Extinction Rebellion’s infantile plan to cause chaos in London will only put off those it supposedly wants to attract to its cause

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With Greece literally on fire and a climate change report sounding the alarm, Extinction Rebellion protesters are choosing to smash windows and cause mayhem for commuters in London rather than doing anything approaching useful.

As if the nation’s bosses haven’t got a hard enough job trying to convince people to return to their offices for work, now the tone-deaf lunkheads from Extinction Rebellion are planning to make it even more difficult for put-upon wage slaves to earn their crust.

#ExtinctionRebellion block London streets as protest marks 7th day pic.twitter.com/CGRJs81Xqv

— RT (@RT_com) October 15, 2019

If the protesters are serious about doing their bit to help climate change, it would make more sense if we sent them all off to Greece, where they could fight wildfires and do something useful. We could even waive the mandatory PCR tests on day two of their return from the flaming suburbs of Athens.

Or maybe we could organise a trip to China, where the wealthy Western activists could try their luck against the stone-faced Communist Party leadership in urging them to do something about the 25% of all global emissions they produce? Maybe try to persuade Xi Jinping and his pals to stop building all those coal-burning facilities?

That would be time and money well spent. Certainly more productive than antagonising the weary public they are supposedly trying to get onside by destroying private and public property and clogging up the capital’s thoroughfares, in a student-level political debate that involves chucking paint everywhere and breaking a few windows.

XR’s planned return to the streets of the capital from August 23 – while the climate-change-enhanced weather is still warm – is a reprise of the massive disruption they brought to the capital in 2019 and initially plans to last for two weeks, but maybe even longer, until the government agrees to the immediate cessation of all public investment in fossil fuels. 

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I don’t really want to be the one to poop in their tent, but that ain’t gonna happen.

The lengthy protests in April and October two years ago, where numbers were bolstered by the attendance of bored, middle-class women from the well-off Home Counties, cost Joe Public £37 million in policing.

Ironically, the most memorable images of the chaos at the time were not of people playing African drums on Waterloo Bridge and singing John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, but of frustrated commuters dragging protesters from the top of Tube carriages who were preventing the trains from running as they sought to get to work.

And after all that inconvenience and mind-numbing virtue-signalling, literally hundreds of the obstruction charges and fines issued against activists in the wake of those protests were later dismissed, adding to the cost of their actions and intensifying the irritation most of us feel towards those who seek to make difficult lives even more so.

But Extinction Rebellion hasn’t had it all its own way. A flurry of police activity in June broke up a planned protest against the press targeting newspaper offices and print works. XR pushes the line that the mainstream media has long colluded with global forces to deny the existence of climate change or distort its effects through biased reporting.

The ‘Code Red’ headlines of the last few days, following the release of a report from UN’s international panel on climate change, might suggest to some that this is not actually the case – but the naive, woke self-righteousness of Extinction Rebellion doesn’t counter opposition. If they say the Man is to blame, then that’s how it is. And if you disagree, you’re a climate denier or a fascist or a carnivore, and you don’t ride a bicycle.

All this, of course, is a dress rehearsal for what we might expect at the UN’s COP26 climate event in Glasgow starting at the end of October. The problem XR (ER, surely?) faces in trying to cause mayhem while global leaders try to talk tough about a universal challenge – and enjoy all those sustainably sourced banquets – is that at such events the local forces of law and order are less relaxed about scruffy protesters gluing themselves to street furniture, causing criminal damage, or throwing bricks and bottles.


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People tend to get hurt, and extended scenes of running battles with the police played out on the evening news bulletins are not what the organisers want, so they crack down fast and hard to quell any unseemly outbursts.

That puts XR on the back foot. So to make a point, they choose to inconvenience the working stiffs of the City of London, commuters weary of WFH heading off for some face time with colleagues, and the Metropolitan Police, who dare not raise a finger for fear of being filmed while clumping activists with their truncheons.

This is not protesting from Extinction Rebellion. It’s posturing. If they really mean action, then grab a flight to Athens. There are still plenty of seats available.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Leaked Whitehall files reveal how London secretly controls both pro- and anti-government NGOs overseas 

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By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

The shadowy work done by the British Council in Egypt to manipulate what non-governmental organisations get up to there shows the depths the British state will go to shape and control events in its favour.

Understatement is a staple of traditional English culture, the most visceral example surely being the fate of a 650-strong British Army battalion surrounded by 30,000 Chinese troops during the Korean War. Their commander described the situation to his US counterpart as “a bit sticky” – misinterpreted as reassurance things were difficult yet manageable. No reinforcements were sent, and only 39 members of the battalion survived the ensuing bloodbath. 

This propensity is also evident in the official names of covert Whitehall operations – often, the most humdrum titles conceal supremely sinister activities. Such is the case with something innocuously entitled, ‘Support to Egyptian civil society’ – were it not for the leak of internal Whitehall files related to the scheme, its ominous dimensions would be entirely secret from the public.

Set to cost £1.8 million between 2016 and 2019, the project’s classified terms of reference states that London seeks to “support Egyptian civil society organisations engaging in advocacy to enhance their impact across a range of policy areas,” in line with the UK National Security Council’s ‘Egypt Strategy’, the precise details of which are concealed from public view. 

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The tender stresses that “careful management” of the risks of working in the country is paramount, noting that “after an initial opening of political space after the 2011 revolution,” under the rule of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, civil society organizations in Cairo have faced ever-harsher restrictions, including employee travel bans, asset freezes and police raids, with many prominent figures arbitrarily detained or fleeing the country due to the threat of reprisal for their work, with several international NGOs closing their Cairo offices outright.

Despite these immense barriers though, the document asserts that civil society organizations “can and do have an impact on public debate,” as they are “the only groups attempting to hold the government to account or influence the development of policy,” and a recent protest law means traditional political actions, such as demonstrations, are effectively banned. As such, the UK seeks to exploit the sector for its own ends, by enhancing organizations’ ability to “to influence government policy and practice.” 

The tender was won by the British Council, which officially exists to promote UK ideas, the English language, and education in arts, science, and technology, and has operated in Cairo since 1938. 

In submissions to Whitehall, it boasted that it could guarantee that neither the project nor participating local organizations would be shut down over the course of the operation, as it “[holds] a position of trust with government and with civil society,” which could be cynically leveraged. A surreptitious “visibility strategy,” comprising a “low profile” and “no UK branding on activity” would ensure London’s hand in the connivance remained hidden. 

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The Council categorized targeted organizations under three categories – ‘oppositional CSOs’, ‘Government Organised Non-Government Organisations’, and ‘Grassroots/Community Based Organisations’. As the first group were “already under scrutiny and subject to restrictions, including legal action and asset seizure,” they would need to be worked with “discreetly” in a manner “which would not draw attention” to the Council or London. 

The second were likely to be “captured” or “co-opted” by the government, “and unable to act independently,” so it was decided to identify individuals within who had an “appetite for pushing the boundaries of their work,” and slowly but surely schmooze them. As the third often took “proactive steps to minimise their exposure to political interference,” they would be secretly approached via local cutouts, and only made aware of the involvement of the Council “when trust-based relationships have been developed.”

The Council revealed that it had previously pursued similar approaches in other “challenging environments,” including Ethiopia, Northern Nigeria, Palestine, and elsewhere. An accompanying case study outlined how in Myanmar, it managed the Department for International Development’s ‘Pyoe Pin’ program, supporting civil society “to engage in and influence decision making processes.” 

This skullduggery is rendered all the more insidious and perverse when one considers the central role played by London in installing Al-Sisi in power, in the process aggressively reversing the “opening of political space” referred to in the project’s tender. Previously leaked files I’ve reported on exposed how the UK Foreign Office secretly funded the creation of Aswat Masriya, a Reuters-backed ‘independent’ news service, in the wake of the 2011 revolution.

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Under its auspices, hundreds of journalists were trained, and scores of stories in both Arabic and English were syndicated the world over. Aswat Masriya granted the UK a high degree of narrative control over news coverage as events unfolded in the country. 

Its coverage consistently downplayed, whitewashed, or ignored crimes committed by security services, while undermining Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, laying the ground for Al-Sisi’s seizure of government in a violent military coup in July 2013, before closing in March 2017 after he was firmly entrenched in office and his reign of terror was well underway. 

Officially, Whitehall categorizes Egypt as a “human rights priority country,” with an official report noting Al-Sisi’s rule has been typified by ever-escalating torture, police brutality, rape of prisoners, forced disappearances, deaths in detention, and other unspeakable horrors. Of the country’s approximate 100,000-strong jail population, 60,000 are political prisoners. 

Publicly though, UK Ambassador to Cairo John Casson has hailed the president for “building a more stable, prosperous and democratic country,” and even praised his government’s “tough security measures.” This penchant for seeing no evil, hearing no evil, and speaking no evil may be explained by London being the biggest investor in Egypt, with trade receipts running to £1.5 billion annually. Morsi’s administration threatened Whitehall’s financial interests in the country – Al-Sisi has proven himself most accommodating by comparison. 

Whatever good may come from the Council’s work with civil society organizations in Egypt, it’s clear too that the project is ultimately concerned with keeping a close eye on the sector’s activities, and making certain that the state is gently pushed in directions benefitting London. 

One passage in the tender refers to motivating NGOs to serve as “peaceful channels of mobilisation and influence that offer an alternative to unrest or extremism.” In other words, lobbying the government for modest reform, while ensuring its position isn’t threatened by any incendiary action.

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In a bizarre twist, the Council’s designated “primary contact” for the project was veteran staffer Andrew Sheridan. In December 2008, while posted to Moscow, he was involved in a bizarre incident in which he ran over a Russian Federal Security Service colonel in a diplomatic car. His victim, who worked for an elite academy training agents for frontline duties, suffered head injuries and a broken leg. 

In February that year, then-President Dmitry Medvedev declared that the Council’s public activities were merely a front, and behind the scenes it carried out “a mass of other tasks which they do not advertise so widely,” including “intelligence activity.” While vehemently denied, these files suggest his suspicions may well have been correct. What else does the British Council have to hide? 

RT approached the British Council for comment, but had not received a response at the time of publication. 


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Secret documents expose London’s plans to infiltrate the Balkans… while undermining Russia

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By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

A recently leaked study reveals the extent to which the British government wants to manipulate public opinion in the Balkan countries. And there are no prizes for guessing who is getting portrayed as ‘the bad guy’…

Among a tranche of leaked UK government documents related to covert actions in the Balkans is a fascinating secret study, conducted by professional services firm WYG and pollster Ipsos, which discusses methods of countering negative perceptions of Whitehall among the region’s constituent countries, and the type of propaganda that should be used to manipulate citizens’ perspectives.

The target audience analysis (TAA) offered four “programming recommendations” that would offer “potential routes” to achieving London’s “wider objectives”, among them boosting “positive perceptions” of the UK, EU accession and NATO membership in the Balkans, and “[countering] malign influence by third parties.” These were: promoting media literacy among young citizens; supporting “independent”media; funding initiatives to expose “fake news”; and promoting “historical ‘friendship’ narratives” about the UK’s links to the region. 

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On the last point, the document states that it was particularly important to highlight “ties that united Britain and Yugoslavia in the fight against fascism in World War Two” in public messaging, for example by twinning UK-funded public events with the 80th anniversary in 2021 of the invasion of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers. These initiatives, it was suggested, could be “promoted through embassy events, cultural and educational ties, with new research made public through exhibitions and the media.” 

It seems clear the TAA’s recommendations were adopted by Whitehall. June this year saw the first ever official visit of a UK Defence Secretary to Belgrade, with Ben Wallace meeting with his opposite number and President Aleksandar Vucic, to coincide with Operation Platinum Wolf, a multinational military exercise led by London in which Serbia collaborated with NATO members. 

Wallace had a present with him – a memorial to an airfield secretly operated by the UK Special Operations Executive in then-Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia, which was used to evacuate 11,000 partisan fighters and wounded civilians between May 1944 and June 1945, constructed by British Army metalsmiths. In response to its unveiling, Vucic expressed hope that relations between Belgrade and London could reach the “level of true partnership that we had as allies in both world wars.” Was the line suggested by a member of the visiting UK contingent? 

Whatever the truth of the matter, following the summit, the UK and Serbia inked a bilateral document to “expand the ambition” of their “defence engagement” and “open up new opportunities for joint training.” 

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Wallace’s trip was hailed as an overwhelming diplomatic success by the mainstream media, although in a bizarre incident mere days later, he told The Daily Telegraph that a “landmark agreement” had also been signed between the two countries to counter Russia’s alleged “malign influence” and “manipulation”, which both the UK Embassy in Belgrade and the Serbian Defense Ministry vehemently denied

Clearly, the Defence Secretary said something he shouldn’t have – the TAA makes clear that a primary objective of its “programming recommendations” in respect of regional media is secretly undermining public support for Moscow. It states that Russian “influence” in the Balkans builds on “historic cultural, religious and political ties,” with President Vladimir Putin enjoying the highest approval rating of world leaders in Montenegro (71%) and Serbia (86%) among those surveyed by Ipsos. 

The reasons for this high esteem are manifold – for example, the TAA notes Moscow is “perceived as a protector of Serbian interests on Kosovo” and in turn Kosovan Serbs see Russia as “a brotherly nation, which gives moral and political support to them.” 

The country was also widely believed to be a “shield against NATO” among those unenamoured with the military alliance. Such sentiment is widespread throughout the region – 98% of Bosnian Serbs and 80% of Serbs oppose membership, and a mere 30% of Montenegrins harbor favorable views of the bloc, despite their country joining in June 2017. 

However, the TAA argues that opposition to “closer alignment with the West” – along with negative perceptions of the UK more generally – aren’t legitimate opinions with a reasonable or rational basis, but can only result from “Moscow’s disruptive role” in the region, said to include attempts to “[undermine] security, sovereignty and stability,” and as such is a “threat” that must be countered.

Contradictorily though, the analysis concedes that research and analysis indicated “pro-Russian” news or commentary is “often home-grown” and frequently results from “what local leaders are doing to boost their popularity,” with many media outlets said to be “openly pro-Russia.” Evidently, positive coverage and perceptions of Moscow in the Balkans aren’t the product of external meddling. 

Still, to counteract this objectionable state of affairs, Whitehall launched a grandiose project, ‘Supporting Greater Media Independence in the Western Balkans’, set to cost £9.5 million between 2019 and 2022. Bidding contractors were provided a confidential file outlining a number of “proposed activities” to be launched. 

Suggestions included creating a “pipeline” of female “defence and diplomacy journalists”, launching a newswire publishing “quality” text, picture and video content available in the region’s four major languages, managing a “citizen content factory” to train young people to become content producers to “identify and counter hostile narratives,” and also a drive to secretly engage social media influencers to peddle pro-Western propaganda. 

“Popular vloggers… will release videos, in which they share highly inflammatory disinformation, some of which will include conspiracy theories about NATO, before revealing that it is fake and calling out their follower community for possibly believing them,” the document states. “The influencer will conclude that they are tired of seeing fake and inflammatory content on YouTube and other platforms and call for audiences to be wise to disinformation.”

It’s troubling to consider that the Serbian Defense Ministry’s denial that it had signed any agreement with the UK targeting Moscow’s alleged “malign influence” could well have been sincere, and Belgrade was simply hoodwinked into greenlighting covert efforts by London to improve media standards and battle the scourge of false information, without realising their true nature and purpose. 

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Reinforcing this interpretation, leaked files related to a cloak-and-dagger Whitehall operation to ensure Kosovo’s total and permanent severance from Serbia make abundantly clear the initiative’s true nature, and London’s role in it, was meant to be kept completely secret from the public – and local politicians.  

Clearly, Virgil’s famous proverb needs to be updated – in the 21st century, it’s Brits bearing gifts one must beware.  

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Secretive black vigilante group Forever Family are now patrolling London’s streets in stab vests. Who exactly are they?

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Racial tensions in the UK are unlikely to be eased by the sight of the Forever Family Force patrolling the streets of the capital in military formation. What do we know about this sinister, confrontational group?

One of the most jarring images as the Black Lives Matter movement swept the UK last summer was that of Forever Family

To the general public, the group appeared from nowhere. They came to prominence on Afrikan Emancipation Day (August 1) as they marched in military-style uniforms in formation through Brixton, south London.

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Most wore stab vests, many faces were covered by balaclavas, and their presence was aggressive and uncompromising.

Since then, the group have remained out of the headlines, but in the past few months they’ve returned. Videos show gatherings of members standing in formation with raised fists, while being followed by others riding motorbikes. 

And the latest edition of their newsletter states they have started a controversial national initiative, the People’s Patrol. It describes how the patrol aligned with a surge in media reports of attempted child abductions in London. At the time, the Metropolitan Police said this was internet speculation and that there was no reason to believe abductions are a growing problem. 

However, the Forever Family Force seemingly patrolled the streets, interacting with children without parental consent, with their newsletter stating: “FF Force spent time overseeing children making their way to school alone in the morning and spoke to parents and carers about key issues affecting their neighbourhoods.” It also admitted they “gathered intelligence on areas,” and therewere pictures of children in school uniform as Forever Family “handed out over 300 Nike, Puma and New Balance backpacks and sports bags.” 

Alongside this, the group released a social media post: ‘Train With Us, Patrol With Us, Join The Family’. Member Jay Kast informed people on Instagram and Twitter to contact him for training camp dates, times and locations. It’s unclear what this ‘training’ involves.

🚨 Your Community Needs You.Inbox me for training camp details… @ForeverFamilyUKpic.twitter.com/eweaLDmjnI

— Jay Kast (@kast_jay) June 28, 2021

Another FF document states they expressed to young people “the benefit of having basic self-defence and first aid skills.” This suggests that the group expects young people to encounter violence. 

In an attempt to clarify their objectives, Forever Family were repeatedly invited to speak to RT.com but refused, with an unnamed member replying, “We are not currently partaking in interviews. I cannot go into reasons why.” This directly contradicted their newsletter which states, “Forever Family is always happy to engage with journalists and media representatives who report factually and without prejudice.”

