirely fictional stories.

The New York Daily News correctly reported that “the film’s producers don’t seem bothered by the publicity.”

Fair enough. Publicity is publicity.

But just as the Stephen Lawrence affair, to my mind, was not about racism but about police corruption – an investigating policeman was paid-off by the father of one of the accused – the current News of the World scandal is not about phone hacking but about endemic police corruption.

Two days ago, I saw a Sky News double interview with, on the one hand, Brian Paddick, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and on the other ex News of the World journalist Paul McMullan.

McMullan could be seen almost literally biting his tongue off after he said that, if you were investigating police corruption, the only way to find out the facts was to talk to other policemen. As they might lose their jobs by dishing the dirt on fellow officers, they could not be expected to do this for free or for a few pounds and it was not unreasonable to pay them £20,000 or £30,000.

This figure was picked up by the interviewer.

Brian Paddick, who was basically defending the Met, said this was terrible but “clearly everyone has their price”.

This is an interesting thing to say because it is an acceptance by a former senior Met officer that, if the price is high enough, any Metropolitan policeman can be bought.

Yesterday’s London Evening Standard led on a story that “Corrupt Met police received more than £100,000 in unlawful payments from senior journalists and executives at the News of the World.

It also claimed that two senior Scotland Yard detectives investigating the phone hacking scandal held back: “Assistant Commissioners Andy Hayman and John Yates were both scared the News of the World would expose them for allegedly cheating on their wives if they asked difficult questions of the Sunday tabloid.”

Today’s Guardian says: “Some police sources suggested there was no evidence yet that officers had actually received the payments and what would also be investigated was whether the journalists involved had kept the money themselves.”

Obviously some Met officer here, limbering up for a career as a stand-up comic.

Police in the UK taking bribes? Shock! horror! – And the Pope is a Catholic?

The system-wide corruption within the Metropolitan Police in the 1960s was supposedly partially cleaned-up.

Bollocks.

On 4th December 1997, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon gave evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee and said there were around 100-250 corrupt officers in the Met. By “corrupt” he meant seriously corrupt – they dealt drugs, helped arrange armed robberies etc.

Condon is also the man who coined the phrase “noble cause corruption” – the idea that some police justifiably ‘bend the rules’ to get a conviction when officers ‘know’ the accused is guilty but do not have enough proof to convict. So it could be seen by some as “noble” to plant evidence, lie under oath and generally ‘fit up’ any ‘known villains’ when there is no actual evidence which would prove their guilt.

In Stoke Newington the police did, indeed, ‘fit up’ guilty drug dealers who would not otherwise have been imprisoned. But their motive was not to ‘clean up’ the area but to clear away the opposition as police officers were themselves dealing hard drugs. Whether this comes within Sir Paul Condon’s definition of “noble cause corruption” I am not sure.

In 1998, the Telegraph got hold of (and one wonders how) a confidential document containing the minutes of a meeting organised by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS). It quoted this police document as saying: “corrupt officers exist throughout the UK police service… Corruption may have reached ‘Level 2’, the situation which occurs in some third world countries.”

I once asked someone who had managed a ‘massage parlour’ – in other words, a brothel – how he had avoided getting raided by the police. He looked at me as if I was mad:

“Cos we fucking paid the Old Bill and gave them free services,” he said.

In Britain today, it remains a fact of life – as it always has been throughout my life – that you always have to pay The Bill.

Last night’s TV news shows reported that today the police would arrest former News of the World editor Andy Coulson. Now where would they have got that story from? Only the police would know. And today he was arrested.

Was the tip-off paid-for or was it just a nudge-nudge case of You do me a favour; I’ll do you a favour?

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Greenwich: from World Heritage Site to Third World slum within a two minute walk

Greenwich is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

But the road behind late comic Malcolm Hardee’s Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich has not become my favourite place recently. It is called Bardsley Lane.

In the late-night darkness there, I have twice trodden in dog shit (it’s apparently common in the area) and my car was broken into in the early hours of the morning (apparently also common in the area). The police response was: “Is there a street camera in Bardsley Lane?”

Call me out-of-touch, but I somehow thought the police might know.

There isn’t, of course, because Greenwich Council appears to have abandoned Bardsley Lane like Jordan has abandoned Alex Reid as a lost cause – they don’t even pretend to take any interest in the area. It is just a two-minute stroll from Greenwich Town centre and you can see what a jolly stroll it is in a video I have posted on YouTube.

