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Saying “Sorry” to the Germans (and the French, and the Spanish and the Brazilians)

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Head in Hands

That feeling when you find out your government has
been secretly bugging everyone’s emails
.

We’ve all been there: The friend you invite to a house-warming party has one drink too many and starts hurling abuse at the host. The colleague you helped recruit has an illicit affair with your boss and breaks up their marriage. A relative gets the wrong idea at your wedding and starts hitting on the best man’s girlfriend. You didn’t know they were going to do it, you would have stopped them if you could, and now you kind of regret bringing them along in the first place.

Well it turns out that, unbeknownst to us, the UK and US governments have been secretly bugging the German Chancellor and spying on the emails of millions of German citizens. AWKWARD!

To make things worse, it looks like they’ve been doing the same to millions of French, Spanish and Brazilians and, let’s face it, probably much of the rest of the world. Every time we think it can’t get any more embarrassing, more toe-curling stuff comes out. What were they thinking?

When something like this happens, the decent thing to do is to say sorry – even if it wasn’t you personally who did the boss-bonking, girlfriend-leching or global multi-media mass voyeurism.

The British in particular are famous for turning the act of apology into a performance art – yet paradoxically when the UK government does something wrong getting them to say sorry typically takes decades

Happily, the advent of social media means that it’s never been easier to apologise for things that other people have done on your account.

So if, like me, you are frankly a bit embarrassed by our intelligence services’ decidedly un-British trampling on the neighbours’ lawns, I suggest you join me in doing the British thing and #sayingsorry to the Germans via the conciliatory medium of Twitter… (along with the French, Spanish, Brazilians and anyone else whose name comes up as further revelations emerge).

You can tweet the German Foreign Ministry via: https://twitter.com/GermanyDiplo, and the French Foreign Affairs Ministry here: https://twitter.com/francediplo/

The Spanish government are at: https://twitter.com/desdelamoncloa and the Brazilians are here: https://twitter.com/BrazilGovNews

Here are a few messages I’ve sent just to get things started:

@GermanyDiplo Sorry about this! It seems that our intelligence agencies have completely gone rogue. Please help! #sayingsorry

@Francediplo Sorry! Honestly, we had no idea that GCHQ were doing this on our behalf & we don’t know how to make them stop! #sayingsorry

@desdelamoncloa I’m so sorry! I’ve only just found out that GCHQ was secretly spying on you all. I’m mortified! #sayingsorry

But it’s going to take a whole lot more than that to mend this particular broken fence, fix the damage our government has done to our international reputation, shame them into issuing their own apology, and ensure that they finally sort out our rogue intelligence agencies. Britain needs your tweets!

Written by Richard Wilson

November 7, 2013 at 12:16 am

Online poll: Should the Daily Express stop using misleading polls to whip up racial tension in Britain?

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Harsh words from poll guru Anthony Wells:

I might as well waste a few pixels being horrid to the Daily Express, which today claims 98% of people think Britain should close its doors to all new immigrants. It seems almost superfluous to point out that almost any survey in the Express is complete tripe…  Express “phone polls” are premium rate numbers they put in the paper, to get people to ring up to vote yes or no (multiple times if they wish), presumably after reading a foam-flecked Express rant on the subject in question. There is obviously no attempt to get a representative sample and they always show around 97%, 98% in agreement with whatever the Express’s line is….

This raises an obvious question, for which an online poll is surely the best vehicle for providing an answer…

Written by Richard Wilson

November 1, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Groundhog Day with the NSA?

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“unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying… that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States… there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in #rendition.” – Jack Straw, December 2005

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/apr/18/jack-straw-libya-rendition

“The idea that in #GCHQ people are sitting working out how to circumvent a UK law with another agency in another country is fanciful. It is nonsense”, William Hague, June 2013

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/10/gchq-broke-law-nsa-intelliegence #nsa #edwardsnowden

Written by Richard Wilson

June 10, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Posted in Checks and balances, Corruption

Tagged with , ,

No amount of PR and lobbying can change the basic laws of arithmetic…

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Ironically, given his emphasis on “rigour” and traditional teaching methods, Michael Gove’s Department for Education seems to take a more relaxed approach approach to basic arithmetic when it comes to spending public money…

Last year I highlighted some of the questions surrounding the government’s decision to approve a controversial state-funded boarding school run by an Academy notorious for spending large sums of money on PR, lobbying, and libel lawyers.

