Archive | November, 2011

Simon Burns calls Petition-Signers ‘Zombies’

23 Nov

The delightful Simon Burns MP has accused 38 Degrees of “frightening people and getting them almost zombie-like to send in emails.”

38 Degrees has put up a petition (they’re good at that) telling him to listen to his voters and stop calling them zombies.

Dear Simon Burns,

We’re citizens, not zombies.

We have a right to be treated with respect by our MPs and to expect a reply when we get in touch.

Every British citizen has a right to be heard in our democracy. Thousands of us write to our MPs, because we care. Because we value democracy. Because the decisions you take affect us.

It’s your job to listen.

However, being a loudmouth and a zombie – I thought I’d troll the slimey sod. (BTW the Zombie Rights Campaign in the ‘States has also put in their two cents’ worth.)

My email to Simon Burns MP

Dear Simon Burns,

I am a zombie. A politically active one at that.

Your use of ‘zombie’ as an insult to politically engaged citizens is childish and ignorant, not to mention extremely offensive to zombies.

It’s our job as zombies to eat brains, it’s your job as an MP to listen to voters. Stop the petulant name-calling and do your job.

Yours,

Ms H Chutzpah
(deceased)

Judicial Review of Pre-emptive Royal Wedding Arrests

11 Nov

For anyone wanting to know what happened next about the Royal Wedding/Starbucks Zombie arrests, here it is: we got organised; we found more people who’d suffered the same treatment; we found some brilliant lawyers and we’re going to have a Judicial Review into the Metropolitan Police’s Actions.

Unlike a Private or Civil Law claim (which would have been easier to achieve), this is an investigation which can and will go as high up the chain as is necessary to find out what the policies were and who made what decisions. Private or Civil Law claims would have almost certainly ended up with the police throwing some compensation money at us before we ever got to a judgement – but we, the claimants, said wasn’t about money – we wanted a proper investigation and a judgement at the end of it to set a precedent for future policing.

Today I got the news that we have been granted permission for that Judicial Review. Needless to say I am delighted. Official press release below:

Judicial Review of Preemptive Royal Wedding Arrests

Fifteen people who were arrested preemptively on the day of the Royal Wedding have been granted permission to challenge their arrests by way of Judicial Review. The claimants, who were arrested from different locations across central London, had not committed any crimes. Those arrested included people on their way to peaceful protests, as well as people the police merely suspected of being on their way to protests. None of the claimants were charged and all were released almost as soon as the public celebrations had finished.

“It is our view that the treatment of our clients was unlawful under common law and was in breach of their fundamental rights under the European Court of Human Rights articles 5, 8, 10 and 11,” said a spokesperson from Bhatt Murphy. “The apparent existence of an underlying policy that resulted in those arrests is a matter of considerable concern with implications for all those engaged in peaceful dissent or protest.”

Those arrested include members of the ‘Charing Cross 10’ who were on their way to a republican street party, the ‘Starbucks Zombies’ who were arrested from an Oxford Street branch of Starbucks for wearing zombie fancy dress, and a man who was simply walking in London and was stopped and arrested by plainclothes officers because he was a ‘known activist’. The arrests have been dubbed ‘precrime’ in many circles.

The arrests, all said to be to prevent anticipated breach of the peace, are part of a trend on the part of Metropolitan Police of using increasingly heavy-handed tactics against peaceful protestors, which manifested itself most recently in the threat to use rubber bullets against students protesting against the rise in tuition fees. Such tactics create a ‘chilling effect’ which dissuades others from protesting in the future.

The use of such tactics, which on the day of the royal wedding appears to have gone so far as to include a policy of carrying out preemptive arrests in order to intercept and prevent public protest and other dissent, raises questions of constitutional significance with regard to the role of policing in a democracy. The granting of permission for a Judicial Review means that those tactics will now be subject to the full scrutiny of the High Court in a 5 day hearing some time in the next year.

Bhatt Murphy is a leading civil liberties firm which specialises in police misconduct, prisoners’ rights, deaths in custody and immigration detention.

The Schadenfreude Review

2 Nov

As a reviewer I find the hardest reviews to write are of books which just strike you as ‘meh.’ The okay books which you neither love nor hate are difficult to get a handle on. You often wind up describing plots rather than reactions to it because you barely had any. The ‘Meh’ review is often doomed to be as bland as you found the book: ‘here is a description of a book I have read and didn’t mind.’

Conversely the easiest reviews are of things absolutely you hate. Imagine, then, my Schadenfreude-laden/masochistic delight when I discovered a book so bad I could start a rant about something on almost every single page. (In fact, I frequently did start said rants because chewing the ear off a nearby friend was preferable to wading through more of this grandiose-uncle’s-speech-at-a-wedding prose.)Albert Pierrepoint

So – who wrote this absolute stink-bomb of a book, I hear you ask? Albert Pierrepoint. And I’m absolutely allowed to be mean to him because he killed lots of people. For money.

Put this book out of its misery

Pierrepoint, Britain’s last hangman, used a system of variable drops to snap the convict’s neck instantly – killing them as humanely as possible. I only wish he’d found a method for dispatching his sentences as painlessly.

There is no ghostwriter and oh boy does it show. I’m not entirely sure there was an editor, either. In describing his childhood, every conceivable detail is named: two pages on the embarrassment and ‘indignity’ of not being allowed long trousers when he was a boy, half a page on the way his aunt took the lid off a bottle of gingerbeer. I wish I was kidding.

I’d already seen the movie Pierrepoint when I spotted this book in a charity shop. I’d read that Pierrepoint came out as an advocate against the death penalty in his later life, and that (at one point) he lived in my old neighbourhood. These two factoids were enough to get me reading – but once I was reading… oh dear.

I know ‘it sent me to sleep’ is overused, but seriously I’ve been using this a sedative for a fortnight or more. I’m barely a third of the way through it. It’s turgid, dull-dull-dull and just screams “look at me using big words and gazing at my own navel ’cause now I’m a writer.”

The interesting bits – i.e. his attitudes to life and death, and taking another’s life, and why the hell he was drawn to that kind of work – he seems unwilling or unable to engage with. Only that it’s about dignity, but most men don’t understand, and ladies never understand. And he is forever grateful to his wife for her ‘discretion’ in never ever mentioning the fact that he was, y’know, bumping people off for money on the side.

If I were to attempt psychoanalysis I’d say that Albert Pierrepoint was a man who desperately craved the status – or in his own words the ‘dignity’ – which he perceived in adulthood and seriousness. Given that being a hangman was by definition a very serious job, and his father had been one too, I think he saw it as a way to responsibility and adulthood. I do not think Pierrepoint was a particularly perceptive or self-aware man. I don’t think he had many easily-articulated answers for why he did what he did – and therefore he was especially quick to dismiss others’ questions as their not understanding it. Well, they didn’t – and neither did he.

The past is a different country. A weird, emotionally-repressed one with extremely long sentences.