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It’s impossible to know how many members they have, but what we do report is that they have been registered as a legal company, Forever Family Ltd, with the British tax authorities. The sole director is Khari McKenzie and the secretary is Rachelle Emanuel. McKenzie is better known as Raspect Rebellion and appears to be Forever Family’s leader. He can be seen in videos shouting ‘touch one’ as others chant back in unison ‘touch all’. 

Last month, McKenzie delivered a speech in Birmingham, outside the family home of Dea-John Reid, a 14-year old who was stabbed to death. He said, “This is a warning… if any more of our little brothers, even a hair on their head is touched, I’m telling you, you’re going to see more than 100 bikes, more than 1,000 people as we’re not having our little brothers brutalised like this.”

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A post shared by Raspect RebelLion (@raspectrebellion)

After warning against violence within the black community, he added, “To have racist people be murdering our brothers on these roads, we’re not going to have it, fact, and I’ll die on that. And there’s a 1,000 man in Brum that will die on that, a 1,000 man in London, a 1,000 man in Manchester and a 1,000 man in Nottingham…you better know what time it is.” The tone of McKenzie’s speech is in keeping with Forever Family’s confrontational image. 

What many people will wonder is why a city like London needs a group of angry and aggressive vigilantes – who don’t seem to want to explain their actions to the media – patrolling the streets? 

Forever Family may have good intentions to act on behalf of a community, but they have no legal right to do so. Clearly the rise of BLM highlighted massive divisions, but Forever Family seem to be treating the problems as binary: us against the rest of the world. 

What appears to be clear from what little we do know about Forever Family is that they are a wholly uncompromising outfit. But the questions remain: if they wish to help their community, then why are they dressed like a militia? Why the secrecy about who they are? And why won’t they talk openly to the media if they have nothing to hide? 

All their messaging suggests they are adamant about knowing the best way forward in London and other parts of the UK, with the group now having a presence in Scotland.

But this combative attitude will likely bring problems. If Forever Family continue their patrols, it’s surely only a matter of time before a rival organisation forms to oppose them. 

While there is nothing wrong with creating an initiative to help a community, patrolling the streets in military formation is unnecessary. Londoners have the police to ensure law and order; there is no widespread desire for what appears to be a vigilante group. 

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They have appointed themselves as guardians and leaders, but they have not been asked to step up. And while their desire for change may well be genuine, there is something odd in that several members, including McKenzie, have PayPal links on their social media, to apparently solicit donations. Where the money goes or what it is used for is unclear, with the group unwilling to speak to RT. 

Britain and London has many problems but it’s hard to see any being solved by Forever Family. They are only going to create more. 

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

I’ve seen how climate change is being used by alarmist politicians to promote their own agenda

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Paul A. Nuttall is a historian, author and a former politician. He was a Member of the European Parliament between 2009 and 2019 and was a prominent campaigner for Brexit.

Every time there is a so-called ‘freak’ weather event, we hear from politicians and scientists about how it is down to climate change. But my time as an MEP showed me how the issue is hijacked to further individual interests.

London, like parts of Germany and China, has suffered a series of flash floods over the past few weeks. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, warned that the recent flash flooding “shows that the dangers of climate change are now moving closer to home.”

Flooding at Pudding Mill Lane. Never seen anything like this before. #LondonFloodingpic.twitter.com/3yMjfFLXsW

— Dominic Buxton (@DominicBuxton) July 25, 2021

In an article penned for the Guardian newspaper, Khan also stated that the recent flooding “should be a wake-up call, spurring us all to take much more ambitious climate action.” Of course, Khan has a motive for linking the recent floods to climate change, as he is committed to making London carbon neutral by 2030. He plans to achieve this by pushing through a series of controversial measures, including even more cycle lanes, which have already turned London into a car park, and by extending the expensive ultra-low emission zone.

For politicians like Khan to get their way, the public has to accept that these floods are a recent phenomenon, and primarily caused by man. We all must be prepared to self-flagellate. People also must believe that London has never flooded before, because that would negate many of Khan’s arguments.

It is like some wacky Jedi mind trick: “This is the first time London has been flooded, and it is all a result of man-made climate change.” Oh, but hang on, Obi Wan Khan, London has flooded before – in fact, it has flooded loads of times. In the last century alone, London suffered serious flooding on many occasions, with 1928 and 1968 immediately springing to mind.

But it is not just last week’s floods that are being blamed on man-made climate change, it is also the recent heatwave. The Met Office head of civil contingencies, Will Lang, warned that “as a result of climate change, heatwaves are becoming longer and more extreme, and many people’s health and wellbeing will continue to suffer as a result.” 

Now hang on Will, hasn’t there always been intermittent heatwaves in the UK? I remember the heatwave of 1990. I was a schoolboy and had a great summer playing cricket and tennis. In August 1990, temperatures hit almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit, beating the previous record which went all the way back to the heatwave of 1911.

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Also, I was born in 1976, which is famous for its heatwave and drought. That year represented the driest in over 250 years and rivers literally became trickles of water. It did not rain between May and September and hosepipe bans were imposed. However, was the 1976 heatwave blamed on man-made climate change? No, of course not, because these same climate ‘scientists’ were not worried about warming back then, they were warning of global cooling and the onset of another ice age. They are, of course, now busy trying to row back on the theories, but it still represents an inconvenient truth, if you don’t mind the pun. 

The point I am trying to make is that none of these recent weather events is unique. They have happened before, and in our recent history. But if we go back even further, say to the medieval warm period, we find grapes being produced as far north as Scotland and we also know that the climate was warmer during the Roman period. And why was this? Julius Caesar’s gas-guzzling 4×4 perhaps? Of course not, it was all natural and mainly to do with the big yellow thing in the sky that we call the sun. 

It is not just politicians who are using the man-made climate change hypothesis as a weapon; the media are equally culpable. Take, for example, the fact that April this year was the coldest since 1922, and the first week of May was the coldest since 1659. Did you see this sprayed all over the mainstream media? Of course not, because it does not fit with the warming agenda. If they had been the hottest weeks or months for a number of years, we would never have heard the end of it. 

And when mainstream media outlets don’t play the game, they are forced to apologise. Take for example the fact that the RTÉ News and Current Affairs Managing Director Jon Williams had to say sorry for not linking the recent flooding to climate change. Williams said, “we were wrong not to make clear connection between recent extreme weather events and climate change.” You must be a good boy Jon, or you’ll be subjected to a lecture from Greta.… 

We were wrong not to make clear connection between recent extreme weather events & climate change. Sin of omission & reported in good faith. But truth matters. So when we get it wrong, we should say so. Lesson learned. Work to do. https://t.co/EEcMi1VEy1

— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon) July 26, 2021

Now I have, in the past, been called a “climate change denier.” This was a cheap shot because I am not, far from it. I believe that the climate has always changed, but I am not convinced by how great man’s role has been in that change. What I do know is that that the issue is being used by cynical politicians to further their own agendas. I saw all this first-hand when I sat on the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. You see, climate change is used as a principal reason why we need supranational organisations like the European Union. “The climate knows no borders”, you hear repeated as if it were a cult. It gives the organisation a reason to exist. 

The United Nations takes a similar line, and yesterday we had the toe-curling spectacle of Joyce Msuya, the assistant secretary general of the UN, claiming that Covid-19 was somehow linked to climate change. Now, as someone who is sitting here writing this article with Covid, I guarantee the dreary weather outside has absolutely nothing to do with my condition. 

The one thing I can guarantee is that if you give a politician an inch, they will take a mile. Especially when they are backed by well-funded scientists and given a free pass by the cowed media. But this should not be the case. The science around man-made climate change is far from settled and the theories should be tested through rigorous debate. This is sadly not the case, as those who make an alternative argument are shouted down and abused. And that is why the climate alarmists can freely omit historical weather events to prove that what is happening now is unique, when it clearly is not. 

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Leaked files expose London’s cloak-and-dagger scheming to secure the permanent divorce of Kosovo from Serbia

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By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

Documents have revealed Whitehall’s multimillion-pound involvement in efforts to increase support for Kosovo’s national government among the Serbs, proving once again Britain cannot resist flexing its neocolonial muscles.

In September 2020, Pristina and Belgrade agreed to normalize economic relations, in a move hailed by the mainstream media as historic. However, the concord failed to resolve the many serious questions that have hovered over Kosovo’s future ever since it controversially declared independence from Serbia in 2008. 

The primary source of contention is four northern municipalities where ethnic Kosovo Serbs comprise a majority of the population. While nominally part of the aspiring state, the quartet remains under de facto Serbian rule. Both a partition and a land swap have been discussed intensively over the years at the highest levels, although the current position of Kosovo’s prime minister, Albin Kurti, is that no territorial concessions will be made to Belgrade whatsoever.

Pristina is supported in this intransigence by a number of Western countries, including the UK, which played a pivotal role in the 1999 NATO bombing campaign that vanquished Serb forces from most of Kosovo. Newly leaked files now make clear London is attempting to finish the job, not through brute force, but by manipulation, in the guise of a community bridge-building endeavor.

Dubbed ‘Strengthening Positive Peace in Kosovo and Serbia’, and costing £5 million between 2020 and 2022, it aims to engender increased support for Kosovo’s national government among Serbs, challenge “identity-based narratives” and achieve “social change at a national level” – in other words, reduce tensions between local populations, and diminish any notion of a difference between them. 

“Communities in Kosovo and Serbia will be more resilient against divisive or conflict-generating narratives, which will become less prominent in mainstream discourse, and play an active civic role to emphasise cooperation and development for all parts of their societies,” the project’s proposed “theory of change” states.

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Noble ambitions in theory, although when considered in tandem with previously leaked Foreign Office files related to covert activities targeted at Russophones in the Baltic states, the interpretation that this is ultimately concerned with compelling ethnic Serbs in Kosovo to forsake their motherland, and accept they are now and forevermore will be guests in an ‘independent’ foreign country, is amply reinforced.

As in the Baltics, Whitehall specifically aimed to “engage” Kosovo’s youth in various activities and programs as “agents of change,” building their capacity to become “social entrepreneurs,” and “campaign and advocate on relevant social issues across ethnic divides.” Young citizens “unable to emigrate” were of particular interest, presumably on the basis their unemployment and lack of opportunities would make them more likely and willing to engage.

“National and regional media outlets and social media influencers” would also be recruited to “promote alternative narratives” and “amplify the project’s models and successes, encourage alternative narratives, disseminate locally-driven narratives through credible change agents [and] influencers,” mobilizing youth participation in local projects in the process.

Underlining the sinister nature of the “peace” initiative, a dedicated section in one file outlines the enormous efforts that would be undertaken to obscure the UK’s involvement and maintain the false impression publicly that the effort was a strictly local affair.

All participating organizations and their employees were to sign non-disclosure agreements, and “briefed and instructed” on “how to represent project funding” if asked, although only staff at the highest levels would have any idea of London’s hidden hand. No internal or external communications were to mention Whitehall or contain its branding, and staff running social media platforms associated with the project would be careful to geotag posts in “the area of the targeted population,” rather than their actual location.

Moreover, social media advertising was to be “carefully calibrated to ensure growth is perceived as organic, rather than the result of external funding,” with “social media, traditional media, and local interlocutors” constantly monitored “to understand how target audience(s) perceive project channels [and] identify any association of the project with the UK government or other donors.” In the event anyone’s cover was blown, an evacuation plan – including “measures to remove or destroy data, including hard drives” – would be promptly activated.

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Quite some ruse, but then Whitehall has every reason to obscure its true role – if the Serbs caught wind, they would quite understandably be suspicious of the endeavor’s true objectives. Still, were anyone in a position of power to raise objections about the project or indeed any other covert UK action in the Balkans, they could in short order find themselves in deep trouble. 

A separate leaked file, related to a “rule of law initiative” run by the National Security Council’s Stabilisation Unit, makes very clear that London won’t tolerate high-level opposition to its agenda for the region, and will readily employ active measures to neutralize any and all resistance. 

“In contexts where elite incentives are not aligned with our objectives/values… an approach that seeks to hold elite politicians to account might be needed,” the document obliquely yet ominously states.

To this end, the Unit planned to “build relationships and alliances with those who share our objectives and values for reform” by funding and “mentoring” a nexus of homegrown NGOs and civil society organizations to “bring local governments to account” and “align the programme with stated goals.” 

In other words, the cultivation of an army of trojan horses to lobby, smear, campaign against, and, if necessary, bring down troublesome regional governance actors. The constellation of media organizations dotted across the Balkans funded and trained, if not outright created, in secret by the UK – some of which were recently exposed by this journalist – could also prove effective in this effort. 

It may likewise be significant that a classified document related to strengthening Pristina’s judiciary somewhat amazingly reveals Whitehall plays an intimate role in training and appointing Kosovo’s judges and prosecutors, due to its dissatisfaction with previous appointments. Could this power also have implications for Balkan politicians not sufficiently conducive to London’s machinations?

One can’t help but be reminded of Brazil’s notorious Operation Lava Jato (Car Wash), a bogus anti-corruption psyop in which a shady coterie of US-directed legal activists conspired to prosecute, convict and jail anti-imperialist political figures, such as popular former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, on entirely false charges. 

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The file furthermore references the 2013 Brussels Agreement, which integrated once-parallel Serb and Kosovan police, security and legal structures in the would-be republic, and mandated the composition of its national and local judicial panels be proportionate to its population. This seemingly confirms London influences their membership too, guaranteeing representatives of both extractions are fully submissive to its goal of achieving Kosovo’s total and permanent severance from Belgrade.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s grandiose plans for a post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ have been widely panned as a fantasticaldangerous and ill-fated attempt to recover the long-lost glory days of Empire. However, these leaked files make clear the sun never truly set on it in the first place – it’s just that now, dominance of faraway lands is maintained insidiously, by clandestine infiltration of civil society at every level, unknown, unseen, and unconsented to by both the UK’s own population and the citizens of all countries in Whitehall’s neocolonial crosshairs.

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Boris Johnson has ditched his journalistic roots with proposals that could see his fellow hacks jailed for 14 years like spies

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Under a revamp of the UK’s Official Secrets Act, journalists could be treated like spies for reporting on matters of public interest, and face lengthy prison sentences. That’s a bit rich given BoJo’s history of dodgy journalism…

Boris Johnson was a posh-boy floppy-haired joke to many of his fellow journalists when he was ‘on the road’ for The Times and The Daily Telegraph a quarter-century-or-so ago. 

Many senior editors in London and their proprietors, though, rather enjoyed Boris’s bumptious bonhomie and his pithy turn of phrase, and promoted him accordingly. Mostly in a direction where writing a pithy phrase was what was required, where opinion is what counted. Not, necessarily, fact. 

But not many hacks – none is my guess, although there might be at least one opinion to the contrary – trusted the bloke’s actual ability to conduct any thorough kind of research, let alone a deeper kind of investigation: to find the truth of a story and then stand it up so his paper wouldn’t get sued for libel. 

Surely any news editor – that’s the commander of the news reporters with probably the most stressful high-burnout job of all – would have cold sweats reading every quote and fact in any BoJo article. Especially knowing Boris was beloved by those above, protected as he was by the boss class. 

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It’d be wise to have someone else check it all, word by word. Pithy phrase by pithy phrase. The quiet kid in the corner on a freelance shift from a local paper would be way more trustworthy than BoJo.

He was sacked from his first journalism job as a trainee on The Times for making up a quote from his godfather, a historian. Then he ended up as Brussels correspondent on the Daily Telegraph, where he mined a rich seam in ‘Euromyths’ – stories such as Italians complaining about condom sizes, the shape of bananas and standardised coffins, et comme ça.

Former war correspondent Max Hastings was the Daily Telegraph’s editor at the time. “I have argued for a decade that, while he is a brilliant entertainer who made a popular maître d’ for London as its mayor, he is unfit for national office, because it seems he cares for no interest save his own fame and gratification,” Hastings wrote in The Guardian. “Johnson would not recognise truth, whether about his private or political life, if confronted by it in an identity parade.”

Be careful, Max, that’s rather embarrassing to the most powerful man in Britain. Say this again in a few years’ time and it seems the secret police could be kicking down your door. 

That’s because this sloppy, crappy little journalist wants to boost the Official Secrets Act to such a degree that it could send other journalists to jail, the ones who actually do the kind of work that few would ever have trusted him to do. 

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A jail cell could be waiting for hacks and sources behind, for example, The Sun’s exposure of Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s affair with an aide – oh, and hapless Hancock broke some Covid social distancing rules, too, apparently but, come on, really, who cares about that? Seeing the lovers secretly snogging in his office was THE story.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has already raided two homes seeking the source of the video that nailed Hancock. The ongoing investigation also exposes just how dim Hancock and his squeeze Gina Coladangelo truly were, as it seems the camera that caught their tryst wasn’t secretly planted, or even hidden – it was a security camera that had been there since the new Home Office building opened. They could have snogged in a cupboard, instead of right in front of it. D’oh!

Fresh proposals being considered by the Home Office could increase a jail sentence for sharing this sort of material from two years to 14. “We do not consider that there is necessarily a distinction in severity between espionage and the most serious unauthorised disclosures,” says the consultation document.

This is despite, according to spurned former special adviser Dominic Cummings, BoJo regularly referring to The Telegraph as “my real boss” – not, you understand, the British electorate. BoJo also readily admits it’s “ludicrous” that he became PM in the first place, apparently.

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Yup. Loads of those ‘on the road’ hacks would absolutely agree with him on that one, for once.

But BoJo isn’t the only hack in high office. Oh no. 

Cabinet minister Michael Gove oozes and throbs with as-yet-unsatiated ambition, he SO wants to be Prime Minister one day. He just does. Gove, too, is a former journalist, and held loads of senior posts on The Times – including a stint as news editor – before winning a seat in Parliament. He’s also married to the Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine. Or he was, but they’re getting divorced. I’d want to keep any salacious details quiet if I was Gove, wouldn’t you? These politicians have the power…

If even these former hacks want to gag journalists these days, what hope is there that the UK won’t edge ever further towards North Korea? The Hermit Kingdom’s state-run news agency, KCNA, doesn’t realise just how strange it is to the outside world with stories such as “Exploits of Peerlessly Great Persons Highly Praised,” the invention of a waterproof liquid (ie: your bog standard sealant) or the discovery of a unicorn lair

Britain’s not quite there yet. But who knows… if the ex-journalists running the country have their way, that could be the tabloid fodder we end up with. Maybe BoJo might like to resurrect his byline and liven them up with a pithy quote or two?

