Guest post by God: His resignation statement over phone hacking

July 18, 2011

God called a Press Conference in Heaven today, in which he resigned over his role in the phone hacking scandal. Paperback Rioter reproduces the full text of the statement below. You can read more from God here.

It is with deep regret and a heavy heart that I resign from my position as God and Supreme Being over life on Earth.

I am very proud of my achievements in my role, which I have held for about 5000 years (but who’s counting?). I created the universe. Saw it through some tough times (like the Bodyline controversy). There are many things I will look back proudly on.

However, I must accept responsibility for the phone hacking scandal that happened on my watch.

I can honestly say, though, that I had no idea of the scale of the phone hacking that was going on at News International.

I know I am meant to be an omnipotent being, all-seeing and all-knowing, and therefore it is right to ask me why I had no knowledge of the scale of the abuses at the News of the World and other newspapers. The fact is that the Metropolitan police conducted an investigation and concluded that the phone hacking was merely the work of one rogue reporter. There was no reason for me to disregard their professional opinion.

What I find particularly distressing is the link between myself and Andy Coulson. People keep saying that I should have done more to warn David Cameron about appointing Andy Coulson as his Director of Communications.

Yet I am not sure what more I was supposed to do. I sent three wise men to warn him of the dangers of hiring Coulson. Nick Clegg, Alan Rusbridger and Paddy Ashdown.

All of whom were sent by Me to warn Cameron. But he took no heed of My warnings. I accept My responsibility, but it seems that Cameron does not accept his.

Nevertheless, I must accept my role in this affair and must therefore reluctantly resign. I do not wish to comment on the rumours that a News International paper hacked into my voicemail.

The impact of the spending cuts: an e-interview with Kate Belgrave

March 23, 2011

In the run-up to today’s Budget and the March for the Alternative this Saturday I’m writing a few bits and pieces on the impending spending cuts. Below is an e-interview conducted with Kate Belgrave. Kate has been travelling the country interviewing people who rely on council services. She publishes articles of these interviews here and tweets as @hangbitch.

You’ve been travelling the country interviewing people about the impact spending cuts would have on their area. Could you talk a little bit about that? Where have you been, what have you seen, etc?

I spent December in the Northwest and January-Feb in the Northeast. My aim is to talk to council service users over a year to see how council cuts really play out with people who rely on those services.

I’ve been writing about council for a long time and it occurred to me that not everyone knew what sorts of services councils provided – people know about rubbish collection and so on, but councils also provide care services, carehomes, daycentres for people with physical disabilities and learning disabilities, community centres (which
sometimes provide cheap meals, etc), respite care services, meals on wheels, housing maintenance, advice services, and a lot of complex care packages which are provided between themselves and the NHS.

They also often provide and/or support drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, and fund voluntary groups that support people with serious mental health problems and so on. I felt that the major political parties were glossing over all of this. The focus was on libraries, forests and the NHS (which are all important – it’s just that there’s

So, I saved up for about six months and then headed out in December. I talked to people using housing and care services in Manchester, disabled daycentre users in Shropshire, parents of severely disabled children in Lancashire, council housing tenants in Skelmersdale, drug, alcohol and mental health support service users in Newcastle, community centre users in Middlesbrough, parents of kids at a special needs unit in Cambridgeshire and also a lot of people in London, which is where I’m based.

I’ve been pretty shocked by what I’ve seen – the cutting of that special needs unit in Cambridgeshire, Lancashire county council’s tightening of care eligibility criteria, those severely physically disabled people in Shropshire losing their daycentre and so on. Those cuts decisions will affect lives adversely and it seems unacceptable in this day and age.

At the very least, you want to know that if you have a debilitating stroke at the age of 38, you’ll get decent care
and have a place to go during the day where you can rehabilitate and spend time with other people. You also want to live in a society which provides those services for people. That’s why you pay tax.

What do you think the impact of these cuts will be?

I think for a lot of people, they’ll be truly devastating. Those people in Shropshire say that without their daycentre, they’ll be stuck at home “staring at the four walls.” Lancashire county council is planning to close care respite homes for children with disabilities. Those families rely on that respite care.

Without respite care, you just never get a break. Disabled people who are reassessed and found to have only ‘moderate’ needs will lose their care packages. Others will be charged for care services and if they can’t afford to pay, they just won’t get those services.

One man I’ve been speaking to in Lancashire is extremely concerned that the nursing care his severely disabled son receives will be compromised because the groups that provide nurses are facing cuts. The parent is an elderly man, but he and his wife will have to make up any shortfall in care or finance themselves. They also have the added worry that when they’re not longer around (they’re in their 60s), their son won’t have anyone who can provide that backup.