Now the Independent has taken up the story:

Costs of running ‘Eton of state sector’ hugely unrealistic

West Sussex villagers object to boarding school for inner-city pupils, saying Government has got its sums wrong…

In a comprehensive dossier on the development, locals in the village of Stedham say the £22.3m stated cost of the scheme is a vast underestimate. They argue it will cost at least £30m – based on the DfE’s own average building estimates. In a remarkably comprehensive series of documents, they accuse the organisers of the project of vastly underestimating the cost of setting up the new school in an area of “outstanding natural beauty”…

Written by Richard Wilson

April 23, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

Tagged with

Meet the new Bosco, same as the old Bosco…

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A new piece from me in the New Humanist

Thousands of lives are at risk in the troubled east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a new and brutal rebellion, with a leadership described by the United Nations as “among the worst perpetrators of human rights violations… in the world”, has flared up in a region where millions have died since the 1990s.

The “March 23” insurgency began as a mutiny earlier this year by former rebels who had been integrated into the Congolese army after a previous peace deal in March 2009. The mutiny was ostensibly triggered by violations of that agreement. But there are mounting allegations by the UN and human rights groups that the rebels are being directed, trained and supported by the government of neighbouring Rwanda. On 30 November, the UK government became the latest international donor to suspend aid to Rwanda as a result.

M23’s leaders reportedly include the notorious Rwandan-born warlord Bosco Ntaganda, whose bloody track record in previous conflicts has earned him the nickname “The Terminator”. Despite being wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, Bosco was given a senior role in the Congolese army as part of the 2009 peace deal.

“Bosco Ntaganda is the most notorious but he’s by no means the only one”, says Carina Tertsakian of Human Rights Watch, who talks of a strong sense of déjà vu around the current crisis. “Quite a few of his mates are and have been doing the same kinds of things for years… No one has ever done anything to arrest them so they just carry on, they become emboldened… the use of violence and those atrocities start being rewarded.”

Read more

Written by Richard Wilson

February 4, 2013 at 9:10 am

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

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Closing down Lewisham’s Accident & Emergency department – who’s holding the fuse on the PFI time-bomb?

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The government has announced plans to close the Accident and Emergency Department at Lewisham Hospital, despite having refurbished it to the tune of £12 million earlier this year.

The move has been condemned by patient groups, and by doctors who warn that patient-safety and quality of care will be put at risk.

The rationale for the change is unclear. While the authorities claim to be acting for financial reasons, one possibility is that the move is part of the government’s longer-term plans for incremental privatisation of the National Health Service.

The proposed closure of Lewisham A & E has been presented as a package of measures linked to the collapse of the neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust.

The South London Healthcare Trust went into administration earlier this year due to the spiralling costs of crippling “Public Finance Initiative” (PFI) contracts, which had been awarded to private companies on highly-lucrative terms under the last Labour government.

But the identity of the companies or individuals benefiting from these expensive PFI contracts appears to be shrouded in mystery. Local campaigners say that they have tried without success to get answers from the authorities about who has been profiting.

Can you help to shed light on the PFI feeding frenzy that is now threatening healthcare provision in South London?

Written by Richard Wilson

December 11, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Tony Baldry MP – a correction

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One of the more amusing libel threats I’ve had since starting this blog came in 2010, on behalf of Tony Baldry MP, who at the time was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Banbury (he is now Sir Tony Baldry, the Member for North Oxfordshire).

Mr Baldry had taken exception to a blog post I had written about his dealings with a notoriously-corrupt Nigerian politician, James Ibori. So concerned was the Honorable Member that he deployed the services of the media law firm Olswang to make his concerns known. Here’s the “Strictly Private and Confidential” letter they sent to WordPress, cc-ing me.

Since then, James Ibori has been convicted by the UK courts of money-laundering on an epic scale.

Following a Freedom of Information request to the UK Foreign Office, I recently obtained a copy of the letter that Tony Baldry had sent in 2009 to the then Foreign Secretary, in which he raised concerns about the “draconian” freezing of James Ibori’s assets by the UK courts.

Due to a failure of file-format savvy at my end, and a lamentable over-reliance on MS Paint, I had initially thought, wrongly, that the Foreign Office had only sent me the first page of the letter – and wrote a somewhat tetchy blogpost.

In fact, they had sent me the entire thing, barring a couple of redactions.

The letter paints an intriguing picture of Tony Baldry’s work on behalf of James Ibori. Sir Tony has been at pains to point out that he wrote it in his capacity as a barrister, not as an MP. He also insists that he was not “lobbying” on Ibori’s behalf, and that he acted entirely appropriately.

I’m publishing the letter in full here (PDF converted from TIF), so Mr Baldry’s constituents can decide for themselves what they think of their MP’s second-job activities.

Private Eye also have a copy of the letter, and have published their take on it in this week’s edition.

Written by Richard Wilson

September 13, 2012 at 8:46 pm