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Forget cultural appropriation: Transracialism is ‘blackface’ on steroids promoted by seriously damaged frauds

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David Matthews is a writer whose work has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday and the Observer, and on the BBC and Channel 4. He is the author of several books, including Voices of the Windrush Generation. Follow him on Twitter @mrdavematthews.

Influencer Oli London’s supposed transition from white to Korean is a cry for help – and an insult to the millions of people over the years who have been forced to pass as a different race to gain employment, even to avoid death.

Recently, while talking to a couple of old friends about the parental ups and downs of raising a trans teenager, I couldn’t help but put myself selfishly in their shoes, consider what that would be like and then quickly go mentally barfoot. As someone who finds parenting two girls and a boy not so much a challenge as it is a daily exercise in existential crisis, the idea of being a father to a trans kid, with all the attendant fears, anxieties, trials and tribulations that engenders, fills me with dread. But, like most of life’s challenges, if I were ever faced with it, I’d rise to it. The alternative, after all, is simply a lack of parental responsibility, love and empathy, and an unforgivable act of cowardice.

As my friends reminded me, with an air of desperation, no one chooses to become trans, such is the shock to that person’s internal, familial and social ‘system.’ But setting aside the ethics, morality, biology and psychology of it for a moment, suffice it to say that, whatever the ‘backstory’ is, anyone who makes the decision to transition in such a fundamental way, whether with total self-agency or mum and dad’s support, isn’t ‘playing’ the identity game. Wanting to change one’s sex is about as real as it gets. But can the same be said for race? It certainly can, if you buy into ‘transracialism’ to the extent that British-born social media influencer and singer Oli London has.

My TRANSition story & how I became KOREAN🇰🇷 https://t.co/8QSPTDOVgY 💙💜💛💚🖤🧡 #olilondonpic.twitter.com/KwBrUO2GcS

— Oli London (@OliLondonTV) June 26, 2021

A formerly pasty-faced white guy, London claims to have spent £150,000 on between 15 and 18 ‘racial transitional surgery’ operations. He now not only identifies sexually as non-binary but racially as, er, well, he says, Korean. But from where I’m sat he looks like he comes from another freaking planet.

London puts his radical racial transformation down to an obsession with K-pop, spawned from his time living in South Korea when his favourite boy band, BTS, launched in 2013. After watching the band performing on TV, London says he was “just amazed” by them, but most of all by band member Jimin, whose name, along with surface racial and cultural elements, London has also appropriated.

Do I look like Jimin? 🤩

— Oli London (@OliLondonTV) July 3, 2021

While I’m a great believer in each to their own, live and let live and respectful cultural appreciation over rapacious cultural appropriation, as a middle-aged black man still navigating a world wrought with race politics, I have little or no sympathy for bored, spoilt, bourgeois westerners raiding the ethno-dressing-up box to escape the harsh realities of being, er, white, primarily as a means of making a quick buck flogging bubble gum, shampoo and gut-wrenching fizzy drinks.

On one episode of ‘Botched’ – a plastic surgery nightmare reality TV show – Dr Paul Nassif told London that he’d wind up with necrosis if he had another nose operation, having already undergone five rhinoplasties.

Having had work done on his jawbone, chinbone, cheekbone, nose, and eyes, London is getting ever closer to the level of ‘perfection’ naturally achieved by his idol, Jimin, whom he says he’s “obsessed” with, although hopefully not in a Mark David Chapman-type way. He’s admitted to feeling great for about two months after surgery, but once that high wears off, he starts thinking about his next Jimin lookalike move.

At some point, maybe after the sixth or seventh nip and tuck, you’d think someone close to London would have told him to pull off the transracial highway and take another, more pastoral or therapeutic path towards Korean culture, perhaps by learning the language, studying Buddhism or taking up taekwondo. Instead, we have the naff spectacle of him denigrating the South Korean flag with a rainbow-coloured version he launched via Twitter with, “This is my new official flag for being a non-binary person who identifies as Korean. Thank you for the overwhelming support it was so hard for me to come out as They/them/kor/ean.” Given the symbolic nature of the South Korean flag, London has fallen foul of natives who see this ultra-tacky move as cultural annihilation, let alone appreciation or even appropriation.

This is my new official flag for being a non-binary person who identifies as Korean. Thank you for the overwhelming support it was so hard for me to come out as Them/they/kor/ean 🏳️‍🌈⚧ #olilondon#nonbinarypic.twitter.com/5uJp2dBQU5

— Oli London (@OliLondonTV) June 18, 2021

One irony that’s possibly lost on London is the extent to which skin lightening and Eurocentric cosmetic surgery is popular in South Korea, Japan and other parts of the Far East. For centuries, porcelain white skin has been revered by many in that part of the world, along with a less than BLM-style attitude towards racial diversity and equality. Of course, other parts of the world, notably bourgeois sections of West African and Indian society, have been known to overindulge in the caustic use of dangerous skin-lightening creams in pursuit of the futile western beauty myth. But transracialism, especially with the co-opting of the clinical community, is little more than minstrelsy or blackface on steroids, something London’s new cheerleader and wigger with attitude, Rachel Dolezal, would know all about.

Dolezal, you may recall, made global headlines in 2015 when it was revealed that she was a white woman identifying as black. This, in and of itself, was laughable; but Dolezal at the time was the president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington state. Thanks to America’s wide spectrum of Afrocentric skin colours and shades, Ms Dolezal, with her frizzy hair and ‘funky’ attire, was able to dupe her colleagues into believing she was black, as opposed to the NAACP knowing what she was and welcoming her with open arms as a sista from another mister. To put it bluntly, Rachel Dolezal was a fake, a phoney and a fraud. No wonder she identifies with London.

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“I don’t know Jimin personally, obviously, so they can speak for themselves in that regard,” Dolezal told TMZ. “But I do think that the broader issue here is compassion and kindness, and that personal identity is not the big fish to fry when it comes to somebody’s personal choices or how they feel.”

Okay, one love. I buy that.

“I think that we need to focus on fighting the public outrage issues of police brutality, of deinstitutionalizing racism,” Dolezal continued. “Those are the issues that I think that we need to come together on to fight publicly, and to be kinder to people and fight a little bit less on social media against somebody’s personal choices.”

So, London turning himself into a Korean Ken Doll is a George Floyd moment? Gimme a break.

I get that human beings are playful, imaginative, social animals, and part of our personal expression and ‘individuality’ is to peacock by changing the way we look, act and sound, generally via fashion. This is why much of what is dismissed as ‘cultural appropriation’ is whining over-sensitivity by killjoys who want everyone to dress up in Mao suits or hackneyed national costumes, so the world either looks like Apple’s ‘1984’ commercial or a happy clappy ethnic Coca-Cola ad. Sorry, but I don’t work for Central Casting. I’ll wear what the hell I like, thank you very much.

Like London, Dolezal is in need of help. These people’s adoption of a foreign culture, on a largely aesthetic or surface level, has more to do with their rejection of their mother culture than an embrace of ‘the other’ for deep and meaningful reasons. And that rejection of the mother culture, more often than not, is a rejection of or rebellion against their parents. Black people, Koreans or whoever thus become proxies for a battle of wills against mummy and daddy, something which wokeism does well to prod and provoke. But today’s minstreling transracialists are an insult to those who, for a plethora of reasons, have found themselves exchanging their mother race for another race by way of ‘passing.’ Legions of Turks and Arabs have passed as Italians or Spanish to get work across Europe, black people have passed in the Americas to gain acceptance or curry favour just to get by, and what of the Jews who passed as gentiles to escape Nazi death camps?

I suggest the Londons, the Dolezals and all the transracial clowns who think that changing the construct that is race is one big fancy-dress party go watch Douglas Sirk’s 1959 remake of ‘Imitation of Life’ starring Lana Turner. It’s a melodrama classic, and for her role as an African-American mother raising a daughter who passes for white, co-star Juanita Moore became one of the few black actresses to be nominated for an Oscar. I used to watch that movie on TV in the 1970s with my father. He was half-Portuguese, half-creole. He grew up in a former British colony where race determined your lot in life. I don’t know if he ever tried to pass, but he’d always well-up when that movie came on. If only he was alive to see Oli London’s face…

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Medhurst: Britain has legalised rape, torture and war crimes by the state

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Richard Medhurst is a British journalist born in Damascus. Owing to his coverage of international relations, US politics, the Middle East and Julian Assange extradition he has built a successful YouTube channel and hosts a program on Press TV. Follow him on Twitter @richimedhurst

Across Britain people are protesting against a proposed bill which restricts that very right, but two other laws have already passed, allowing undercover agents to commit crimes, and giving British troops immunity from war crimes.

At the heart of current protests in Britain is the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. This controversial new law, dubbed the “anti-protest bill,” would impose severe restrictions on protests and slap those who fail to comply with harsh sentences. The ‘Kill the Bill’ movement, a coalition of activist groups, seeks to stop this legislation while it’s still in passage through Parliament. It sets an incredibly dangerous precedent for civil liberties, undermining any supposed democracy the UK may have. In addition, in recent months the United Kingdom has passed two other laws, one which allows undercover agents to commit any crime, and another which gives British troops immunity from war crimes prosecutions. These have gone largely unnoticed by the British public.

In March 2021, Britain’s Conservative government under Boris Johnson introduced a new act into Parliament titled the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. This mammoth piece of legislation aims to shake up the criminal justice system in England and Wales. It gives police sweeping new powers, allowing them to decide whether or not a protest is justified, impose a start and finish time, and shut down a protest on the spot. The criteria proposed for shutting down a protest includes vague, arbitrary language like being “too loud” or a “nuisance” – effectively neutering any significant public protest. Asked to explain the meaning of a “noisy protest,” equally vague and unclear answers were given by Home Secretary Priti Patel.

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Under the proposed law, failure to comply with police orders could result in a fine of up to £2,500. The punishment for defacing or damaging memorials has been increased from three months to 10 years; this comes in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 which saw a statue of slave trader Edward Colston thrown into the Bristol dock.

Activists in the UK called the bill a “blatant attempt to create an authoritarian police state,”undermining the right to free speech and peaceful assembly – the pillars of a supposed liberal democracy. Since March 2021, protests have erupted all over Britain, including in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool and other major cities, with hundreds being arrested and detained by police.

The United Kingdom goes around the world lecturing other countries about freedom and human rights abuses. It bombed and destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of ‘democracy’ – and in its absolute hypocrisy it persecutes Julian Assange for exposing the crimes of those wars. Now, it seeks to trample on the very democratic values and liberties it claims to uphold.

The Police and Sentencing Bill has already passed first and second readings and now sits at the committee stage, and protests against it continue. Yet two other laws have already been passed under Boris Johnson’s government: The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) Act and the Overseas Operations Bill. Despite their authoritarian nature, plus their threat to civil liberties and international law, their passage through Parliament has gone largely unnoticed.

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State-sanctioned murder

The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) Bill (nicknamed the ‘SpyCops’ Bill) gives undercover agents permission to commit crimes through a “Criminal Conduct Authorisation.” This includes rape, torture, murder, and other violent crimes. The bill applies to MI5, Britain’s security service, but also extends to any police force in Britain and other agencies like the Gambling Commission, Food Standards Agency, Home Office, and Ministry of Justice. In the name of preventing crime, or in the interests of national security or the ‘economic interests’ of the UK – which could mean anything – officers would be allowed to commit some of the most heinous crimes with impunity. The SpyCops Bill has already become law.

Many fear that worker unions, activists, and organisations opposed to the government and other power centres in the UK will be targeted. Previously, police have infiltrated such groups, disproportionately targeting left-wing organisations, activists, and protesters. The Guardian also disclosed in 2018 that London Met had used over two dozen officers to infiltrate left-wing groups as part of an undercover spying campaign that spanned 37 years.

With the Tories guaranteed to vote overwhelmingly in favour of their legislation, Labour leader Keir Starmer naturally did what one expects of the opposition: nothing. Labour MPs were whipped into abstaining – only 34 of them choosing to rebel – gifting Conservatives with an unopposed passage of the bill. In the Lords, an attempt to remove the most heinous crimes from the bill, such as rape, murder, and torture, was subsequently shot down in the Commons. The bill received Royal Assent on March 1, 2021.

This carte blanche to commit crimes – essentially a license to kill – can be devastating in the wrong hands. Giving the state such extraordinary powers over the lives of ordinary citizens is authoritarian at best and madness at worst – and the government isn’t stopping there.

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War crimes allegations? They’re just annoying

Another worrying piece of legislation that has already become law is the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act. It proposes a so-called “presumption against prosecution” for service members overseas, essentially giving British troops immunity from war crimes prosecutions. It introduces a statute of limitation of five years, meaning that if an alleged crime took place more than five years ago, it will not be considered by the courts and the Ministry of Defence.

The government claims this law protects British troops from what Defence Secretary Ben Wallace called “vexatious” claims and “endless investigations” into war crimes and other atrocities – dismantling any hopes of justice for the many victims of Britain’s war crimes. The government is essentially dismissing war crimes allegations as annoying.

Previous UK investigations into war crimes by British troops, such as Operation Northmoor and the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), resulted in no convictions or cases being brought forward – despite damning emails detailing the executions of Afghan civilians and cover-up by Britain’s elite special forces, the Special Air Service.

The government is using the fact that these inquiries did not result in any prosecutions (something it made sure of), and the case of Phil Shiner, as an excuse to give British soldiers blanket immunity from prosecution for war crimes, torture, and other heinous crimes older than five years. This is like saying that anyone who committed murder five years ago cannot be prosecuted anymore because a few people were wrongly accused of murder at some point.

The bill has been criticised, albeit nowhere near enough, for its violations of the Geneva Conventions, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. 

The #OverseasOperationsBill violates essential rule of law principles, including with regards to the absolute prohibition of torture. It also fails to protect the safety, well-being and rights of our military personnel.For these reasons, I have voted against it.

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) September 23, 2020Making the illegal legal

Keir Starmer’s Labour is no opposition party. Usurped by Zionists who character-assassinated former leader Jeremy Corbyn, plus corporatists, and Britain’s political establishment, Labour is an empty shell that allows the Tories to dictate government policy unimpeded. Similar to how the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States represent two sides of the same coin, the same is true of the Conservative and Labour parties in Britain.

While the Kill the Bill protests are significant and important, opposition to the aforementioned laws must increase, because the British public is largely ignorant of what is unfolding. How many Britons know that their government just legalised torture and war crimes? The media has done an excellent job of leaving these issues underreported, shielding the government from scrutiny and criticism. Where are the crusaders of regime change who feign so much concern for human rights, civil liberties, and democracy?

The United Kingdom loves meddling in other countries’ affairs, giving lectures about democracy and human rights while violating these very same things at home. Not that the United Kingdom was ever a model of equality to begin with: the British Empire, the largest in history, is responsible for untold amounts of suffering and killing through colonisation, slavery, and occupation. Now the only difference is that the gloves are off and the facade is lifted.

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The first British soldier ever to be convicted for war crimes was Donald Payne. He spent just one year in prison after beating Baha Mousa to death, a 26-year-old Iraqi from Basra in 2003. Even when the British find someone guilty of war crimes, they just give them a slap on the wrist, so why would anyone now expect them to take them seriously? That’s not justice.

The United Kingdom dares to lecture other countries about human rights, while violating its own Human Rights Act or amending it to make the illegal legal whenever possible. Britain has legalised state-sanctioned murder for undercover agents, given its troops immunity from war crimes, and now it wants to ban protesting. A country that gives harsher sentences for defacing the statue of a slave trader than for murdering Iraqis has no place lecturing anyone about human rights.

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‘Class cleansing’ is killing London, as poor people are removed from communities like vermin

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A new report has highlighted the aggressive social cleansing that is rampant in three London boroughs, and the devastating effect it has on people who are displaced. It seems the working class are not welcome in Britain’s capital.

Gentrification is not a new phenomenon but it is clear that it is out of control in London. 

As with many cities, it is a process the UK capital has been familiar with for some time. Poorer communities have been moved out of neighbourhoods in favour of a ‘better’ class of people for generations, and in the early 1960s sociologist Ruth Glass coined the term ‘gentrification’ as the old Victorian properties of Islington were bought for a song by the affluent middle classes. 

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As Covid crisis adversely affects UK’s white working class, it is the middle class’s self-interest that means there is no easy fix

These once-grand houses, which had fallen into disrepair housing society’s poorest, were renovated and modernised, with the aid of local government grants, by many of the middle-class gentrifiers. What had become slums were transformed into million-pound properties and are now among the most sought-after houses in the country, with Islington firmly established as a political, media and cultural enclave. It is no coincidence that Tony Blair, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have all lived in the original gentrified borough. 

The working-class residents who lived in the squalid, overcrowded conditions were moved into newly built council housing, as the consensus between political ideologies after World War II continued. Millions of social housing properties were built around the country, allowing many working-class people to live in dignity for the first time, with indoor bathroom facilities, clean running water and a sufficient number of bedrooms for children and parents to sleep separately.

Today, though, there is no political consensus to provide good, affordable housing for working-class people, just a laissez-faire attitude that it should be left to the market. In fact, we can look back to the early ’60s – with the slum clearances, the high -rises and the council house building – and think, for all the faults, that these were the good old days compared to what is happening now, as was evidenced by a report last week from the Runnymede Trust and CLASS think tank titled ‘Pushed to the Margins’

It describes contemporary gentrification in Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Newham in London that is alarming and aggressive, with working-class people being violently displaced. And what is especially concerning is that it is working-class people from black and Asian communities who seem to be particularly affected.

They are being pushed out to the furthest points of the capital, away from transport links, meaning that if they work in central London their commute for minimum wage jobs becomes ever longer and more uncomfortable, in packed buses and tubes. Contemporary life for working-class people in Britain means longer, more expensive, insanitary commutes. 