While tarting-up some areas where councillors live “for the 2012 Olympics”, Greenwich Council have let Bardsley Lane deteriorate literally into a rubbish tip – although it is just two minutes from the historic town centre of the UNESCO World Heritage site and visible from the main Creek Road through the town centre.

The car wash featured towards the end of the video was given permission to trade on the basis it was “not out of keeping with the general character of… Greenwich Town centre and (would) not harm the setting and the appearance of the area and the adjacent West Greenwich Conservation area.”

Are they having a laugh?

Does this look like a World Heritage Site or a rubbish tip of a slum in some Third World country?

Ah! But then… call me a cynical fat slaphead…

Where there’s muck, there’s usually brass changing hands.

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Lower costs and corruption with the creation of a national UK police force?

The government reckons it can make large savings on the cost of policing by making cutbacks to “backroom” posts which will not affect the numbers of police on the streets. I have no idea if this is true or possible, but there obviously could be large savings to be made by cutting duplication of bureaucracy and by centralisation – all the more so if a National Police Force replaced the local police forces we currently have.

I understand the arguments against having a National Police Force – basically, that we don’t want  policing to be controlled by central government because there might then be a short, slippery slope to a police state.

But we already have the Special Branch, MI5, GCHQ, Echelon and god alone knows who else roaming the country observing us. The motorway cameras are linked centrally and the local police CCTV cameras can be linked-in. if someone tries to detonate a bomb in Haymarket in London, the perpetrators can be linked relatively quickly to an attack at Glasgow Airport and people can be arrested on a motorway in the north of England. All because the various national government, local government and police cameras around the country can be accessed centrally.

Yes, I know… this is all being done not by the government itself but by the independent police and/or possibly by the Special Branch and MI5 (in reality called the Security Service and, not surprisingly, never known by its initials).

But, let’s be real, this is the 21st century. Crime is not limited to national boundaries, let alone county boundaries. I really do not think (much as I’m sure they are loveable people) that the Dumfries & Galloway Police are really resourced to outwit a South American drug cartel with a turnover of billions of dollars per month.

There is also the corruption factor.

Larger bureaucracies, by and large, are less prone to corruption than local, smaller organisations. In my lifetime, there has been very little corruption at national government level in the UK. Some, but not a lot. Local government, of course, has always been prone to corruption because of old-boy networks. It’s a question of size. I am old enough to remember the much-admired T. Dan Smith scandal in North East England.

The UK is relatively large and it seems to have little national political corruption.

The Republic of Ireland is much smaller and seems to run almost entirely on corruption – the Charlie Haughey factor, I think – everybody knows everyone else. It’s amiable and admirably Irish, but widespread. Political corruption Scotland I know nothing about, but the size of the country’s population and its concentration in the central strip between Glasgow and Edinburgh doesn’t bode well.

Corruption in the current English police forces (according to the National Criminal Intelligence Service in 1998) has reached Third World levels though, to be honest, that’s no different to the 1960s when the Richardsons (always far more sophisticated than the Krays) were rumoured to have an Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police on their payroll. In 1966, the Metropolitan Police was so corrupt that Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, was reported to be thinking of replacing up to 70% of the Met’s CID with officers from Birmingham, Devon & Cornwall, Kent and Manchester… and, frankly, if he thought there were un-corrupt police in Manchester in the 1960s, he must have been taking some seriously strong illegal substances.

When Roberto Calvi of Banco Ambrosiano was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge, there was a persistent rumour that one million pounds had been paid to someone in the City of London Police to obstruct, divert and stifle the investigation.

It always seemed to me that the bungled investigation of the Stephen Lawrence killing in 1993 – which resulted in the Met being officially labelled as “institutionally racist” had less to do with racism and more to do with corruption. In a pub, a Customs & Excise investigator working on a separate case saw the criminal father of one of the suspects hand over a bulging envelope to a police officer working on the Lawrence enquiry. To add surrealism to corruption, at that time the criminal father was wanted by the police but was living quite openly in South East England. I rather suspect some other brown envelopes may have found their way into other policemen’s hands.

At the moment, the Home Secretary oversees the Met; other police forces are overseen by local government committees. If the police forces in England were centralised into a single English Police Force – or, even better, if it were politically possible to create a single UK Police Force – there might be less blatant police corruption and the centralised bureaucracy would presumably be much cheaper because duplication would be cut.

On the other hand, of course, the bribes might just get bigger.

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The English legal system: Justice reduced to the level of The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent

I have to do jury service next month. That should be interesting.