The parents of kids at the special needs unit in Cambridgeshire were terrified – their children (some were on the autism spectrum) had ended up at that unit because they’d had dreadful experiences in mainstream education. The council was planning to send them back to mainstream schools.

If the Middlesbrough community centre I went to closes, so will the daycentre facilities for people with learning and physical disabilities that the centre hosts. It’s extraordinary that people in these groups are being forced to pay for the banking crisis and zero council tax increases.

There are other issues, of course. An important one is that thousands of people will be made redundant in areas where there really are few other employment options. It seems very likely that people will lose their homes and that we’ll end up seeing a lot more of the social problems that accompany large-scale unemployment.

The other important point is that other nations will take the UK’s lead. Neoliberal politicians in New Zealand (where I’m originally from), Australia and Europe especially will be watching these cuts with interest and will feel inspired if Osborne manages to pull any of this programme off. We’re some way ahead of the UK in dismantling the welfare state in places in NZ, but that doesn’t mean our own Conservative government won’t be taking considerable interest in the UK government’s attempt to sell this “the deficit justifies an attack on the state” rhetoric.

You’ve written a little bit on the difficulties bloggers and citizen journalists have had when trying to report on the activities of local councils. Is this an attitude common to all councils, and what role do bloggers have in holding these officials to account?

I wrote in some detail on this subject recently for Open Democracy.

I have generally found councils obstructive and difficult. It’s not only that they won’t let journalists into council meetings, or try to ban filming and recording. They also actively try to stop you talking to service users, and refuse to take your calls, or provide you with information.

It’s my view that some of the best journalists of this era are bloggers covering local rounds – they’re the people who read agendas, attend meetings, comb reports, talk to people and work up big contact books and readerships. That’s what journalism is. There’s a great deal of professionalism there.

I think the term “citizen journalist” is no longer appropriate for a lot of these people. They’re fully-fledged reporters – real “nose for news” types who don’t suffer politicians at all. They refuse to be pressured. A number of us are trained journalists and NUJ members and are regularly contacted by the mainstream for content and contacts. Local councils are shit-scared of us as well – Roger T at the BarnetEye has put the wind up Brian Coleman on several occasions and councils have tried to throw me out and ban me from talking to people.

Union members have even told me they can no longer access my blog on Hammersmith and Fulham servers.

I’d make the point also that some of us have mixed feelings about participating in the mainstream press. I like getting published there from time to time for obvious reasons and I think there are some excellent people working at some papers, but I tend to feel that generally, the mainstream press is part of today’s political problem.

It’s about opinion, ego, exaggeration and party alignment, rather than good old shoe-leather, grassroots journalism. I really don’t think it’s about talent any more, by and large, and hasn’t been for a while. If you schmooze and push yourself forward and write about “controversial” things like stripping, sex and boozing, etc, you’re probably going to make some – well, headway. If you don’t have the stomach for that sort of “look at me” writing, you won’t.

I think as you get older, you lose interest in that kind of writing as well – I did more of it when I was younger and working in the mainstream. I can’t see that any big paper would pay me a salary to do the work that I do now. Talking about daycentres in small councils, or community centres in Middlesbrough is just not exciting enough and/or likely to shift product in the way that big media is desperate to. They’re important stories, but they’re not “big” stories that will generate advertising.

We’re talking about a mainstream press that will send literally hundreds of people to cover the Chilean miners’ rescue, or the Japan earthquake disaster, but nobody to cover the fallout from, say, a carehome privatisation, or massive funding cuts. That’s not to say major world events shouldn’t be covered – just that some of us passionately believe there are other priorities and are prepared to put a lot of time and money into covering those priorities.

I do think a lot of people in the mainstream feel that way as well – a hell of a lot of them follow respected bloggers on twitter and are regularly in contact and talk as equals. I feel that senior mainstream people like Andrew Marr are dismissive of good bloggers, but a lot of good mainstream people are not. They can see that good work is being done and respect it.

Are you going on the March for the Alternative on Saturday? And if so, what is your alternatve to the coalition’s spending plans?

Yes, I’ll be going. I think a show of numbers will be extremely important.

As for alternatives – depends on how granular you want to get. Possibilities vary from council to council – I (and a number of union branches which presented councils with alternatives) think much more effort could have been made to consider small council tax increases at councils, utilise reserves to buy time, jettisoning consultants (some councils brought in expensive consultants to advise on cuts) and charging works to capital accounts, rather than revenue accounts where that was possible.