This is nothing more than what I call ‘class cleansing’. I undertook extensive research on this process in London between 2013 and 2018 – a five-year ethnography of what happens to working-class people who are being crushed by what is not now ‘gentle’ gentrification, but a horrific Manhattanisation process.

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No longer is it the middle class gentrifying parts of Victorian London, but instead we see a global elite army of property developers – aided and abetted by local and national politicians – who are inflicting this ‘class cleansing’.

They are removing working-class people from communities as if they were vermin, with no thought or care of where they go, and there is no real economic or social solution being put forward by any of the mainstream political institutions. Meanwhile, the council estates are being bulldozed to make way for luxury towers soaring into the sky – soulless, lifeless and disconnected from the streets and the people of the city. 

Four years ago, I lived in Tower Hamlets and was part of a housing movement trying to bring attention to the class cleansing occurring in London. I was contacted by a woman who worked in a private lettings agency in North Nottinghamshire, who informed me a woman from the borough of Barking and Dagenham had just turned up at her office with two Ikea bags stuffed with her belongings, and two small children.

She had been sent to Nottinghamshire with no more than an address by the housing official. Since arriving in the UK from Nigeria 10 years previously, she had never lived outside London and over the years had found it impossible to find somewhere affordable and safe to live. She had a Master’s degree, but was unable to put it to use because without a home and stability you cannot find and secure a decent job. That takes headspace and commitment, which you simply can’t have when you are living out of carrier bags, being moved around with two kids. 

Barking and Dagenham Council had an arrangement with a private landlord in North Nottinghamshire to house families that London had no room for. The council had paid the deposit and two weeks’ rent upfront, and the mother and her children were housed in a flat in an old mining village that was remote and had very few services and little public transport. I made contact and visited her, and she told me she desperately wanted to get back to London – she was totally isolated. This poor mother and her children had been cleansed out of London – not good enough, not rich enough, not productive enough for Britain’s capital city. 

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Her story did not end well – she became very ill and her children were put into care in Derbyshire, and I lost contact with her about two years ago. But this is not an isolated incident. I have met women and children who have been forced out of many ‘successful cities’ throughout the UK – it is a violent, abusive process and it is the state, local councils and bureaucrats who are inflicting this misery on working-class families without being held to account. 

The former mayor of Newham, Robin Wales, summed it up years ago, when talking about a group of young mothers from the Focus E15 hostel in Stratford as it was being closed down and they were about to be cleansed out across the country. “If you can’t afford to live in Newham, you can’t afford to live in Newham.”

As temperatures soar this week and we see images of rich people floating in sky-high glass-bottomed swimming pools looking down on London, the symbolism of the gap between those at the top of society and those at the bottom has never been so stark. It is unequal, unfair and cruel. For all the talk about coming out of the pandemic and rebuilding society, are working-class people included in this vision? I doubt it.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Sasha Johnson’s shooting should spur BLM UK to focus on the internal, as well as the systemic, problems facing black Brits

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David Matthews is a writer whose work has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday and the Observer, and on the BBC and Channel 4. He is the author of several books, including Voices of the Windrush Generation. Follow him on Twitter @mrdavematthews.

There is no question black Britons face racism in society, and that must be fought, but it doesn’t have to come at the expense of tackling issues within the community. Failure to do so only serves to confirm racist narratives.

As high-profile Black political activist Sasha Johnson fights for her life after being shot in the head at a birthday party in Peckham, south London, racist loons, right-wing grifters and left-wing shills are out to prove once again that anything America can do, Britain can do lamer. 

While the US was gearing up to commemorate the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis rogue cop Derek Chauvin – a tragedy that sparked a wave of global Black Lives Matter protests against systemic racism – in the early hours of last Sunday, 27-year-old mother-of-three Ms Johnson fell victim to what may well prove to be a far more prosaic assault on human rights.

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Politicising the shooting of a black activist in the UK is wrong. We should be more worried US’s casual gun crime has hit Britain

Struck by a single bullet while attending what the Met Police say was “an organised party taking place in the back garden of an address in Consort Road” attended by some 30 guests, no sooner was the self-styled “Black Panther of Oxford” on the gurney than the social and MSM rumour-mill had gone into overdrive. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, and speculating on the cause, depending on which side of the extremist commentariat you buy into, Ms Johnson was either the victim of an attempted assassination by “white supremacists” or yet another “drive-by” casualty of “black-on-black crime”. 

The truth, however, is probably somewhere in between. Given the contempt for which the current Tory government holds Britain’s black community and continues to undermine its relationship with the police and criminal justice system through declining resources, political apathy and whitewashing a la its Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, a growing number of thugs are acting with impunity within the community. 

Meanwhile, those tasked with policing London, a city of nine million, feel unable to do their jobs effectively in the face of budget cuts, which have seen the Met reduced to managing just 36 police stations having lost a staggering 106 bases. Across the UK, since 2010, 660 police stations have closed down, reducing capacity by 50%. Ask any copper if there’s a correlation between rising crime and a lack of police presence on the street and they’ll look at you, slack-jawed. Under these circumstances, is it any wonder that violent criminals, regardless of colour or motive, think they can just walk into a party and shoot it up without a care in the world?

A statement from the Taking the Initiative Party (TITP), which Johnson co-founded last year as “Britain’s first black-led political party”, suggested, unsurprisingly, that darker forces than the usual mindless violence we’ve come to know and loathe in Britain could’ve been at play. “Since the incident, we have been receiving emails and social media messages celebrating Sasha’s attack, messages wishing she dies, calling her a racist, and wishing better luck to the shooter next time for not killing her and so on,” TITP stated, suggesting that Johnson may have been “targeted” by right-wing extremists. The party also rounded on the Met police’s characterisation of the shooting after it described the suspects as “four black males wearing dark clothing” and briefed the press with, “We are also not aware of any reports of threats made against her prior to this incident”. 

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Now that Southwark police have arrested five males on suspicion of Johnson’s attempted murder the truth will out, soon enough. 

With Covid-19 having a disproportionate impact on their health, wellbeing and livelihoods, violent crime on the rise, and the traditionally supportive Labour Party being bereft of ethnocentric vote-winning ideas, many black Britons feel beleaguered and desperate for answers. So, when a black activist is gunned down, confirmation bias dictates that there must be more to it than meets the eye, because we want the perp to be a white man to change a relentlessly anti-black media narrative. If it’s just another shooting in the ’hood, the maniacal right wins, again. No matter that most of the paedophiles, child murderers, armed robbers, burglars, fraudsters, rapists and homicidal maniacs in Britain are white: it’s “black-on-black crime” or “county lines” or “mugging” and whatever comes out of Rod Liddle’s scabby gob that counts. The 82 percent of Britain that’s white needs its own biases constantly fed on the altar of casual racism. And this week’s sacrificial lamb just happens to be Sasha Johnson. 

Curiously, Johnson’s name, let alone details of her shooting, is absent from BLM’s website. In fact, her connection to BLM, at least publicly, seems largely based on the British news media telling us she’s “a prominent Black Lives Matter activist”. The hammering home of this micro-narrative is of course based on her profile-raising antics, “controversial” statements and neo-Black Panther aesthetic, which came to the fore following the killing of George Floyd. But since last year’s summer of discontent, what has she done to warrant so much tabloid attention – attention that has included a classic hatchet job by the Daily Mail? Is she a genuine political threat or simply an eccentric, fringe character, a Farage with a clenched-fist salute, tailor-made for winding up reactionary fruitcakes who secretly get off on being scared witless by black people for reasons one can only guess? 

Many have looked to the UK’s chapter of BLM not just as a catalyst for change, but for more direct political and cultural leadership within the black community. For instance, according to recent data from the National Crime Agency, Black people accounted for 14% of missing people in England and Wales between 2019 and 2020, over four times (3%) their relative population. I know there are black vigilante groups forming around this and other issues; but what’s BLM’s position? Why is it conceding ground to right-wing shills on problems within Britain’s black community when it should be taking ownership of them, as other black-led organisations have done, historically?

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BLM will argue that its mission is to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.” Nowhere in this mission statement does it say BLM is committed to reducing so-called “black-on-black crime”, cutting black unemployment or focusing on intra-community problems. 

Without taking anything away from Sasha Johnson, she’s no Angela Davis. But if, hope of hopes, she survives and makes a full recovery, she’ll be perfectly placed to use her own tragic experience of violent crime to great effect.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Politicising the shooting of a black activist in the UK is wrong. We should be more worried US’s casual gun crime has hit Britain

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As London police probe the shooting of Sasha Johnson, witnesses deny she was targeted by racists and blame an ever-worsening gun and gang culture that is blighting inner cities and proving extremely difficult to address.

Over the last weekend, there were 12 mass shootings in US cities across eight states – Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Minnesota – which left 11 dead in just another routinely violent display of America’s gun problem.

Meanwhile, the UK saw a single senseless shooting that left Sasha Johnson, a young black activist, fighting for her life when she was hit in the head by a bullet fired by one of a gang of four men who crashed a backyard party she was at during the early hours of Sunday morning in south London.

The 27-year-old mum of two remains in hospital in a critical condition while her friends and wellwishers hold a vigil in a nearby park, praying and playing African drums as they wait for updates on her condition in the hope that she’ll make a full recovery.

The university graduate was a familiar face at last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests in the UK and a popular pick for press photographers with her striking good looks, de rigeur beret and loud-hailer.

Police are investigating along the lines that Sasha was in the wrong place at the wrong time, caught in the middle of a gang beef in which she played no willing part. But there are also those, particularly from the Taking The Initiative Party (TTIP) of which she is a member, that have sought to ascribe an alternative agenda to the incident, by unwisely announcing on Instagram, “The attack happened in the early hours of this morning, following numerous death threats as a result of her activism.”

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A post shared by Taking The Initiative Party (@takingtheinitiative)

The implication here is clear: this was an attempted political assassination and a targeted attack. And while that would indeed play into the mindset of those who seek victimhood above all else, and the police are not ruling out anything at this stage, it must be said it’s unlikely.

The problem is that by suggesting as much, TTIP have aroused the vile creatures from the far right who seek any opportunity to ignite racist flames and compete to see who among them could be the most disgraceful in messages left on the party’s website. It doesn’t take much to encourage these sad, mouth-breathing onanists. But it also doesn’t mean they had anything to do with the shooting.

Equally unhelpful was the intervention from Labour’s Diane Abbott, who added fuel to the fire with an ill-advised tweet suggesting Sasha’s activism was to blame.

Black activist #SashaJohnson in hospital in critical condition after sustaining a gunshot wound to the head. Nobody should have to potentially pay with their life because they stood up for racial justice #BlackLivesMatterpic.twitter.com/AlE4ELXiFl

— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) May 24, 2021

It’s not only unwise to try and second guess an ongoing criminal investigation, when even the facts of what happened at the party remain unclear, it’s a deeply cynical and misguided effort to extort political capital from an incident that could see two children orphaned. 

It would be so easy to wind up The Guardian into believing that far-right political assassins were on the hunt for prey when, unfortunately, it seems even at this early stage of the police inquiry, that the culprits are members of the insidious black gangs that prey on young men in our inner cities.

The suburb where Sunday morning’s shooting took place, Peckham, was the scene of the 2000 murder of Damilola Taylor, a 10-year-old schoolboy stabbed and left to die in a stairwell reeking of urine and rotten food by four young gang members, two of whom were later sentenced to eight years each for his manslaughter. The victim and his killers were all black.

It was a shocking and high-profile case at the time that shone a light on the tight grip of gang culture of which many Londoners were previously unaware. Unfortunately it took the death of a 10-year-old for the authorities to sit up and pay attention, although here we are, more than 20 years down the track, in the same neighbourhood, and we’re no closer to putting a stop to the gang violence than we were then.

We’ve had well-meaning schemes, intervention programmes and community outreach workers, yet Sasha Johnson can be shot in the head and left fighting for her life after simply enjoying herself on a night out with friends at a backyard party.

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If there was a racist motivation, it would of course be indefensible. But it would also be easier to comprehend than the thinking of a young man who chooses to arm himself with an illegal weapon and fire indiscriminately into a crowd of people without care for the consequences.

One of Sasha’s friends, Imarn Ayton, spoke with TV journalists about the version of events she’d been privy to and her insight really struck me. “There was a rival gang that may have heard about someone being in that party that they didn’t feel quite comfortable with or trusted,” she said. “And so they resorted to driving past and shooting into the garden, and one of those shots obviously hit Sasha Johnson.”

Her comments speak volumes about what drives gang culture. Feelings of comfort and trust. Insecure, disenfranchised young men. That’s all. So commonplace. So banal. Nothing whatsoever to do with political motivations. 

If it turns out that this is indeed what happened and the shooting bore no connection to Sasha Johnson’s community activism, crazed far-right racists or even, somehow, the death of George Floyd, then we won’t be any wiser about what went on. We will be just more confused than ever.

The single London shooting is a long way from the weekend of death in America, where authorities have long been at a loss over a spiralling gang and gun culture. And although we in the UK dismiss the US obsession with guns as something almost pathological, there is one thing the shooting of Sasha Johnson has shown us.

That virus, too, has struck our shores.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Teaming up with BoJo’s spurned adviser Dominic Cummings is the only way Keir Starmer can ever be Britain’s PM

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By Charlie Stone, author and journalist who has worked for the BBC, several national newspapers in the UK and international media.

After some shocking election results, it’s time for new ideas in the Labour Party. And the boldest move leader Sir Keir Starmer could make is getting strategist Dominic Cummings on board after he was jettisoned by Boris Johnson.

Sir Keir Starmer may have all the personality of a cardboard cut-out, but there is one man who can make this bland and boring bloke electable: Dominic Cummings. Think about it. It makes perfect sense. Cummings was the brains that brought about Brexit, the pipedream of a few fringe nuts in the Conservative Party plus Nigel Farage. 

And then there’s what he did for Boris Johnson himself. BoJo, to plenty of people in the UK, was just a bumbling buffoon and dodgy journalist who had blagged his way to becoming mayor of London. Along came Dom, and he somehow oozed into 10 Downing Street.

To be fair, though, BoJo beating Jeremy Corbyn in the 2019 election was easy. Corbyn’s brand of socialism expired 40 years ago, and there were never likely to be enough voters to get behind it, although it seems a sizable chunk of the Labour Party have never checked the sell-by date on the tin.

The British electorate have moved on since the 1970s, though, even if Labour hasn’t. The so-called Labour Red Wall in the north has crumbled away. Even Hartlepool has fallen, a town that once – and it might even be true – hung a monkey believing it was a French sailor. 

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They were always gonna be anti-Europe up there if they hung monkeys for being French; almost 70 percent voted to leave the EU. Anyone who actually listens would know this. Dominic Cummings, for sure, was aware of this when he was masterminding Brexit. 

Dominic Mckenzie Cummings grew up just 25 miles up the road in Durham, although he was hardly a working-class boy. The farm he escaped to during the Covid lockdown rules he helped devise belonged to his hugely wealthy father. Dom went to the posh Durham School and then on to Exeter College at Oxford University.

Yet the most crucial factor is that Dominic Cummings is not a Conservative. “I’m not Tory, libertarian, ‘populist’ or anything else,” he wrote in his blog. “I follow projects I think are worthwhile.”

Righto, then, Sir Keir, get on the phone… now! And convince Cummings your project is worthwhile. Especially because Cummings is so mightily pissed off with Boris since he was dumped as his special adviser late last year. 

He lost a spat with BoJo’s better half, Carrie Symonds. And there have been an awful lot of leaks lately about the cost of redecorating Carrie and Boris’s love nest in Downing Street. Cummings, of course, denies being the source. But this is another key point for Sir Keir – Cummings knows where the corpses are buried; he understands his old boss’s weaknesses. And there are plenty. 

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Hell hath no fury like a special adviser scorned. Cummings is very much a lover spurned, and he is far more dangerous than any female that BoJo has been caught in a tryst with.

Labour signing Cummings would be like Manchester United suddenly signing Pep Guardiola from Manchester City. But right now, the Labour Party are nowhere near even being a Premier League side. 

They have become what Jeremy Corbyn and his ilk have been since the 1970s – a third-division pressure group. So long as these people get to sing the Red Flag at the close of their party conference, they’re happy. They’d rather lose than win anyway, it seems to me.

Now the Labour Party is adrift, and it may well be doomed. Sir Keir has reshuffled his Shadow Cabinet a bit, but he couldn’t even get rid of his hapless deputy Angela Rayner. Somehow she ended up being promoted for the failure of a campaign she helped mastermind.

The forces that drove Labour off the Corbyn cliff in the first place are still alive and well. Khalid Mahmood quit as Labour’s shadow defence minister, accusing the party of having given way to a “London-based bourgeoisie” and “brigades of woke social media warriors.”

Man, anyone who has ever lived behind Labour’s so-called Red Wall knows this already – Sir Keir and his deputy taking the knee and promising to send every Labour Party worker on an unconscious bias training course simply doesn’t wash up north. Wasn’t George Floyd, err, American? Wasn’t he killed in America by an American cop? What’s all that got to do with Hartlepool?

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The woke Guardian-reading warriors walled in by the M25 London ring road will never get it either, no matter how many elections they lose. They believe they’re in charge because they work in the Civil Service or the BBC or in publishing or whatever. They believe in the sound of their own echoes. There aren’t enough of them, though; they cannot win an election with their votes alone.

Guess what, though? Dominic Cummings got it. This from his blog a few years ago: “The MPs and pundits get up, read each other, tweet at each other, give speeches, send press releases, have dinner, attack, f**k or fight each other, do the same tomorrow and think ‘this is reality.’”

Brexit happened partly because Cummings understood it was even feasible. Boris Johnson was no arch-Brexiteer; all he wanted to do was back the winner to fuel his own ambition. Now there’s talk of him being prime minister for a decade.

They’re not Guardian readers up in Hartlepool, they’re not natural wokeists on the other side of that crumbling Red Wall. They’re suspicious of all that, and especially the preachy tone set down south by ‘people who know best.’

In his latest barrage of tweets at the weekend, Dom had a swipe at both his old boss and Sir Keir, but he also said Labour could win the next general election “easy.”