The basis of the English legal system is that the accused is guilty unless he can (afford to) prove himself innocent. The police investigate a case and find the person they believe (or claim) is guilty. The state’s prosecution system then decides if there is enough evidence to convict and, if there is – ie if the defendant is presumed to be guilty – then the accused person is prosecuted on the basis that they are guilty. The state pays for a prosecution lawyer whose job is to get a guilty verdict; if he/she spots anything that may imply innocence, it is his/her paid job to prevent it being presented to the court.

Under the English legal system, the prosecutor is paid to mislead the court on the evidence, to hide evidence which may prove the innocence of the defendant and to prevent the Defence from presenting any evidence which will reveal anything which may show the innocence of the defendant. That is his paid job. The defence lawyer is paid by the defendant himself/herself to get an innocent verdict and to hide anything which might show or imply guilt.

The jury’s job is not to investigate the facts nor to decide if the accused is guilty or innocent. Their job is to decide which of the two well-paid lawyers present a better case. The object is to vote on whether the defender or prosecutor is better on style, content and presentation, much like competitive Ice Skating but without the numbered cards you hold up. It is justice reduced to The X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent.

I remember a case in which a jury member spent his spare time going to the crime scene and talking to witnesses outside the court. The judge threw him off the jury and told him it was not his duty as a jury member to investigate the case but to decide a verdict only on the evidence presented. I think the jury member was threatened with Contempt of Court.

The lawyers who present the case? They have spent about seven years in an academic institution being trained in the art of legal lying, falsification of evidence and misleading the court. Which is why politicians like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton are often ex-lawyers. They were highly-trained as liars.

The result of all this? Lots of guilty people escape conviction and lots of innocent people get imprisoned, sometimes for decades.

There is also the fact of widespread police corruption across the UK.

On 27th September 1998, the Sunday Telegraph revealed in an article written by Geoffrey Seed and Alasdair Palmer that it had obtained “the minutes of a meeting organised by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), and attended by 10 of Britain’s most senior officers and policy makers”. The minutes stated that “corrupt officers exist throughout the UK police service” and the NCIS’s Director of Intelligence said that corruption may have reached “Level 2: the situation which occurs in some Third World countries”.

I was once told by Margaret Thatcher’s lawyer that he would never put a Metropolitan Police officer in the dock as a witness unless what he said could be corroborated by another witness: the possibility that the policeman was lying was too great to risk.

The object of the English adversarial system is to win the debate at all costs including justice. Added to this, there is the fact all police evidence must be suspect.

The English courts do not provide justice. They play a game with people’s lives in which innocent defendants are found guilty of crimes they did not commit. This is no accident. It is an inevitable result of the current English legal system which is adversarial not investigative.

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Russian & Soviet sleeper agents in Western Europe and the death of Ché Guevara

British newspapers are getting their knickers in a twist over Katia Zatuliveter who was working as a Parliamentary Assistant and Researcher for Mike Hancock, the Liberal Democrat MP who is currently on police bail over an alleged indecent assault against a female constituent; he also sits on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Russia as well as the House of Commons Defence Select Committee. The Security Service aka MI5 apparently reckon Katia Zatuliveter is a Russian agent. Stranger things have happened.

WikiLeaks have also recently released documents claiming modern-day Russia is, in effect, run by the Russian Mafia.

In 1995, when I was in Turkmenistan, I met and later almost wrote the biography/autobiography of a man who had been a Soviet ‘sleeper’ agent working in South America and Western Europe during the Cold War. He had been part of a network of agents run on behalf of the Soviets by East Germany’s ‘Economic Planning Minister’ Erich Apel. But then something happened and, in this extract from tape recordings, he tells what happened to him one dark night in East Germany back in 1967, when cracks were starting to appear in the Soviet Union…

*** *** ***

It was all falling apart. Ché Guevara was abandoned on his operation in Bolivia in 1966/1967 and then killed by the Americans. Between 1965 and 1968 – between the ousting of Khrushchev and the attack on Prague – the Soviet Union was closing itself in and creating a big, expensive conventional army and a shadow economy. It was closing down its destabilising operation around the world.

By 1967, most of the people I had worked with in the Soviet-backed Network had already been caught – they had ‘disappeared’ – some had been captured by the West, some had been disposed of by the East. I was the last one left of those I knew. I was in West Berlin and had been asked to deliver an envelope to a town in East Germany. I knew the envelope contained microfilm, because I had made the same delivery before. I had no overnight visa for East Germany, so I had to get a train back to East Berlin by 11.00pm and return through the Friedrichstrasse security checkpoint into West Berlin before midnight, otherwise I was in trouble.

