Wednesday 29 March 2023

The Time I Met Paul O'Grady and Lily Savage at the Same Time

 Back in the 1990s I worked for H. Samuel and for three years of that time I was based in the store (no longer within the group) that was positioned at the Piccadilly Circus end of Shaftesbury Avenue. It was the flagship store of the chain at the time, with the famous semi-circle window up in what was our ring sizing and buffering room and being right under the neon lights. It also of course was right in the heart of things.

Right in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the City of Westminster. Shops, Government and Theatre land were all walkable. Although our branch didn't shut until 10pm we ofter got a last minute rush of customers after the theatres got out.

Further along Shaftesbury Avenue during that time a musical version of Prisioner Cell Block H was having a run. A very well dressed man in a suit entered early one afternoon and went straight over to the costume jewellery cabinet. When he say what he wanted there was a familiar Birkenhead accent that called over to me:

"Excuse me! I'd like to take that red necklace and earings to match please."

It was not the most expensive sale I ever processed in that store, that would undoubtledly be the three times I sold the matching his and hers Raymond Weil Parsifal watches which at the time were a neat £2,750. But this was the time I took the credit card of Mr P O'Grady knowing full well that these items although going to be worn by someone else were going to grace his neck and ears. He had obviously dropped in before heading up the Queen's Theatre (now the Sondheim) to get Lily ready or her staring role in Prisoner Cell Block H.

RIP Paul O'Grady 1955 -2023

Saturday 11 March 2023

Is Government asylum policy "fair and right"?

 So Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has broken the ministerial silence since the BBC asked Gary Lineker to step back from presenting Match of the Day. In doing so he says that Linker "was a great footballer and is a talented presenter" before going on to say that that he believes that the government's policy is "fair and right?

The question though should be is it?

Firstly we need to rebuff the phrase branded about claiming there are illegal asylum seekers. The Refugee Council point out:

There is no such thing as an ‘illegal’ or ‘bogus’ asylum seeker. Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 Convention and to remain there until the authorities have assessed their claim

The UK is a signatory of that Convention. This is the Convention was actually in part drafted by Winston Churchill. It is also something that is enshrined into the European Convention on Human Rights. It was the ECHR that when presenting her policy to the House of Commons the Home Secretary Suella Braverman wrote:

I am unable to make a statement that, in my view, the provisions of the Illegal Migrants Bill are compatible with the Convention rights, but the Government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed to the Bill.

Herein lies problem number one. We are already calling those that arrive my small boats Illegal Migrants, see the Refugee Council above. But also this Government knowingly wants to proceed when it could break a Convention drafted with British input. 

Maybe we can rule out that the Bill is going to be right on that basis.

As for is it fair, we need to look at how anyone claim asylum in the UK under the Bill. Let us return to the Refugee Council.

It is recognised in the 1951 Convention that people fleeing persecution may have to use irregular means in order to escape and claim asylum in another country – there is no legal way to travel to the UK for the specific purpose of seeking asylum.
Yet the Government are saying that the provisions of the Bill will not affect people who seek a legal route into the UK to claim asylum, such routes do not exist.

The Bill also aims to detain those that reach these shores by small boat without trial, without access to a lawyer for the first 28 days, or the courts, and then deport them, with no legal right to appeal and to be barred for ever from entering the UK.
However, arbitrarily depriving an individual of their liberty is prohibited under international human rights law. Article 9 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights decrees that "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile"; that is, no individual, regardless of circumstances, is to be deprived of their liberty or exiled from their country without having first committed an actual criminal offense against a legal statute, and the government cannot deprive an individual of their liberty without proper due process of law.  

So not looking very fair or very right. Also, before I get apologists saying but these are all international treatings and conventions remember one thing. In the shadow of World War II it was Britain that was at the forefront of drafting and writing the conventions and treaties that are mentioned here. This was done to prevent a nation treating other humans in a lesser way. At the moment the UK Government is steering us into a clear breach of so much international convention we are heading to being a pariah state on a par with Russia, North Korea et al.

Not just close to the language of 1930s Germany

 So the outrage over Gary Lineker's comments that some of the language used by the Home Secretary to launch and defend her asylum policy has wreaked havoc to this weekend's football schedule on the BBC. Now this is the thing, Gary only compared that language to 1930s Germany, anyone with a little knowledge of the diaries, biographies from pre-war British politicians will be able to point out to something a little closer to home.

There are three types of sources we can learn from history. First there are straight forward history texts, these are often written long enough after the event to sanitise some of the comment. Then is biography of those involved, these need to be taken with a pinch of salt, some as sycophantic in their praise for their subjects, others are the reverse written by those who disagree with them, occasionally you will find a balanced view but even that will have omissions. Then there are the firsthand documents, speeches, diaries etc. 

As someone who is still plodding through the unabridged diaries of Chips Cannon (I'm now on volume 3) I have read the pre-war entries. I can see why when the diaries were first to be printing that many leading lights in politics were nervous until they were told they would be heavily edited. You see the thing is in those diaries are recorded the language, thoughts and opinions of many of those in the Conservative party and British aristocracy that Cannon mingled with. The language used by Braverman is actually very similar to that of many in pre-war Britain who were sympathetic or enthusiastic for the National Socialist Party in Germany.

Now I doubt that Gary has an extensive a political library that I have. There were of course members of the Conservative Party who were opposed to too close a link with Germany during that period. But as Churchill himself pointed out these were his wilderness years as he was away from the main thrust of his party. However, there were many to the right of the Conservative party at that time who either flirted with or espoused fascist ideology. That group is worrying, looking at them and the attack on asylum seekers from the current Conservative party they would seem to fit right in with the current party and policies, some of which are actually taken straight out of the National Front policy book from the 1970s.

So here's the thing the actions from the Government calling out against the criticism of their policy, forcing what is meant to be an impartial public service braodcaster take a side is this debate, is exactly the opposite of impartiality. They never rile against opinion when it is strongly in their favour. They never stand up when the exclusion of pro-European voices such as the Liberal Democrats were missing from many of the political panel shows during the lead up to the referendum to leave the EU. No, the cries from Westmister, despite the wolf call from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport that "indivual cases are a matter for the BBC" are actually the signs of repression of freedom of speech. One side of a culture war is given carte blanche but dare to speak out on the other side and we will shut you down.

Today there are no presenters, pundits or commentators, willing to bring football to the BBC. So no Football Focus, no Final Score no match commentary of Radio 5 Live, no Fighting Talk on the radio tomorrow either. Match of the Day  itself will have no pundits, no commentary (from the usual freelancers) and maybe also not any interviews with players or managers. 

People are standing up and wanting to be counted. The mood may be that the language is divisive, the language is hedging towards that of Mosley's New Party in the early 30s here on British soil. The football community this weekend may be making a stand against that language in their own version of Cable Street.