Notts County, for instance, had some building works charged to the revenue account. Unison thought there was an argument to be made for charging those works to the relevant capital reserves, which would have freed up revenue. There were probably plenty of examples of that sort of possibility in capital and revenue budgets across the country.

The problem is that nobody wants to hear that sort of suggestion if their reasons for cutting services are ideological. What we’re seeing at the moment is a wholesale attack on the notion of state provision and welfare. I don’t particularly think it is about fiscal realities.

Hardline Tory councils like Hammersmith and Fulham and Barnet have been pursuing the cuts ideology for some years – long before the deficit “justified” cuts and charging. They don’t want to hear arguments in favour of preserving services. That argument is at odds with their whole thesis. Tory councils like Lancashire have built up enormous reserves, which they have done instead of spending money on services. Those people are about road improvements, apartment-building and city development. They’re not about carehomes, hostels for people with mental health needs, or sheltered housing wardens.

That’s why, on another level, I want to hear a new, alternative political rhetoric about fair distribution. UKUncut has started to do this and is making an important point in a beautifully simple way – “big corporations need to make a fair contribution.” It’s simple, but it makes the point perfectly. I’ve heard people in non-political circles talking about it.

There’s also a discussion to be had about political priorities – should we be spending a massive amount attacking in Libya while people in wheelchairs here are being thrown onto the street? Have bankers adequately compensated taxpayers for throwing the economy into recession and for bailouts?

This is not a good time in human history, but it’s an important time. Too many people are suffering when they shouldn’t be. We must redefine our world.

Why you should vote Conservative in Oldham East and Saddleworth

January 12, 2011

Last but not least in our online hustings is the case for voting Conservative in Oldham East and Saddleworth. This comes from Simon Turner, who is a member of the Conservative Party from Reading. Simon tweets here and he blogs here.

There are many reasons why to vote for the Conservative Party in the up-and-coming election. The clearest is that we are the most honourable and honest party; this by-election has been solely caused by the illegal activities of the last Labour candidate, who cared more for his own election then the social harmony of your constituency.

Another reason is that the Conservative Party is the only party able to deal with crime. Ken Clarke is busying himself to bring prison reform through a prison-based work system; making prisoners pay for both their crimes and their room and board whilst ending the shameful and waste of mass short prison sentences and removing the pointless and frequently broken ASBOS with the right of local communities to physically rid themselves of bad neighbours.

In addition to dealing with crime and making prisons work, the Conservative Party has also fought against the tyranny of terror by both fighting terrorists and fighting back an overly intrusive state that has overridden our traditional liberties with massive and overly expensive databases, as well as the imposition of the surveillance society alongside illegal surveillance orders. These try in vain to control our enemies but end up simply controlling the decent and law abiding citizens. Unlike some others, the Conservative Party will not sacrifice our diversity or our liberty in order to fail to curb terrorism, but we will fight and tackle extremism in all its forms wherever it may rear its hate-filled head.

It is also the Conservative Party that had saved and will continue to secure the private sector-led, manufacturing-led real recovery from the shameful overspend of the last regime and from the repercussion of the global collapse. We are doing this by localising power from distant costly QUANGOS and RDA to local development agencies, as well as decreasing business taxes and regulations. Indeed Mr. Cameron has been busy creating new trade connections with the new emerging market. It is a notable achievement of the Conservative-led government that we have lifted the poorest from paying tax and also are reforming wholly the welfare state to make work pay and talking to businesses to learn how to help them create jobs and to help them and help us out of this mess.

There are many, many other reason to vote for the Conservative Party; we are the only party opposed to the takeover of Britain by the EU, we are the only party without a particle and merciful immigration policy and we are the only party with an active and trade-orientated foreign policy and the party of peace ending the wasteful war in Afghanistan.

In the end you should vote for the Conservative Party because together we will remake Britain, we will make it strong and fair and free once again.

Why you should vote Labour in Oldham East and Saddleworth

January 12, 2011

It’s the final day of online hustings for Old and Sad, with just one day before voting begins. Our first article is by Paul Cotterill, Labour councillor for Bickerstaffe Ward, West Lancashire. Paul blogs here at the Bickerstaffe Record.

Let’s clear the decks first.

This is not a post about why the election has been called for 13th January. In the time I’ve spent on the doorstep during the campaign, not a single voter has mentioned this to me as a factor in their decision-making about which way to vote.  Indeed, the only person to refer to the legal case at all did so in terms of how infuriating they found it that the LibDem literature focused on it so much at the expense of anything substantive about politics. 