East German Security was separate from the police. Everything was separate. Everything was chaotic. There were so many different agencies all working separately from each other – sometimes in competition with each other. I didn’t have full coverage. It wasn’t as if I was officially working for the East German secret service. I was working for the Network but the complete implications of that were uncertain. I knew my network was handled by part of a section of East Germany’s security system and was linked to the Soviet Union, but things had changed when Erich Apel ‘committed suicide’ in 1965.

When Apel was made to die in 1965, it sent a signal to all marginal people like me. Apel had been one of the masterminds and controllers of our subversion operation and when it was said he ‘shot himself due to depression’ it was clear something was changing very fundamentally. Our entire project of undermining and fighting American power in the Third World – and ultimately in Europe – was falling apart.

I took a metro to Friedrichstrasse, then a cab to another station. At about 3.30pm, I stepped into the very last carriage of a train, despite orders that I should board a carriage in the centre. The train arrived in the German town of Frankfurt an der Oder at about 4.30pm, when it was already getting dark. Because I was in the last carriage, I didn’t get out directly in front of the station building as ordered. Instead, I walked along the platform and discretely down the side of the station building. There were three men in expensive leather coats waiting inside the station; there was a black saloon car waiting behind the station with its engine running. I went silently back to the railway line and walked along the tracks away from the station.

Then the men came looking for me.

When they couldn’t find me, they sent for the soldiers – the VoPo.

I was an irregular; I was a Westerner. I was not supposed to be there. I had an envelope with microfilm showing heavens knows what. The soldiers started to close in on where I was hiding. There was a little passage for water under the railway tracks – something just a little bigger than a pipe. I pulled my dark sweater up to cover the white collars of my shirt. I crawled into the narrow little culvert and held myself up in the top of the passage by pressing my hands and feet against the vertical side walls. It was totally dark outside the culvert. I heard the boots of the soldiers coming closer on the stones by the railway track and I was terrified because, by then, I knew I had been sent by my Controller into a trap. My own side were going to catch, imprison, torture and possibly shoot me.

The muscles in my arms and legs were straining, I was aware of his own heart pounding. I saw an armed VoPo soldier come to the end of the darkened passage in which I was hiding. The VoPo man was outlined by the lights behind him. He held a sub machine-gun in his hands, wore an East German uniform and his dull metal helmet reflected no light. I was hiding about six feet into and up in the roof of the passage. The armed soldier squatted down and silently looked in, waiting until his eyes adjusted to the darkness. Then he saw me, took one step into the passage, looked me in the eyes, pointing his gun at me, and did something very strange. He took his machine-gun and turned it behind his back, which was a very dangerous thing for him to do. I could have been armed, although I was not. He took a few more steps into the passage, completely unprotected, and looked up into my face. We could see each other’s eyes and he said to me in German:

“I am your contact. I have the stuff.”

He gave me the password and, at first, I didn’t believe it.

I gave him the envelope with the microfilm in it.

“But who are you working for? I asked him.

“The other side,” he told me.

“What other side?”

“It’s neither of the two you’re thinking of. The Americans. The Brits.”

Even as early as 1966 or 1967 the Soviet system was disintegrating. They had started to fight each other within the system. There was money from oil, money from gas, blackmailing. The Red Army became more important than the networks…

Under Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet Union decided it no longer wanted to be leader of the Third World or to convert and subvert other countries to socialist ideologies. Nor to become the world’s industrial leader. What became important was to keep power internally by having a strong army – the biggest army and navy in the world – and to sell resources for hard currency. Russia is a country full of natural resources. Why bother becoming a rich industrial nation or risk giving power to the workers? With the profits from the sale of natural resources, the Soviet Union could buy industrial products from other countries. Better clothes, better cars. Give the people enough to keep them quiet and pocket most of the vast profits yourself.

Politicians under Brezhnev could become personally immensely rich by selling gold, oil and gas. The Party of the Russian People became the Party of the Russian Mafia. Under Brezhnev, the shadow economy became more important than the real economy. Eventually, it ruined the country.

To disguise the fact they had opted out of Third World subversion, they armed everyone they could. They sent huge stockpiles of weapons to Mozambique, Egypt, Nicaragua so that the locals could fight their own wars without involving the Russian Army or Soviet-backed irregulars run by the East Germans, Czechs or Cubans.

As part of this process, Ché Guevara was betrayed by the Russians in 1967.

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