If LAB had a leader 80% as good at comms as Blair + focused on ActualReality, they'd win next GE easy. They don't/won't, P(80%), so impossible now to be confident re what will happen, both parties cd easily be hated/held in contempt at same time

— Dominic Cummings (@Dominic2306) May 7, 2021

It’s not healthy in any democracy for there to be no viable opposition that can actually take power. I reckon Labour should become like the Democrats in the US – that is, to not lean so hard to the left, and therefore actually be electable on the ground where most elections are won and lost, in the middle. Tony Blair got this simple reality, and he won three general elections. 

So come on, Cardboard Keir, get on the phone. Give Dom a call.

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London’s pitiful election to find a mayor for its nine million people resembles a D-list reality TV show

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David Matthews is a writer whose work has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday and the Observer, and on the BBC and Channel 4. He is the author of several books, including Voices of the Windrush Generation. Follow him on Twitter @mrdavematthews.

Despite being Europe’s eighth largest economy, the world’s financial centre and arguably one of the most dynamic cities on the planet, London’s quadrennial showdown on Thursday has as much class as a UFC bumfest in a circus tent.

As a democratic exercise, the election campaign, with its parade of prancing, pavonine political poseurs, shames London. As a showcase of the capital’s ‘thought leaders,’ it’s a non-event. I can’t help but feel embarrassed for this great city, consumed as it now is by a prevailing air of mediocrity in British public life. 

At a time when slime minister Boris Johnson and his cronies face a torrent of ethical questions, Covid restrictions have cost London an estimated £56 billion in revenue and rising violent crime is blighting communities, far from being a ‘referendum on the government,’ this mayoral election, postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic, has all the relevance of a cancelled mid-season reality TV show – and a D-list line-up to boot. 

Down three points but still polling at 48%, incumbent Sadiq Khan, looking to snag the £152k-a-year ‘prize money’ for a second term running, is the clear favourite in a record-breaking field of 20 candidates – significantly up from the dozen who showed out in 2016. But given the calibre of opposition, Khan’s advantage says less about his political nous and more about the parlous state of British political leadership. 

Take his nearest rival, Shaun Bailey, for instance. Stuck on 29%, when it comes to big political battles the former security guard and youth worker turned ethnic Tory poster-boy is a serial loser. Yes, he’s currently plying his trade as an assembly member (AM) at the Greater London Assembly, a post that’s given him ample opportunity since the mid-noughties to take Khan to task on the floor of City Hall. But in the bigger scheme of things, being an AM is no great shakes. I’ve known PTA members with more political influence, which is inexcusable, given how long Bailey has been on the scene.

In the 2010 general election, Bailey lost the newly created Hammersmith seat to Labour by 3,549 votes. In the run-up to the 2015 general election, he failed to be chosen as the Tories’ prospective parliamentary candidate for Kensington, Croydon South and the Uxbridge South and Ruislip seats. By this point, you’d think he’d get the hint. But Bailey is, if anything, a trier. Rolling the dice once again, at the 2017 general election he contested the Lewisham West and Penge… and came second, with 12,249 votes. The Labour candidate won, with 35,411.

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I’ve studied Bailey from afar for some years. At one time, I thought he had potential, despite some dubious views. In 2007, I interviewed the then 35-year-old for a piece on black conservatives for the New Statesman. “It’s not like they’ve [the Conservative Party] said we need to get 13.5 per cent of the party black, unlike the new Labour caucus that says they need a quota,” he had told me. “The Tories adopt the talent; new Labour’s quota is just for the wedding photo.”

Two years later, he cropped up again, this time in my ‘seminal’ political travelogue, True Blue: Strange Tales from a Tory Nation, which I co-authored with journalist Chris Horrie. As Bailey had me made from our previous encounter, it was agreed that Chris should go to a Tory shindig in Hammersmith we’d been invited to, to sketch Bailey and his wing man, Ray Lewis, the disgraced former deputy to the then recently elected mayor for London, none other than Boris Johnson. 

Reviewing True Blue for the Guardian, Esther Addley wrote of the gathering,“Lewis joked about a conversation about the local Conservative candidate, Shaun Bailey, who was also present and, like Lewis, is black. ‘I’ve just been speaking to a lady and she asked: “Which one is Shaun and which one is Ray – it’s hard to tell you apart.”’” Oh, how we laughed.

Such is the Tories’ brand of negritude it has led the Left, predictably, to write off Bailey with the usual smears and jibes. Former Labour MP for Kensington Emma Dent Coad once called him a “token ghetto boy” suggesting he was a patsy for public school boys like David Cameron and Johnson who wanted to detoxify what Theresa May had infamously called “the nasty party.” Hitting back at this “racist” and “hate-filled” slur, Bailey forced Dent Coad into a humiliating apology, which gave him and the Tories some rare air on the moral high ground of race. 

Nonetheless, Bailey can’t escape being the only black guy in the Tory room, even if, to rank and file party members, Johnson’s wider cabinet looks like a float at the Notting Hill Carnival, such is its ethnic diversity.

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As a party-political atheist, I almost feel sorry for him. He’s a true ‘believer’. As he told me, in a proto-Candace Owens moment, “People are shocked at my conservative views. But left-wing politics equals welfare politics.” Such a view would be all well and good if there was some actual backbone to it. But Bailey’s problem is, like much of the mayoral field, he’s a lightweight who relies on patronage and patriarchy rather than the will of the electorate. But for all his ‘working-class lad made good’ schtick, what has he got to show for it? Other prospects with fitter faces would’ve bagged a safe seat by now. Shaun Bailey is no David Lammy. If he didn’t exist, you wouldn’t want to invent him.

Last year, he exemplified his problem and the wider desultory nature of mainstream London politics after he released a universally mocked campaign video entitled “The Great London Bake Off”. A parody of the popular baking show, which starred Bailey, two amdram actors and a badly green screen’d Sadiq Khan, the spot was hilarious – for all the wrong reasons. 

“I can really taste the high crime coming through,” coos a fake Prue Leith in the clip as she rubbishes Khan’s hopeless chocolate ‘London cake’ to a grinning Bailey. As a campaign concept, it’s awful. In fact, it’s so bad one wonders who is advising Bailey. In fairness to him, the same can be said of most of the other candidates. Nigh on three-quarters of the field are a shambles – a complete waste of time, votes and Londoners’ energy. As American broadcaster ABC News put it, “the field of candidates from outside Britain’s mainstream political parties looks increasingly bizarre.” 

Somewhere in between Count Binface, a comical candidate who’s the Screaming Lord Sutch of the social media age, American ex-Wall Street banker and urine-drinker Brian Rose, ‘anti-woke male pin-up’ and now permanently resting actor Laurence Fox, spotty-faced YouTubers Max Fosh and Niko Omilana, UKIP candidate Dr Peter Gammons (apparently it IS his real name) and Jeremy Corbyn’s wacky older brother, anti-vaxxer and climate change denier Piers, are Sian Berry, Luisa Porritt and Mandu Reid of the Greens, the Lib Dems and Women’s Equality Party, respectively – three women with thoughtful, meaningful and serious platform ideas and policies, whose voices are being drowned out by a cacophony of idiotic self-promotional manboys. 

Ms Reid, for instance, is the first black leader of any political party in the UK, and campaigning for politicians across the board to “treat violence against women and girls as a political and policing priority.” But is anyone listening? Not if the MSM has its way. Ditto Porritt’s lament that one of the reasons she started cycling more “was to avoid [sexual] harassment on public transport” or Berry’s policy pitch to introduce a £14-an-hour living wage and pilot a universal basic income for Londoners. They’ve been lost in the fog of a politics that’s not just showbusiness for ugly people but increasingly no business for women who aren’t prepared to be media-friendly ‘characters.’ 

Just as the MSM manufactured Nigel Farage’s success, and that of other far-right candidates such as the English Defence League’s Tommy Robinson and the British National Party’s Nick Griffin before him, it now has a jones for Laurence Fox’s bizarre, pseudo-macho reactionary schtick, despite him polling a derisory one percent in the polls. Meanwhile, Porritt and Berry, who are polling around eight and six points respectively, seem to be the victims of an ‘ironic’ election landscape that favours silly men in silly costumes with the silliest of opinions.

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Cue: muscle tee-wearing Bailey. Having publicly yearned for a return to a time when male teachers “were men” and suggested that ending domestic violence “starts with girls”, as someone with ambitions to “lead” a city in which at least four million citizens are female, his comments and scribblings for London’s Evening Standard and the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies leave much to be desired. 

At £10,000, the buy-in for a seat at the London mayoral poker table ain’t cheap; and if you don’t secure five percent of valid first preference votes cast you lose your dough. This, of course, weeds out most chaff. But even the Lib Dems lost their deposit in 2012. Nevertheless, £10k is small beer if, like Gen Z YouTuber Omilana, you’ve 3.27 million subscribers on your channel and another million followers on Instagram, as the advertising and sponsorship revenue generated by guerrilla-style campaign exposure covers the costs. Similarly, if you’re a right-wing grifter with an ‘anti’-something or other agenda to push for moneymen further up the food chain, a self-aggrandising mayoral election campaign is good bang for your buck.

Thanks to an uninspiring field, a sleazy government and the pandemic’s damaging effects on millions of beleaguered Londoners, regardless of who wins the election, victory will be Pyrrhic. Sadiq Khan may well be back in his comfy chair at the GLA come Friday morning, but with the smart money on a turnout significantly down on 2016’s 45.3 percent, he’ll be praying at least 40-something percent show up.  Anything less and it won’t just be this risible election that goes down in history as a joke.

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A new film explores the stereotype that ‘black people don’t swim,’ but in my experience it’s more than a stereotype, it’s a truth

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David Matthews is a writer whose work has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday and the Observer, and on the BBC and Channel 4. He is the author of several books, including Voices of the Windrush Generation. Follow him on Twitter @mrdavematthews.

Docudrama Blacks Can’t Swim: The Sequel, dives into why it is black people don’t much care for the water. Having lived in the UK and Barbados, I can say that it isn’t racism stopping us, we’re just, generally, not that into it.

Women can’t parallel park. Gays are fastidiously neat and tidy. White men can’t dance. Ordinarily, airing such dubious stereotypes in public, even under the free speech auspices of RT, would get me cancelled faster than Jordan Peterson doing stand-up at a transgender comedy show. But working the cultural cliché shill game sometimes has a purpose, in this case, the notion that “black people can’t swim.”

As un-PC, anti-woke or just plain “wrong” as this may sound, there’s more than a little anecdotal, and personal experience, to give credence to the claim. For one, as a 10-year-old I nearly drowned off the coast of Dorset in the west of England during a rare family summer holiday. I’d badgered my father to get me one of those cheap Day-Glo rubber dinghies, the like of which are probably banned these days, for health and safety reasons, and eventually he caved in. 

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Towards the end of one typically overcast day of the vacation, my father, sister and niece sauntered down to the local beach, ostensibly to humour me for a few minutes of splashing about in the waves with my new acquisition. I set off in the dinghy waving to my family on the beach. Within a matter of minutes, I was in deep, choppy water. And I couldn’t swim. Realising I was literally out of my depth I hopped out of the death trap dinghy only to find an absence of seabed underfoot. I panicked, started thrashing about, and was consumed by the cold, unforgiving water. They say that when you drown you see your life flash in front of you. As a 10-year-old, all I saw was silt and seaweed. 

My father, who had been a fisherman as a young man in Guyana, South America, laboured to come out to save me. I could see flashes of him wading out and my sister screaming as the current carried me further out to sea. And then, an old man with a grey beard who looked like Santa on a weekend break appeared, grabbed me and swam me back to shore. That man saved my life. I don’t know his name. We never saw him again. That was over 40 years ago, and still the fear of water persists despite the fact I live on a Caribbean island in a house with a pool. 

Every time I hear of a drowning, a boat accident or shark attack, my stomach churns – and it’s not just from personal experience. Years before we went to Dorset my parents and I went to Guyana. This was the first time I’d been abroad or flown on a plane. It was Christmas, 1974. I met my grandmother, extended family and got a sense of the culture I’d been born into, albeit remotely, coming as I did from the East End of London. But what was meant to be a homecoming, the adventure of a lifetime, at least for a child, quickly turned into a nightmare. Two of my father’s cousins, a father and a son, drowned in a fishing accident off the coast in the desolate Atlantic. A black cloud lay over the family from then on.

Such is the power of the sea and fear of water, not just for me, but for the majority of black people I know that the “black people can’t swim” stereotype is beyond a stereotype. It’s a truth. A white ex-Metropolitan Police copper I know of the ‘Life on Mars’ generation once told me that he and his equally white colleagues used to use “non-swimmers” as canteen culture code for black suspects. 

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Recently, while sipping mango daiquiris at my members only swanky beach club with an old pal from Brixton and his 22-year-old cousin, Marcus, I asked how often he went to such places after soon sensing his uneasiness with the surroundings.

“I never come to places like this,” Marcus said.

“Really?” This came as no surprise. At three thousand bucks a year in membership fees it’s beyond the realm of most bourgie expats, let alone ordinary locals. Besides, access to WTA grade tennis courts and PGA standard golf courses notwithstanding, the location is no less idyllic than anywhere else on the island.

“So, how often do you go to the beach, then?”

“Oh, about four times…,” Marcus said.

“A week?” I interjected, thinking, well, you’re young, knock yourself out.

“No, a year.” 

That, I did find surprising – as well as a mark of my latent bourgeois sensibilities. Marcus then went on to break down a key reason why in many parts of the Caribbean black people don’t swim, despite having access to the most amazing golden beaches, azure waters and diverse aquatic life in the world. 

“Other than holidays, I don’t have time for the beach,” Marcus said. “It’s more of a tourist thing. They want to have fun, get a tan. I don’t need a tan, so why go to the beach, especially if most hotels and bars catering to tourists and foreigners make you feel unwelcome?” 

What Marcus was getting at is a contentious notion that’s at the heart of director Ed Accura’s indie docudrama film, ‘Blacks Can’t Swim: The Sequel’ – namely we don’t do the water because, like skiing, bungee jumping or wearing tweed, swimming and water sports are achingly Eurocentric and thus something everyday black folk aren’t into. As one of the film’s characters says during a comedic home studio grime session: “Bro, concentrate on the music fam and we’ll be back, fam. For that swimming ting? Just don’t go near water and you’ll be good, fam. Anyway, that’s a white man’s ting, fam.” 

Blacks Can’t Swim: The Sequel © YouTube

Accura, who’s co-founder of the Black Swimming Association (BSA), only learned to swim aged 53 out of a fear that he wouldn’t be able to save his young daughter from drowning if the situation ever arose. According to Swim England, swimming’s governing body, 95% of black adults and 80% of black children in England don’t swim, and only 2% of regular swimmers are black, a disparity that led Accura to coin the phrase Bl-aquaphobia – a uniquely Afrocentric fear of water, which his film sets out to explore, with a varying degree of success. 

While Accura’s use of documentary interviews and dramatic sequences is hammy at times, and at over an hour-and-a-half the film feels overstretched, set mainly in London with a primarily black and overwhelmingly African-British cast, the narrative does offer an intriguing and detailed psychological account of why so many black people can’t or don’t swim in the UK. From near-death experiences with water to losing loved ones to drowning, to claiming a lack of role models or marketing of swimming to black people is to blame, a plethora of reasons, and excuses, are conjured up, which fascinate and frustrate by turns. 

On the role model issue, for instance, having been born, raised and lived most of my life in the UK where 87% of the population is white and, I can say with a straight face, that “some of my best friends are white” I’ve never had a sense that white people swim in their droves because every four years a handful of people who look like fish win gold medals at the Olympics. If there’s one sport that no one ever watches outside of the Olympiad jamboree, it’s swimming. I don’t buy that a Lewis Hamilton or Tiger Woods of swimming needs to emerge to get black people into pools. Why? Because, sat as I am looking out at the Caribbean watching only a handful of black people splashing about, despite it being a country where 90% of the population is black, colour has as much to do with why black people aren’t swimming here as they aren’t swimming in the UK. 

This is where Accura’s deliberately provocative title is of course misleading – and sets up a series of frustrating encounters, which a cynic might accuse of bellyaching, especially as some pretty hokey statements go unchallenged. On a holiday to Florida, for example, British Nigerian Maryam says she went to the beach, “but I didn’t want to swim, because of my hair…” We don’t hear her elaborate, but the implication is, well, black women and their hair, eh? Another contributor complains that the chlorine in swimming pool water wreaks havoc with his moisturising regime, moisturiser being as critical to black health as oxygen is to anyone else. (Pro tip dear white people: that whole “black don’t crack” thing isn’t down to genetics, it’s down to obsessive moisturising.) 

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Subjects in the film also talk about everything from major anxiety, to feeling out of place, to body dysmorphia as reasons why they don’t swim. But if the interviewees and my own “lived experience” is anything to go by, black people over-intellectualise their relationship to the water and swimming, whereas white people, quite literally, dive right in. 

It’s not that black people’s bones are heavy, and even if they were, we don’t sink to the bottom as soon as we get into the water; the issue is one about class and cultural norms. White people swim, regardless of class, for fun because swimming and water-based leisure activities, like leisure and sport, period, have been commodified by white people over hundreds of years. Black people see the water, like much of nature, as a resource to be used for practical reasons first and foremost, and arguably feared and respected because of its power. Some years ago, while working in the Great Lakes region in East Africa I met many people who told tales of children and old people drowning or being stolen away by alligators while simply collecting water. I often hear people on my local beaches talking about currents, undertows and crashing waves with hushed reverence. The last thing on their mind is grabbing a board, hitting the surf and getting “barrelled.” 

Culturally, the majority of the world that isn’t European doesn’t prioritise swimming in the way white people do, particularly where water is seen as a “white space.” Growing up in the East End, my mother actively discouraged me from going to the local “baths” as she saw it as a hotbed of disease, degeneracy and sexual impropriety. This was as much a legacy of her colonial past as it was of her Windrush generation’s presence. For her generation, viewing the English aquatic space as “a white man’s ting” was a way of protecting me from contact with a breed of people who weren’t to be trusted. But in doing so, and not being encouraged to swim regularly, my parents put me in harm’s way when dealing with water. This irony is lost in Accura’s film because the voices of the Windrush generation, and their contemporaries, are absent. Instead, we hear young people talking about why they can’t or won’t swim with very little cultural or historical insight. 