While it’s understandable why the LibDems should the pushing the point, they are either too caught up in their own bubble-of-self-importance to notice that who said what about their candidate is irrelevant to most people, or they’ve not got much else to say.  Or both.

Nor is this a post that seeks to persuade people to vote Labour as a way of punishing the LibDems nationally for the way the party has betrayed the country in the last nine months.   There’s hectares of coverage of that, and that’s why national polls show support has fallen to single figures.  It doesn’t need me to spell it out.

No, this is a post about why the Labour party, as represented in the person of candidate Debbie Abrahams, is best suited to serve the people of Oldham East & Saddleworth.

This election is held at a time when the Conservative-led government is wreaking havoc on our essential public services, and creating an environment in which Oldham is likely to suffer from years of unnecessary social and economic pain.

In these circumstances, the people of this constituency needs an MP who, pending its return of sensible national government, can best mitigate the effects of the government destruction agenda.

The person most suited to this task is Debbie Abrahams.

Both Debbie’s political instincts as a socialist and her professional background in public health mean that she has a sound understanding of how public, voluntary and private organizations can come together to maintain and create sustainable employment in the area even in the face of the government’s economic butchery. 

In circumstances such as these the job of a good local MP is to ensure effective co-ordination of efforts, and the job of a good Labour MP is to ensure that all this happens with equity in mind. The clear purpose of the government is to divide those who have from those who have not; Debbie’s job, working alongside her colleague from Oldham West, Michael Meacher, will be to ensure that a local, town and borough level, regeneration and renewal efforts continue to be pursued in way which meets, as far as possible in the circumstances, the kind of benchmark tests she herself has helped establish through her well-regarded work on Health Impact Assessment.

Just as importantly, Debbie is the only candidate with experience of NHS governance, from her time as Chair of Rochdale Primary Care Trust.  The government is making what is now largely recognized, even by the few Tory MPs who understand the NHS, massively destructive changes to the NHS.  These include the abolition of PCTs and the transfer of commissioning powers to GPs who may neither want nor can cope with them, and who may therefore simply hand over these powers to unaccountable private firms.  In the face of this backdoor privatization, and the knock on effect this will have for community and public health  measures (often undertaken by the voluntary sector), having Debbie in place as the MP – to lead on the development of coherent local alternatives  – is absolutely vital to everyone, and especially the most vulnerable, in the constituency.

This is the case for Debbie Abrahams.  No doubt other candidates have some attributes of their own, but it is Debbie’s particular background, experience and political commitment to public health and social and economic cohesion which make her, by a margin, the best choice for Oldham East & Saddleworth. 

And I don’t say this lightly.  I’m brilliant, and even I lost out to her in the Labour PPC selection.  So she must be good.

Why you should vote UKIP in Oldham East and Saddleworth

January 11, 2011

Our next article in our online hustings puts forward the case for Paul Nuttall and the UK Independence Party. It’s written by Jonathan Arnott, UKIP’s General Secretary.

People in Oldham East & Saddleworth deserve an honest, hard-working MP who will work hard and stand up for local people.  It isn’t easy for the average voter to choose who to vote for in this by-election given that all three of Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives have provable recent track records of lies or broken promises to voters.

As UKIP’s candidate, Paul Nuttall MEP, recently wrote: “Labour’s lies caused this by-election in the first place, the Lib Dems’ recent lies over tuition fees have been all over the news and the Conservatives’ broken promises on the European Union send out a clear message that none of them can be trusted.”

Paul Nuttall is a candidate who takes a different approach.  Representing Oldham in the European Parliament, he doesn’t fear confronting those who, in the name of the ‘European project’, seek to take more and more power away from our elected Westminster Parliament and give it to Brussels bureaucrats.

As your MP, he would be able to stand up for issues that matter to local people.  On the economy, people are rightly terrified of the Coalition’s cuts.  Paul understands that Labour’s overspending couldn’t be allowed to continue forever – but where is the sheer determination to make sure that front-line services are protected?  Where is the genuine commitment to make sure that the most vulnerable people don’t have their support cut?

Paul and UKIP have said for years that as a society we need to reward hard work – and increase the tax threshold so that no-one pays tax on minimum wage.  People must always be better off working than they would be on benefits – how sad it is when someone remains on long-term benefits because society has made it impossible for them to afford to take a job!  We could use the money saved by leaving the European Union, scrapping PFI and slashing quangos to help working people and make our economy competitive enough to recover.