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Accura says that black children are three times more likely to drown than white children. This, I can well believe given my own experiences and the triggering stories I hear of drownings, particularly involving black people. Publicised drownings of black people often have a social mobility subtext to them: it’s London pastor Gabriel Diya and two of his children Comfort and Praise-Emmanuel who died in a pool on the Costa Del Sol on Christmas Eve, 2019; it’s Derrick Andrew Otim, the Nottingham Forest academy player who died last July on a boating trip in South Carolina; it’s Folajimi ‘Jimi’ Olubunmi-Adewole, the college graduate who drowned on his way home from work when he dived into the Thames to save a woman in distress. 

There’s always been a racial or even racist stereotype to the reasons why black people have an aversion to the water. But the same can be said of almost any ethnic group. In fact, I’ve met Indian and Arab fishermen who can’t swim. Maybe there’s a question missing in all of this that can tell us something very different about the changing nature of cosmopolitanism: Why do white people swim? Hmm… I might just make a film about that.

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The Syrian government has been blamed for the 2018 Saraqib chemical attack, but this time around India isn’t buying it

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By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

Damascus again finds itself the subject of international opprobrium after being found guilty of a chemical attack, and ostracised from the OPCW. However, New Delhi’s rejection of the report suggests the West’s influence is waning.

On April 21, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced it would remove Syria’s “rights and privileges” within the association with immediate effect. 

The move was precipitated by 87 OPCW member states voting in favor of a proposal by 46 countries – led by London, Paris, and Washington – to strip Damascus of its voting powers in the assembly, and bar the country’s representatives from holding any offices within the organisation.

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It’s the first time a member state has been sanctioned in such a manner in its 24-year history, and follows just over a week after the OPCW released the findings of its second Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) probe of an alleged chemical attack in Saraqib, Syria in February 2018. The team concluded that a Syrian Air Force helicopter had dropped “at least” one cylinder containing chlorine over the city, dispersing the contents over a wide area. 

The report’s headline claims were dutifully amplified without critique by the mainstream media, but this time not all were convinced. At an informal meeting of United Nations Security Council members, convened by Moscow and Beijing on April 16, four days after the IIT findings were released, India’s deputy permanent representative K. Nagaraj Naidu had some stern words for the OPCW. 

He stated that New Delhi had always stressed the necessity of “impartial, credible and objective” investigations into the use of chemical weapons, which “scrupulously” follow Chemical Weapons Convention procedures and provisions to reach “evidence-based conclusions,” scathingly adding, “the current report falls short of these expectations.” 

The veteran diplomat didn’t articulate India’s specific reservations about the findings, but said it was necessary to “draw lessons” from events such as Colin Powell’s infamous February 2003 UNSC speech, when he claimed Washington possessed “irrefutable and undeniable” evidence Iraq had weapons of mass destruction capable of targeting the West. 

In any event, one doesn’t require a degree in chemistry to see the IIT report is far from “impartial, credible and objective” on its own terms. 

First and foremost, the OPCW claims IIT findings were derived from a “comprehensive review” of a mountain of evidence, including eyewitness and victim interviews, analysis of samples collected at the site, and even examination of satellite imagery. But it simultaneously concedes the probe “relied” on a May 2018 OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) investigation of the incident, which reached the same conclusions as the IIT. 

Relying on the FFM report is inherently problematic, given mission investigators didn’t actually visit the site of the attack, and all the samples reviewed were provided by the highly controversial White Helmets. This means there was no chain of custody for this vital physical evidence, in breach of long-standing OPCW protocol, which states such a paper trail is “100% critical.”

“The OPCW would never get involved in testing samples that our own inspectors don’t gather in the field, because we need to maintain chain of custody of samples from the field to the lab to ensure their integrity,” an OPCW spokesperson said in April 2013.

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Interestingly, a table in the FFM report comparing samples taken from two cylinders said to have delivered the chlorine payload, indicated chlorine-related chemicals were found by investigators but also showed many chemicals detected were related to the nerve agent sarin, which jihadist forces in Syria are known to have used. 

The FFM report and its IIT successor nonetheless both conclude there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the chemical used in the attack was chlorine, the latter claiming “sarin-related compounds” represented a negligible part of the “chemical signature” identified in the samples. However, they also note that specialists the team consulted “agreed that it would be difficult to fill a cylinder to be used as a weapon with both sarin and chlorine.”  

The IIT is said to have explored “the possibility of cross-contamination during the sampling process, or at a later stage in the handling of the samples themselves,” their findings “leaving the possibility that contamination occurred before sampling or after the samples were taken, but before they were secured by the OPCW in sealed packaging.” 

“The latter scenario would still not fully explain why only by-products and one degradation product of sarin, rather than sarin itself, were identified,”  the particularly incongruous passage notes. “In any event, since the FFM did not make findings related to the use of sarin in Saraqib…the IIT refrained from pursuing this aspect of the incident further. Some uncertainties in respect of the possible use of sarin in the same area remain.”

No doubt due to recent allegations of rebel forces having staged “false flag” chemical attacks in Syria in order to precipitate Western intervention, the IIT report specifically explored this scenario. Investigators obtained and analyzed “various household chlorine-based products commonly used in the Syrian Arab Republic and readily available on the market,”  which identified six specific chemicals, “the presence of which in samples from the Saraqib incident could be indicative of intentional – or even accidental – dispersal of these chlorine-based products in the area in question.”

No trace of the six chemicals could be found in the samples, which the IIT contends entirely refutes suggestions of staging. However, which six chemicals were found by the team isn’t stated, nor is how and why their absence rules out a “false flag” operation explained.

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The White Helmets were even more fundamental to the FFM investigation than merely providing the samples. They also put investigators in touch with witnesses who reinforced the chlorine attack narrative, several of whom conspicuously stated that the smell around the affected area was a “pungent odour” similar to “household cleaning products, though stronger.”

The White Helmets were likewise central to the OPCW’s investigation of several other alleged chemical strikes in Syria, including an April 2018 incident in Douma. Leaked internal OPCW documents reveal that two FFM teams were sent to investigate the incident, with one heading to the site itself, and the other to Turkey. 

Witness interviews conducted in the separate countries diverged so sharply that a 116-page draft interim report prepared in June 2018 specifically referred to “two broad and distinct narratives” – one in which a chemical attack happened, one in which no such event occurred. 

Yet the report released to the public was trimmed to just 34 pages, with all ballistic, forensic and witness evidence gathered by the Douma FFM, which completely dispelled the notion of a chemical attack, and pointed directly or indirectly to a staged incident, removed. Instead, based on the White Helmets-provided evidence alone, the OPCW claimed there was “sufficient evidence” to conclude chlorine had been unleashed on the rebel-occupied city from cylinders dropped from a government helicopter. An eerie echo of its Saraqib probe indeed. 

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This selective editing was quite so misleading, it prompted an OPCW investigator who’d visited Douma to write privately to the organisation’s director general, expressing their “gravest concern” at the degree to which the findings “misrepresents the facts.” It wasn’t until November 2019, 18 months after the report was released, that their chilling words were leaked online.

It’s anyone’s guess whether similarly grave concerns have been expressed internally about the evidently equally suspect Saraqib FFM probe, although in this case no investigator actually went to the city to conduct an “impartial, credible and objective” on-the-ground inspection. The very countries that proposed Syria’s OPCW censure are no doubt relieved – and the OPCW itself is extremely unlikely to make such an egregious mistake ever again.

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Britain proudly announces a plan to ‘protect journalists’ – but if it really cared it would free Julian Assange

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The UK Government’s new “action plan” to protect journalists will do little to burnish the credentials of a would-be champion of media freedom that continues to imprison the world’s most famous dissident journalist.

Continuing to promote itself as the soi-disant global defender of journalistic freedom, the UK Government has just grandly unveiled a National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists to protect newsmen and women from harassment and threats. UK journalists have apparently “suffered abuse and attacks while going about their work,” and the government is selflessly riding to their rescue. The plan involves “new training for police officers as well as aspiring and existing journalists, and commitments from social media platforms and prosecution services to take tough action against abusers.”

Facebook and Twitter, we are told, are on board, promising “to respond promptly to complaints of threats to journalists’ safety.” The government makes no mention of the threat Facebook and Twitter pose to journalism. During the past few years, Twitter and Facebook have been closing down, or threatening to close down, the accounts of journalists, and with cheerful abandon. Moreover, during the 2020 US presidential election, the two social media giants interfered with the work of journalists by preventing the sharing of New York Post’sunflattering articles about Hunter Biden, son of then-candidate Joe Biden. Twitter went further and locked the newspaper’s account for the two critical weeks before the election.

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Prime Minister (and former journalist) Boris Johnson issued a statement nobly declaring: “Freedom of speech and a free press are at the very core of our democracy, and journalists must be able to go about their work without being threatened. The cowardly attacks and abuse directed at reporters for simply doing their job cannot continue. This action plan is just the start of our work to protect those keeping the public informed, and defend those holding the government to account.”

For all the self-congratulatory verbiage emanating from the government, it’s hard to discern very much in this plan other than a promise to collect data about the supposed ongoing harassment of journalists.

Among the journalists the government of Boris Johnson will not be rushing to collect data about is of course Julian Assange. Assange has been languishing for nearly two years in HMP Belmarsh, a maximum-security prison dubbed Britain’s Guantanamo Bay. Its detainees include serial killers, child rapists and child killers, the 2013 murderers of a British Army soldier in Woolwich, the Manchester Arena bomber and the London nail bomber

Julian Assange has been convicted of nothing other than the minor, procedural crime of skipping bail. Assange did not of course skip bail. In November 2010, Swedish prosecutors obtained a European Arrest Warrant, demanding that Assange be detained in the UK so that he could be questioned in relation to the sexual offense allegations made by two women with whom he had had brief sexual relations and who wanted him to be tested for HIV. Assange had to be questioned in person, and only in Sweden. 

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Assange fought the extradition request, suspecting that it was a ruse to get him to Sweden, from where he would be swiftly extradited to the United States, which, in all likelihood had prepared a secret indictment against him. The British courts consistently ruled against Assange and in favor of the Swedish extradition request. On June 15, 2012, following the British Supreme Court’s dismissal of his challenge to the Swedish extradition request, Assange walked into the Ecuadorian embassy in London and asked for political asylum. 

We learned subsequently from e-mail exchanges between the Swedish prosecutors and the UK Crown Prosecution Service, whose head at the time was current Labor Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, the British were encouraging the Swedes to refuse to come to London to interview Assange. 

Though Sweden announced in May 2017 that it was discontinuing the investigation of Assange, the British authorities insisted that Assange would still face arrest the moment he stepped out of the embassy on the charge of…bail skipping. 

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On April 11, 2019, the government of Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum status, and invited the British authorities to enter the embassy and seize him. Assange was rushed before a judge and immediately sentenced to prison for 50 weeks. Within minutes of his arrest, the United States confirmed what Assange had said all along. It announced that it would seek his extradition on the basis of a secret indictment that had been prepared a year earlier. The charge was that Assange had conspired with Chelsea Manning to hack into a secure computer system. A month later, the United States announced 17 additional charges against Assange under its Espionage Act.

Within a month, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed the extradition warrant that would allow the extradition of Assange to the United States. Javid did this even though the 2004 extradition treaty between the US and the UK explicitly states that “Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.” Assange’s “offense” –publication of government documents detailing war crimes and official abuses of power– is about as “political” as any offense can get. 

In early January 2021, Judge Vanessa Baraitser denied the US extradition request for Assange on the grounds that the inhuman conditions in a US Supermax prison could drive Assange to suicide. Then, with extraordinary inconsistency, she ordered Assange to remain in Belmarsh, the UK’s Supermax, while the US appealed her decision–a legal process that could last for years. 

Yet even as Assange was languishing in prison, amidst a global pandemic and among some of the worst criminals in the land, the UK Government was launching a campaign to promote itself as the global champion of journalistic freedom and the scourge of unenlightened regimes resisting transparency.

In July 2019, one month after the Home Secretary had signed off on the US’s extradition request, the UK Government co-hosted, with Canada, a Global Conference on Media Freedom, “part of an international campaign to shine a global spotlight on media freedom and increase the cost to those that are attempting to restrict it.” In the spirit of shining a “spotlight on media freedom,” the UK Foreign Office refused to permit RT and Sputnik to attend the conference. “We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their active role in spreading disinformation,” the Foreign Office explained.

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Without a trace of irony, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt declared to the conference attendees: “We are on the side of those who seek to report the truth and bring the facts to light. We stand against those who suppress or censor or exact revenge.” 

Scarcely a day goes by without the UK Government’s sounding off on the persecution of journalists somewhere–other than in the UK of course. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has weighed in on the persecution of journalists in Belarus. He was disturbed by, yes, the denial of accreditation. “The Belarusian authorities,” he tweeted out in August 2020, “are continuing to target @BBCNews, local and international media by cancelling their accreditation to report in Belarus.” The UK championed the cause of Svetlana Prokopyeva, who was convicted on charges of “justifying terrorism,” even though she was not sent to prison. During the recent protests over the trial and imprisonment of Alexey Navalny, Raab sternly warned Russia not to target journalists.

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The UK Government’s self-congratulatory commitment to media freedom notwithstanding, its own record is rather unimpressive. Journalist advocacy organization Reporters Without Borders publishes an annual survey of the state of journalistic freedom in the world. According to the most recent World Press Freedom Index, the UK has slipped to number 35 in the world. Among the issues Reporters Without Borders raised were the continued imprisonment of Assange, as well as the criminal probe of the July 2019 publication of embarrassing diplomatic cables. The documents, like those of WikiLeaks, were clearly genuine since their appearance in print led to the swift resignation of the UK ambassador to Washington. 

The government’s ‘action plan’ is not only self-serving, but also disingenuous. Why do journalists get special protections denied to others? Anyone in the public eye–politicians, lawyers, judges, athletes, actors, TV celebrities–is likely to experience abuse, personal insults and threats. This rush to single out journalists for special protection smacks of governmental unctuousness, a heavy-handed attempt to flatter journalists by suggesting that they are doing something frightfully dangerous, something likely to provoke powerful interests. Very few journalists do any such thing. Indeed, that the government is so eager to tout the virtues of journalists would surely indicate that it has little to fear from them. The kind of journalist who does indeed take risks, who does dedicate his life to bringing transparency to government–a Julian Assange, in other words–is not the sort of journalist the UK Government will do anything to protect. On the contrary, it will aid and abet in his persecution.  

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All that race-baiting for nothing? Poll shows most black Britons don’t share BLM’s passion for toppling statues & attacking cops

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After fuelling protests and racial tension, the UK’s Black Lives Matter movement will be shocked to find most black Britons happy to leave statues of historical figures on their plinths and feel no urge to overthrow capitalism.

As the trembling woke jellies of the liberal establishment continue to wring their hands over those problematic statues in our parks and town centres, a new report has polled what Britain’s black community think on this issue and the results will shock some. 

Tearing down tributes to historical figures, brawling with the police and dismantling capitalism? It turns out these are not the popular ideas some would have us believe. 

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Which should be a surprise. Because self-appointed social media commentators, columnists in the liberal press and the noisy throng pushing an unfiltered Black Lives Matter agenda have been insisting for a year now that Britain is in thrall to a racist, colonialist, imperialist past and anything that even whiffs of this must be torn down and destroyed or shamefully hidden in the basements of our museums never to see the light of day again.

But a report by the Henry Jackson Society, entitled BLM: A Voice for all Black Britons? found a clear majority of Britain’s black community find the whole idea of statue toppling and other BLM goals at odds with how they actually feel. 

The think tank found that only one in six black Britons believe tearing down a statue is a legitimate form of protest, according to polling conducted for its report. As for the BLM’s other stated goals of dismantling “imperialism, capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and the state structures that disproportionately harm black people in Britain,” well, they have a similar level of support among the black community (25 percent) as they do among the wider population (23 percent).

The question, therefore, has to be asked: With more than three quarters of the country holding an opposite view to what underpins their student-level politics and obsessive victimhood, who or what does BLM represent?

Like so many hard-left organisations, BLM wants to be everything to everyone and in doing so has lost sight of the people and the cause that it first claimed to champion. Just check out their website if you want proof.  

Riding in the slipstream of the powerful US pioneers of BLM, who had serious and legitimate causes for concern over racism brought to a boil with the death of George Floyd, the UK offshoot managed to stir up public sentiment towards the police but nowhere near the extent that it managed to raise the mob against statues. 

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The sight of white men rolling a bronze likeness of a long-dead Edward Colston along the street to be dumped in Bristol harbour was as ridiculous as it was puzzling. What did this have to do with BLM? 

The Henry Jackson poll seems to show that the majority of Britain’s black community were not okay with trashing history and promoting cancel culture. Quite the reverse, in fact. And when it came to using violence against the police, even less support was evident, at just five percent.

While it remains difficult to pin down who exactly is in charge of BLM in the UK or what they actually do, there were rumblings of activity last week as a slew of disparate groups were announced as beneficiaries as the organisation distributed half the £1.2 million in donations it received from its crowdfunding site last year

Among recipients there was cash for police monitoring services, a domestic violence organisation, an outfit that deals with LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers, and a charity that helps those affected by cancer, long-term health conditions and Covid-19. 

All worthy causes, no doubt, but I find it hard to believe that these are the intended beneficiaries that people were donating their hard-earned cash towards last summer. Most donors at that time would have imagined their money going to the families of young black men who had died at the hands of white policemen. In Britain. 

The problem with that belief is that while these cases do exist, they are not that common. Our law enforcement system is a long way from perfect but it is streets ahead of what they have in the USA, largely because the police here are mainly unarmed which drastically reduces the tension during arrest or even stop and search. Add a gun to the mix and a life can be taken in an instant. 

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In the absence of victims from police brutality, BLM has spread its charity far and wide even beyond the shores of Great Britain, to a Spanish labour union and a South African shack dwellers’ movement. All things to everyone. 

This should wake up the woke institutions like the National Trust and the British Museum, who swallowed the BLM agenda hook, line and sinker, and couldn’t shutter historical landmarks or cart off colonial artefacts to Big Yellow Storage quick enough lest the culture police start banging on the door.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has told them to lift their game and ensure they continue to give a rounded view of Britain’s history instead of, as one minister put it, bowing to the wishes of “town hall militants and woke worthies.” 

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Now, thanks to this timely intervention from the DCMS and the Henry Jackson Society report, there may be a reset on the toxic and divisive public conversation that has preoccupied many over the last year and we can leave those statues of Winston Churchill, Francis Drake and Horatio Nelson in situ. 

After all, as most people agree, they are fine just where they are.

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China is right to expose Britain’s rank hypocrisy, London can’t adopt the moral high ground AND demand special trade deals

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The two-faced UK government continues to blame Beijing for coronavirus & accuse it of human rights abuses & spying, so why does it still expect the Chinese to play ball over bilateral trade?

After more than a year of insinuations and allegations that have ultimately bloomed into open diplomatic warfare, the Chinese have launched a concerted fightback against the UK – and you have to consider they might have a point.

Not only have the UK and the USA spent the last year pointing fingers at Beijing for failing to control the outbreak of coronavirus after it first appeared in Wuhan, there has been the US trade war launched by “the former guy” Trump, the British U-turn on the Huawei telecoms – already banned in the US – deal that means stripping out 5G infrastructure to be replaced with non-Chinese technology, and its offer of British citizenship to Hong Kong citizens wishing to flee the national security crackdown from Beijing following the collapse of the ‘one country, two systems’ ideal.

Then there’s the continuing allegations – albeit denied by China – of genocide against its Uighur muslim population, and earlier this month the UK’s communications watchdog, Ofcom, pulled the plug on the China Global Television Network (CGTN), accusing it of being under the control of the Chinese Communist Party, a political oversight forbidden in the exalted media landscape of Great Britain.

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Beijing responded to the CGTN ban by doing the same to the BBC in China.

It’s fair to say that the Anglo-Sino relationship is in a pretty poor state.

You could pick any of the aforementioned issues out for debate and there are worthy arguments on both sides, but while the UK and the USA attempt to occupy the moral high ground, China has decided it’s time for a few revelatory home truths.

The Chinese press agency Xinhua led the charge this week, backed by the People’s Daily-owned Global Times, in a strongly worded editorial declaring the UK’s policy on China as “extremely Janus-faced” and “deranged.”

The language might be slightly awkward, but the sentiment is clear.

“While one hand was giving the order to promote bilateral cooperation with China, notably in trade and economy, the other one issued instructions to ban Huawei in Britain’s 5G rollout, blocked China’s law-abiding television network, adopted tailored policy for Hong Kong residents, and barred the import of goods from Xinjiang citing the so-called use of ‘forced labor,’” said author Guo Yage.

Doubling down, she called London “self-deceiving” and “Janus-faced,” accusing British politicians of “pretending their anti-China talking will not be heard by China.”

Embarrassingly, she’s right.

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With PM Boris Johnson declaring himself “fervently Sinophile,” while Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tries to win support from the UN to steam into China over alleged human rights abuses, then the UK has certainly let itself wide open to Guo Yage’s accusation “that London intends to eat the cake and have it.”

“Carrying out such a two-faced policy is like splashing dirty water onto someone repeatedly and then saying, ‘Never mind and let’s be friends,’” she added.

The UK is accused of wanting to cash in on its pragmatic cooperation with China while simultaneously taking a tough, pro-Western “Red China” stance to keep up appearances. Not least with Washington.

Sure, global politics is all about nuance. What is said at the press podium is often entirely at odds with the talk behind closed doors, but the accepted behaviour is to accept the differences, even when they appear diametrically opposed, so that diplomatic channels can remain open and the geopolitical wheels can continue to turn.

Unfortunately for the UK, its rank hypocrisy has proved a bridge too far for China and Beijing has decided it’s time to reveal that, while stern words might have been exchanged across the table, we were playing footsie with them all along.

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Although Britain might insist it is right to call out Beijing on issues of concern, elsewhere not too far away, the European Union has shelved such concerns, or at least decided not to air them in public, in order to complete a massive seven-years-in-the-making free trade deal that can only improve on the already healthy bilateral exchange worth $650 billion in 2019.

On the sidelines, smaller nations of the EU were delighted to take part in the recent 17-plus-1 talks with China as part of its Belt and Road initiative which piles investment into large-scale infrastructure projects. Agreed, some nations opted out over human rights concerns, but most did not.

Meanwhile, Britain continues to create friction with China, no longer encouraged by President Trump, apparently without a clear endgame in sight and seemingly intent on wielding a lot of stick without too much carrot.

It’s time to change that strategy because, for all the tough talk, we’ve been made to look foolish and petty while other nations are building workable relationships with China that should help to deliver long-term economic prosperity.

Lord knows we could use a bit more of that and a bit less of the diplomatic showboating.

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As more and more black people are jailed in Britain, the so-called ‘fairness’ of the UK legal system is exposed for all to see

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David Matthews is a writer whose work has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday and the Observer, and on the BBC and Channel 4. He is the author of several books, including Voices of the Windrush Generation. Follow him on Twitter @mrdavematthews.

New figures have revealed that a disproportionate number of BAME people are being detained in UK prisons. ‘Racist’ policing is often blamed, but a court system weighted heavily against ethnic minorities has become a major problem.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to jail – as a visitor, that is. Whether interviewing terrorists languishing at ‘her majesty’s pleasure,’ interrogating war criminals in Sierra Leone or hopping on a gurney inside Mississippi State Penitentiary’s lethal injection chamber, I’ve seen enough of the global penal system to know that, despite what the average Sun reader thinks, prison is no ‘holiday camp.’

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Even in sleepy Britain, where cynics view ‘doing bird’ as akin to a city break or a spell at boarding school, people forget that the primary purpose of prison is to protect the public from dishonest and dangerous miscreants while denying said culprits of a basic human need: freedom.

Basic punishment aside, having spoken to countless staff inside British jails – from seasoned governors to fresh-faced newbie prison officers – all seem in favour of rehabilitative programmes that can help keep the majority of their 84,000 ‘clients’ from becoming recidivists. As over 60 percent of prisoners serving a sentence of less than 12 months reoffend within a year of release, it’s obvious that Britain’s jails aren’t exactly overpopulated with master criminals. But expecting a short-staffed and under-resourced prison service to turn every petty lag into a Jonathan Aitken and rehabilitate them into the promised land isn’t just naive – it’s a case of slamming the cell door after the prisoner has bolted.

Prison culture undoubtedly has a radicalising influence on the most impressionable inmates – be that through religious fundamentalism, gang initiation or classic ‘tricks of the trade’ schooling in how to commit a particular form of crime (and invariably get caught). But it’s greed, stupidity, impulsiveness and more often than not poverty that puts a man or woman behind bars in the first place.

To say that poverty breeds crime is to elicit a ‘no shit Sherlock’ response from anyone with a modicum of respect for the relationship between social deprivation and criminality. According to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, figures show that “three-quarters of the capital’s boroughs with the highest levels of violent offending are also in the top 10 most deprived, while the same boroughs also have higher proportions of children under 20 living in poverty than the London average.”

With the number of British children in poverty set to reach a staggering 5.2 million by 2022, the Tory government’s failure to get to grips with an epidemic of escalating unemployment, school exclusions, family breakdowns, chronic drug and alcohol abuse, myriad social services and a mental health timebomb – all of which make the UK the basket case of Europe – will inevitably lead to an increase in crime. Sure, thanks to the pandemic’s restrictions on movement there has been a dip in crime of late (apart from domestic violence, which is on the rise), but this is merely the calm before the criminal justice storm.

And for poor black kids, that storm will invariably become a tsunami. Figures just published by the UK government reveal that 51 percent of all young people in custody are from a so-called ‘BAME’ background, despite ethnic minorities making up just 14 percent of Britain’s population. For the overall prison population, BAMEs represent 25 percent of inmates.

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This latest annual report on youth justice statistics doesn’t just highlight yet another example of the British state’s contempt for black people and ethnic minorities. It also reveals the pernicious way in which elites within the criminal justice system use racial profiling among the poor to jail young black people in ever increasing numbers, while happily letting their minions on the frontline of policing and the prison service take the heat from Guardianistas and radicals for being ‘racist pigs’ for seemingly overzealous stop-and-search policies or being ‘fascist prison guards,’ when they are, in fact, just doing their jobs.

This isn’t to say that the stench of bad apples within Britain’s yeomanry isn’t to be rooted out on the mean streets, prison wings and psychiatric wards, where they march to the beat of the ‘top brass’ drum. Feeling the boot heel from on high, a significant minority of grunts with badges or uniforms have always let a little bit of power go to their heads, using black people as a trope for their psychosexual inadequacies.

But just as the Windrush scandal laid bare the myth of the ‘motherland’ via the Home Office’s ill-treatment of former colonial – sorry, ‘British’ – subjects from the Caribbean, and the Tories’ laissez faire attitude towards disproportionate Covid infection rates among BAME communities demonstrates its indifference to the health and wellbeing of millions of BAME Britons, it’s the suits in the Crown Prosecution Service, the judiciary, the legal profession at large, and the probation, parole, social and psychiatric services who really hold a young black suspect’s fate in their hands.

As the political theorist Hannah Arendt might have said today, the wanton jailing of black youths is yet another example of the British establishment’s industrialised and systemic, “fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.”

Since the Tories came to power in 2010, the proportion of young people in custody from a BAME background has nearly doubled (up from 28 percent) and is up from 49 percent in 2019. Black and ethnic youths remain the pariah group du jour.

The problem has got to a point that Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy has called the industrial scale incarceration of BAME youth “a national scandal.” In 2017, under David Cameron’s watch, the MP for Tottenham published the Lammy Review – “an independent review into the treatment of, and outcomes for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system.” Nearly four years on from this damning report, barely any of Lammy’s 35 recommendations have been implemented by the government.

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Drilling down into the Lammy Review, one finds the true, albeit lesser reported view of the criminal justice system. As the MP points out, “Having looked at the evidence over the past 18 months, my judgment is that we have a significant problem in the criminal justice system itself, and that the treatment of BAME young people shows this problem is getting worse.”

For ‘criminal justice system,’ read ‘the legal system.’

The number of black children cautioned or sentenced has doubled since the year ending March 2010, from six percent to 12 percent. Over a third (36 percent) of all remands involved BAME children. This increases to 49 percent for remands to youth detention accommodation, black children accounting for 29 percent of remands. The government’s figures also reveal that the proportion of all cases in which black children were sentenced for indictable offences has risen from 14 percent to 22 percent in the past five years. 

And the stats go on.

Having read the Lammy Review in its entirety, and crunched the government’s latest figures for youth crime, it’s clear that establishment bias – subconscious or otherwise – permeates the criminal justice system, particularly around the fetishisation of young black males.

And we’ve heard it all before, from the Metropolitan Police’s invention of the ‘Gangs Matrix’ in 2012 – a database of suspected gang members operating in London – to Operation Trident and its focus on ‘black-on-black’ crime, to the MSM’s popularisation of the term ‘county lines,’ the latest in a long line of racialised tabloid ‘folk devil’ descriptors that includes ‘Yardies,’ ‘muggers’ ‘steamers’ (remember them?), ‘gangbangers,’ ‘thugs,’ and ‘hood rats.’

This demonisation of black people, and young males in particular, fuels a stereotype that feeds the overwhelming majority of magistrates, judges, prosecutors and defence barrister’s prejudices – subconscious of otherwise – and thus informs courtroom strategy. Yet somehow, we’re meant to believe that the legal profession is beyond subjectivity.

Yeah, right.

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While researching an Old Bailey murder trial a while back for a new book on black masculinity, a left-leaning, white barrister I know who was representing a young black client told me, off the record: “Do I hate the way the system is loaded against black people? Yes, I do. Do I despair at the number of young black men in court? Of course I do. But do I and others profit from it, financially? Undoubtedly. It’s hard to change a system that pays you so well for maintaining the status quo.”

Following the death of George Floyd and the tumult of demonstrations that followed, elites all over the diaspora have been falling over themselves to showboat their ‘progressive’ skills, reminding us of how ‘enlightened’ they’ve become on their quest to ‘heal the wounds’ of ‘racial division.’

But while the broadcast media, book publishing, the church politicians, academics and even notionally gazillionaire footballers can’t wait to take the knee these days for a photo op, the criminal justice system is yet to get ‘woke.’ Until it does, the British establishment remains guilty of clearly believing that black lives don’t matter.

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Britain needs a wealth tax to pay for Covid lockdowns and to reduce inequality. But will our craven politicians even consider it?

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A study showing that the ‘one percent’ are even richer than we thought puts paid to the lie that we’re ‘all in this together’ – real levies on assets and property are what is needed to make the UK a functioning country again.

It seems the rich are even richer than we thought. Just in time for them, the lucky dears. For the rest of us, as we look into 2021, we’re staring unemployment, debt, and rent arrears and poverty in the face. 

Without state intervention, hundreds of thousands of Britons will be thrown onto the scrapheap, with no work, no homes, and reliant on food banks for sustenance. This begs the question: is anyone in politics brave enough to suggest the unthinkable – a wealth tax and a mansion tax? Real redistribution of undeserved wealth and a genuine solution for undeserved poverty?

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In January 2015, I joined 2,000 housing campaigners to march over Tower Bridge to London’s City Hall. Boris Johnson was mayor at the time, and our gripes were: the lack of affordable homes in London, local councils social cleansing the poorest from their boroughs while selling off public assets, and the richest people in the world using the London property market as safety deposit boxes to park their money.

We jubilantly sang: “The rich – the rich – we have got to get rid of the rich”

Obviously that didn’t happen – politicians love rich people and want to be wealthy like them (look at Tony Blair, for example) – but a stern look at the one percent and the damage they are causing society is well overdue. The Resolution Foundation think tank published a report last week showing that the wealthiest one percent in the UK were at least five percent wealthier than we thought. They looked at ONS data and the Sunday Times Rich list and found that it is far more difficult than ever to calculate how wealthy the rich really are, particularly when property values are being overestimated and underestimated simultaneously, and also because a large proportion of private wealth in the UK is hidden in other assets, like shares. 

Wealth inequality in the UK is rising, and that is the symptom of a society that is sick. Large wealth gaps between rich and poor make the whole country poorer. It sucks hope out of the poorest communities, strangles opportunities for working class people, terrifies the middle class, and leaves the rich in a state of perpetual denial about just how wrong being too rich really is.

In these times of Covid, where the government, the opposition, and the wider political industry apparently want us to “pull together” and see ourselves as a larger community, the truth is we have never been so divided – and no one is being fooled. The last time a chancellor, George Osborne, went for the “We are all in this together” rhetoric was after the bankers played roulette with the world economy and we, not they, lost. The City and Wall Street bet specifically on whether the poorest would be able to pay their mortgages, and hedged on the idea that there would be financial opportunities in foreclosure and working-class people’s homelessness. What fun they must have had, and what pockets they stuffed, as they crashed the global economy.

What “all in this together” meant in 2010 was a decimation of public services needed by the working class, such as libraries, schemes to help youths, meals on wheels for old folk, and mass job losses in low-paid but previously reliable local government employment. Hundreds of thousands of people lost jobs as street cleaners, teaching assistants, and youth workers as the government “rebalanced the economy” by cutting billions off public expenditure, with the burden disproportionally falling on those least able to take that financial hit. 

It is no surprise therefore that 12 years after the banking crash, ten years of austerity measures, and now a year of lockdowns, illness, pressure on the NHS, and looming mass unemployment, the wealthiest remain untouched. Their wealth has actually increased during Covid – by billions. 

So we need a government that grows some cojones and accepts that this rising and obvious wealth inequality gap is out of control and extremely damaging politically, socially, economically, physically, and spiritually. All of us need to have a grown-up conversation about real redistribution that is long-term and lasting, and not just temporary for Covid. 

I have no faith that Johnson, now upgraded from mayor of London to prime minister, will be prepared to do this. In April 2020, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, raised the Universal Credit payment by £20 a week, tacitly accepting that its current levels were impossible to live on. However, he is now warning us that the £20 a week uplift was temporary and will be removed in March 2021. This will throw millions of people into destitution. This chancellor is unlikely to say or do anything as radical as one his celebrated predecessors and “squeeze property speculators until the pips squeak.”

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If there is no political will or bravery to have that conversation of “how much is too much?” and to put in place measures like real asset taxes on property and high pay that have teeth, then the chasm between rich and poor will only continue to grow. We need real consequences for the billionaires, property developers, and money launderers that use the UK economy and the British people as disposable systems and assets to play with and exploit, and who then sail off on their superyachts, having milked the cow dry. 

Meanwhile, ordinary people are left with no jobs and depleted pensions. There needs to be a grassroots movement that demands that our governments, both local and national, act on those that simply do not know they have too much because they have been allowed to sail away from the rest of us. Today I don’t want to get rid of the rich – I just want to tax them until their eyes bleed. 

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Won’t the British state’s cruel and conniving persecution of Julian Assange ever end? Just give it up and set him free

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The WikiLeaks founder wouldn’t skip the country, but a judge has turned down his plea for bail and ruled that he must remain in prison until the appeal process is completed

It would be tragic, if it wasn’t so par for the course. The heartless, never-ending treatment of Julian Assange by the British judicial system is a stain that will never be erased.

Despite earlier in the week informing the United States that the WikiLeaks founder would not be extradited to face trial there, Judge Vanessa Baraitser has now denied him bail while the Americans have the right to appeal against that decision – a process that will take months and possibly longer.

So after seven years in London’s Ecuadorian embassy and since April 2019 being held inside Belmarsh maximum security prison, alongside rapists and killers, Assange’s liberty is still being denied.

This time it’s over his likelihood to abscond whilst on bail, as Barasiter said: “As a matter of fairness, the US must be allowed to challenge my decision and if Mr Assange absconds during this process they will lose the opportunity to do so.”

On varying levels, the ruling and its rationale are absurd.

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Assange has only faced the fury of the legal system because he uncovered grave injustices that embarrassed the American government.

His treatment in no way corresponds to his so-called crimes. He is no danger to the public, there is no violence involved in the charges.

While the extradition was blocked on Monday only because Baraitser felt Assange could commit suicide if exposed to the uncompromising US penal system, it was nevertheless a clear win for his legal team. Uncle Sam was told to “get lost,” even if for the wrong reason.

In the 48 hours since, we can only speculate on what sort of horse trading has been going on between Washington and London. Any number of shadowy characters will have been circling this case, like sharks sensing wounded prey. Some intervention has to have occurred, as the decision is baffling.

Assange will not skip bail. There’s the simple reason that he has two young sons, who he hasn’t been able to see since they were born. All of those close to him speak of how he wants to be part of their lives as a father.

His QC Edward Fitzgerald informed the court that the kids, Assange and partner Stella Moris would live under house arrest in London.

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If the police were able to spend whatever massive sum it was to have officers patrolling the Ecuadorian embassy in case he bolted, couldn’t they do the same at this address?

Assange was also happy to wear a tracking device, allowing the authorities real-time access to his location and thus any unacceptable movements would be detected instantly.

On top of that, he is one of the most recognisable people on the planet. His ordeal was turned into a major movie, ‘The Fifth Estate’, with Hollywood superstar Benedict Cumberbatch playing Assange. 

Britain is also an island so after surrendering his passport, which he is willing to do, then the only means of leaving would be on a dinghy in the dead of night. As we’ve all witnessed with migrants crossing the Channel, that either results in being saved by the Royal Navy or drowning. Does anyone really see Assange, Moris and his two children bobbing about in the ocean in an inflatable raft?

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This is all without even addressing the elephant in the room.The Americans are desperate to throw him into Colorado’s Supermax ADX Florence prison for 175 years. This is no trivial case in the eyes of the so-called Land of the Free, but Britain is the safest place in the world for Assange ironically.

His extradition from here has been refused. If he goes anywhere else, he will be out of the frying pan and into the fire as the US will look to seize him again. He would then be at the mercy of another judge, who may not be so concerned about suicide risks.

Assange wouldn’t risk that. If he escaped to another country, he would be playing Russian roulette with a fully-loaded revolver. There is the offer of political asylum from Mexico that some are citing as a destination he could flee to and beat bail conditions. But how would he get there and would he want to risk living on America’s doorstep?

Edward Snowden’s persecution that sees him trapped in Russia, shows how far the US will go.

Another warning against going there is the fate of notorious drug runner Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, who currently resides in ADX Florence. He was extradited from Mexico, which is his home country, after they initially refused to send him. Those odds wouldn’t inspire even the most optimistic gambler.

The decision not to grant bail and keep Assange languishing in jail is a calculated act of state violence. Britain’s justice system should hang its head in shame. When it was time to do the right thing, and make a modicum of amends for all it’s done against one man, it did the opposite.

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Man arrested for urinating on memorial during London protest

June 14, 2020 / 10:59 AM / Updated 2 hours agoMan arrested for urinating on memorial during London protest

A bouquet of flowers is laid down at the memorial stone for PC Keith Palmer in London, Britain June 14, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) – A 28-year old man has been arrested on suspicion of urinating on the memorial of a murdered policeman during far-right protests in central London on Saturday, the Metropolitan Police said.

The man is in custody in Essex, east of London, after presenting himself at a police station, the police said.

Far-right protesters clashed in London on Saturday with anti-racist demonstrators and with police trying to keep the two sides apart.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the violence, saying “racist thuggery has no place on our streets”.

The Westminster memorial honours PC Keith Palmer who was murdered while on duty at the Houses of Parliament during an attack in 2017 in which four other people were also killed.

Met Police Commander Bas Javid said on Saturday: “We are aware of a disgusting and abhorrent image circulating on social media of a man appearing to urinate on a memorial to PC Palmer.

“I feel for PC Palmer’s family, friends and colleagues. We have immediately launched an investigation, and will gather all the evidence available to us and take appropriate action.”

UK lockdown a week earlier could have halved COVID-19 death toll, scientist says

June 10, 2020 / 3:07 PM / Updated 4 hours agoUK lockdown a week earlier could have halved COVID-19 death toll, scientist says

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s death toll from COVID-19 could have been halved if lockdown had been introduced a week earlier, a former member of the UK government’s scientific advisory group said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Mortuary workers Stuart Emans and Graham Cowper prepare a deceased person for a funeral in the mortuary at Poppy’s Funerals in Lambeth Cemetery in London, Britain, May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Britain has an official death toll from confirmed COVID-19 cases of over 40,000, rising to over 50,000 cases when deaths from suspected cases are included.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed the lockdown on March 23.

Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson told lawmakers that Britain had taken the right measures but too late.

“The epidemic was doubling every three to four days before lockdown interventions were introduced. So had we introduced lockdown measures a week earlier, we would have then reduced the final death toll by at least a half,” Ferguson said.

“So whilst I think the measures … were warranted … certainly had we introduced them earlier, we would have seen many fewer deaths.”

Ferguson, a professor at Imperial College in London, produced a model which influenced Britain’s response to the pandemic, but later stood down from Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) after he was accused of breaking lockdown rules.

His comments echo those of another scientific adviser, John Edmunds, who said at the weekend that Britain should have gone into lockdown earlier.

Johnson said it was too early to say what regrets he had or lessons he could learn over the handling of the pandemic.

“We made the decisions at the time on the guidance of SAGE, including Professor Ferguson, that we thought were right for this country,” he told reporters.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the one issue he would choose to look at was how to speed up testing earlier.

“Many of the problems that we had came because we were unable to work out exactly where we were ..,” he said.

London’s statues from ‘bygone’ imperial past to be reviewed, mayor says

June 9, 2020 / 8:15 AM / Updated an hour agoLondon's statues from 'bygone' imperial past to be reviewed, mayor says

FILE PHOTO: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is seen outside Downing Street, as the coronavirus outbreak continues, in London, Britain March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) – London mayor Sadiq Khan has ordered a review of the capital’s statues and street names after the toppling of the statue of an English slave trader by anti-racism protesters triggered a debate about the demons of Britain’s imperial past.

A statue of Edward Colston, who made a fortune in the 17th century from trading West African slaves, was torn down and thrown into Bristol harbour on Sunday by a group of demonstrators taking part in a wave of protests following the death of George Floyd in the United States.

Khan said a commission would review statues, plaques and street names which largely reflect the rapid expansion of London’s wealth and power at the height of Britain’s empire in the reign of Queen Victoria.

“Our capital’s diversity is our greatest strength, yet our statues, road names and public spaces reflect a bygone era,” Khan said. He said some statues would be removed.

“It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade and while this is reflected in our public realm, the contribution of many of our communities to life in our capital has been wilfully ignored.”

In the biggest deportation in known history, weapons and gunpowder from Europe were swapped for millions of African slaves who were then shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas. Ships returned to Europe with sugar, cotton and tobacco.

As many as 17 million African men, women and children were torn from their homes and shackled into one of the world’s most brutal globalized trades between the 15th and 19th centuries. Many died in merciless conditions.

Those who survived endured a life of subjugation on sugar, tobacco and cotton plantations. Britain abolished the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1807 although the full abolition of slavery did not follow for another generation.

Tens of thousands join Black Lives Matter protest in London

June 7, 2020 / 8:31 AM / Updated an hour agoTens of thousands join Black Lives Matter protest in LondonMichael Holden, Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) – Tens of thousands took to the streets of London on Sunday, rallying for a second day running to condemn police brutality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, with some wearing face masks bearing the slogan “Racism is a virus”.

On Saturday, thousands gathered in central London in a demonstration that was peaceful but ended with small numbers of people clashing with mounted police near Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street residence.

London police chief Cressida Dick said 27 officers had been injured in “shocking and completely unacceptable” assaults during anti-racism protests over the past week, including 14 on Saturday. Two were seriously hurt and an officer who fell from her horse underwent surgery.

Authorities had urged protesters not to gather in London again on Sunday, warning they risked spreading COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. But demonstrators still packed the road outside the U.S. Embassy on the south bank of the River Thames.

Protesters later marched across the river towards parliament and Downing Street, pausing on the bridge to go down on one knee and chant: “Justice, now!” In Parliament Square, many attached their placards to the railings outside parliament.

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“Now is the time: we need to do something. We have become so complacent in the UK but the racism that killed George Floyd was born in the UK in terms of colonialism and white supremacy,” said 28-year-old Hermione Lake, who was holding a sign reading: “white silence = violence”.

“We need to completely gut the system … We need massive reform, massive change.”


The May 25 death of Floyd, an African American, has sparked demonstrations around the world over police treatment of ethnic minorities. A white police officer detaining him knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

In Bristol in western England, demonstrators tore down a statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston.

Police clash with demonstrators in Whitehall during a Black Lives Matter protest in London, following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, London, Britain, June 7, 2020. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Sunday’s London protest was largely peaceful. People waved placards and chanted: “George Floyd!” and “The UK is not innocent!”

As the numbers dwindled, some protesters clashed with police outside the Foreign Office after one man was arrested. They threw bottles and flares and chanted: “Black lives matter!” as they tried to push through a line of riot police.

One police officer with a bloodied head was helped by colleagues.

Johnson said that while people had the right to protest peacefully, the demonstrations had been “subverted by thuggery”.

“They are a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve. Those responsible will be held to account,” he said on Twitter.

Police said 29 people had been arrested during Saturday’s protest in London for offences including violent disorder. A further 12 people were arrested on Sunday in central London, the majority of them for public order offences.

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Pauline Nandoo, 60, said she had been protesting racism since the 1970s and the images of violence at the end of Saturday’s protest had not deterred her.

“There’s children of all ages and older adults here,” said Nandoo, who was with her brother and 13-year-old daughter. “They are going to experience what we have experienced, and we have to try to make that not happen.”

UK coronavirus death toll rises by 204 to 40,465

June 6, 2020 / 2:00 PM / Updated 7 hours agoUK coronavirus death toll rises by 204 to 40,465

People follow social distance rules as they queue for a fish and chip stall, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, June 5, 2020. REUTERS/Steven Watt

LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom’s death toll from confirmed cases of COVID-19 has risen by 204 to 40,465 as of 1600 GMT on June 5, according to government data published on Saturday.

Including suspected cases, the United Kingdom’s death toll this week surpassed 50,000, according to a Reuters tally of official data sources.

Factbox: What the WHO recommends on face masks

June 5, 2020 / 3:58 PM / Updated 4 hours agoFactbox: What the WHO recommends on face masks

(Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) updated its guidance on Friday to recommend that governments ask people wear fabric face masks in public places to curb the spread of the pandemic COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a mask waits at a bus stop in London, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, June 5, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Here are some details on the new advice:


– The WHO says the widespread use of face masks or coverings by the general public is still not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence.

– But it says a growing amount of observational evidence from several countries that have ordered or recommended the wearing of masks, as well as the difficulty of social distancing in many settings, is enough for it to change its advice.


The WHO recommends the wearing of non-medical masks by:

– Everyone in public settings such as stores, at work, social or mass gatherings, and in closed settings such as schools or places of worship.

– People living in cramped conditions, such as in refugee camps or slums.

– On public transport.


Because of the risk of diverting critical resources from health workers, the WHO says medical masks should be reserved for healthcare professionals and people in at-risk groups. Everyone else should use what it terms non-medical or fabric masks. Here is some of its advice on mask choice:

– Choose materials that capture droplets but remain easy to breathe through.

– Avoid stretchy materials, because stretching may increase pore sizes, and preferably use a fabric that can be washed at 60C (140F) or higher.

– A minimum of three layers is needed, including an absorbent inner layer, touching the mouth, and a synthetic outer layer that does not easily absorb water.

– Wash frequently, at the highest temperature possible, and don’t share.

Factbox: The 13-year hunt for missing British girl, Madeleine McCann

June 4, 2020 / 11:26 AM / in 2 hoursFactbox: The 13-year hunt for missing British girl, Madeleine McCann

LONDON (Reuters) – British and German police say a German child sex offender, currently in prison in Germany, is a prime suspect in the hunt for missing Madeleine McCann who vanished in Portugal 13 years ago while her family were on vacation.

Here are details about the main developments in the McCann case, one of Britain’s biggest unsolved crimes which attracted worldwide attention and a global hunt.


On May 3, 2007, Madeleine McCann, 3, vanished from her bedroom in the apartment her family were staying in at the Praia da Luz resort in Portugal while her parents, Kate and Gerry, ate with friends – known as the “Tapas 7” – at a nearby restaurant.

The apartment was broken into while Madeleine and her twin baby siblings were asleep, and local police concluded it was a kidnapping. The family voiced concern at what they called a slow initial police response and the failure to secure the crime scene.

In following days, the McCanns turned to the media to help locate their daughter, and the case attracted global attention with soccer stars David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo joining the appeals for information.

Author J.K. Rowling was among well-known figures to contribute towards a multi-million pound reward.


The media focus on the case led to reported sightings of Madeleine across the globe. However, the early investigation by Portuguese police produced no major leads and the detectives began to focus attention on the parents themselves.

In September 2007, Gerry and Kate McCann were questioned by police as formal suspects. The following July, the Portuguese police dropped their investigation because of a lack of evidence and cleared the McCanns of any involvement.

The couple and their friends who were with them on the night Madeleine went missing successfully sued a number of British tabloids for libel for suggesting they were involved in their daughter’s disappearance.

In 2015, a Portuguese court also ordered a former Portuguese investigator involved in the initial inquiry to pay the McCanns damages for alleging in a book that the girl had died in an accident and the parents had covered it up.

A British man, whose mother’s house was close to the McCann’s apartment, also wins libel damages from 10 British newspapers after they accused him of being involved in Madeleine’s abduction.

In 2011, then British Prime Minister David Cameron orders a review by London police after being contacted by the McCanns.

The following year, detectives say they have identified 195 “investigative opportunities” and in 2013, the British police began their own investigation – Operation Grange – saying they have identified 38 potential suspects.

Later that year, they release an e-fit image of a number of men, including one of an unidentified suspect they particularly wanted to trace. Soon after, Portuguese prosecutors ordered the case to be reopened by local police.

The new inquiry leads Portuguese police to interview four suspects, but they are later cleared of any involvement, and a search by British detectives of wasteland near Praia da Luz also failed to provide a breakthrough.

The London detectives later suggested Madeleine might have been one of the victims of a series of sexual assaults on British children in Portugal, probably carried out by a single offender, between 2004 and 2010.

But in 2017, marking a decade since she disappeared, detectives say they might never solve the case despite still following critical lines of inquiry, although the British government has continued to fund the investigation.

On Wednesday, British and German police said they had identified a new suspect in the case, a 43-year-old German man. The suspect, who was not publicly named, lived in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007 and burgled hotels and holiday flats as well as trading drugs.

‘No justice, no peace’: Tens of thousands in London protest death of Floyd

June 3, 2020 / 12:47 PM / Updated 2 hours ago'No justice, no peace': Tens of thousands in London protest death of FloydMichael Holden, Dylan Martinez

LONDON (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people chanting “no justice, no peace, no racist police” marched through central London on Wednesday to protest against racism after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Floyd, an unarmed black man, died after a white police officer knelt on his neck, an event that has set off the biggest anti-racism protests seen in the United States since the 1960s civil rights era.

Demonstrators have also come out in cities around the world in solidarity with Floyd and to express anger over racism. Protesters in London chanted “George Floyd” and “Black Lives Matter” as they marched through the city centre.

On Parliament Square, on Trafalgar Square and at other locations, thousands knelt on one knee, a form of protest known as “taking a knee” famously used by American footballer Colin Kaepernick to denounce police brutality against black people.

Some demonstrators urged police officers lining the route of the march to also take a knee, and a few of the officers did.

“This has been years in the coming, years and years and years of white supremacy,” 30-year-old project manager Karen Koromah told Reuters.

“We’ve come here with our friends to sound the alarm, to make noise, to dismantle supremacist systems,” Koromah said, cautioning that unless there was action the United Kingdom would face problems like those in the United States.

“I don’t want to start crying,” she said of the images from the United States. “It makes my blood boil.”

The demonstrators booed as they walked past 10 Downing Street, official residence of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and some also booed and took a knee in front of New Scotland Yard, London’s police headquarters.

A protester and a police officer clash near Downing Street during a “Black Lives Matter” protest following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, London, Britain, June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAYGLOBAL ISSUE

Some protesters waved banners with slogans such as: “The UK is not innocent: less racist is still racist”, “Racism is a global issue” and “If you aren’t angry you aren’t paying attention”.

The event was almost entirely peaceful. There were brief scuffles between police officers and some protesters outside 10 Downing Street but they were over within minutes.

Johnson, who was inside at the time giving the government’s daily briefing on the coronavirus outbreak, was asked what he would say to U.S. President Donald Trump about Floyd’s death and the protests it has sparked.

“We mourn George Floyd, and I was appalled and sickened to see what happened to him,” he said.

“My message to President Trump, to everybody in the United States, from the UK is that – and it’s an opinion I’m sure is shared by the overwhelming majority of people around the world – racism and racist violence has no place in our society.”

Johnson has been criticised in the past for comments that many considered racist. In 2018, when he was foreign minister, he wrote in a newspaper column that Muslim women wearing burkas looked like bank robbers or letter boxes.

Outside Downing Street, some protesters chanted “Boris is a racist”.

British police chiefs said they were appalled by the way Floyd lost his life and by the violence that followed in U.S. cities, but called on protesters in the United Kingdom to work with police as coronavirus restrictions remain in place.

“We can see feelings are running really high today. It’s been a peaceful protest,” said police commander Alex Murray.

“We’re committed to make London a lot safer and to build trust with all communities,” he said.

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Many marchers said racism was a British problem too.

“It’s not like this is just about someone dying, we live our lives made awfully aware of our race. That’s not right, that’s not the natural order,” said Roz Jones, who came to Britain as a child from South Africa.