Paul has also been campaigning on immigration and crime.  We have to face up to the fact that the UK is already overcrowded, and pressures on housing and infrastructure can’t allow our population to keep increasing by 400,000 a year.  Again, the ‘traditional’ parties cannot do anything about it because they support membership of the EU – and therefore, giving half a billion people the right to settle in the UK with no questions asked.  For an overcrowded island that’s just not sustainable.

We have to send a message out that crime doesn’t pay to protect the safety of people in Oldham and Saddleworth.  That’s why Paul is passionately opposed to ‘votes for prisoners’ – UKIP are passionately pro-civil liberties but those who commit crime must accept temporary suspension of some of those liberties.

So if the LibLabCon’s track record doesn’t suit you, then please don’t stay at home on Thursday.  It’s clear that Paul Nuttall would make an excellent MP; so if you agree with us please vote for Paul Nuttall and UKIP on Thursday!

Why you should vote Liberal Democrat in Oldham East and Saddleworth

January 11, 2011

The start of the second day of our online hustings. This article on why you should vote for Elwyn Watkins and the Liberal Democrats comes from Nick Thornsby, winner of Lib Dem Voice’s Best New Blog 2010.

The Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election is many things, but one thing it isn’t – or shouldn’t be at any rate – is merely a referendum on the government.
The media and the Labour party will try and tell you otherwise, for obvious reasons. The media, because framing the election in this way allows them to write endless stories before, during and after about ‘what the by-election means for the coalition’.
And the Labour party because, well, what else have they got to say?
One thing this by-election certainly is, is the voters’ chance to take part in the free and fair election they were denied in May thanks to the lies told by Phil Woolas about his Liberal Democrat opponent.
Were it not for Elwyn Watkins, the Liberal Democrat candidate, Phil Woolas’s lying and stirring-up of racial tension would have gone completely unpunished – it would have been five years before the voters of Oldham and Saddleworth got to have their say again.
Now, like Elwyn, the people of Oldham and Saddleworth have the opportunity to take a stand. They can say that they are angry about having been told outright lies in May. They can decide that they deserve better.
They have to ask: Will voting for the Labour candidate really do that?
There are two more reasons that Oldham and Saddleworth voters should vote Liberal Democrat on Thursday 13th January.
Firstly, a vote for Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins is a vote for a hard-working, straight-talking MP who is not simply in politics to be part of a cosy Westminister club. He has years of experience as a Councillor, and knows the constituency well.
And secondly because, in short, more Liberal Democrat MPs means more Liberal Democrat policies. The coalition is already implementing dozens of Liberal Democrat policies from our May manifesto, including raising the income tax threshold, reforming our politics and investing in education, yet we only have 57 MPs out of 650. Every extra Liberal Democrat MP means Nick Clegg has more leverage to implement more Liberal Democrat policies.

So, if Oldham and Saddleworth residents think Elwyn Watkins was right to stand up to Phil Woolas; if they believe that Oldham and Saddleworth deserves better; if they want an MP who will fight for the area in Parliament; and if they want more Liberal Democrat policies implemented to improve Britain, then voting Liberal Democrat on Thursday 13th May is their only choice.

Why you should vote Green in Oldham East and Saddleworth

January 10, 2011

Our third and final hustings post of today comes from Peter Allen, the Green Party candidate.

I am employed as an Advice Worker in Manchester and every day I see the misery and worry caused by the Government cuts and by unemployment.

The Green Party has a fully costed set of policies which do not involve cuts in public services. We would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in renewable energy, recycling and upgrading the housing stock. We would reduce the obscene level of inequality that blights our society. The Coalition Government are proposing vicious cuts in public spending which will hit the poorest hardest and will do lasting damage to our public services. Their policies will deepen the recession and increase unemployment .* The alternative presented by the Green Party, paid for by increasing taxation of the rich , clamping down on tax  avoidance and evasion , and withdrawing British troops from Afghanistan, is needed more than ever.

I have been inspired  by the ongoing protests by students against the proposed rise in tuition fees and the abolition of EMA. Only the Green Party is prepared to defund and fund the principle of free higher education and to properly support young people and their parents through an increase in Child Benefit.

The voters of Oldham East and Saddleworth are the first to have the opportunity to express an opinion about this government at the ballot box. I am asking people to reject their divisive and damaging policies  and support instead the Green Party’s commitment to a more equal, just and sustainable society.

*A paper cowritten by Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas  concludes that cutting the job of an average paid public sector worker (paid £25,000 per year) might save as little as £2,000 per year once taxation lost and benefits paid out are taken into account.Moreover the reduced spending power of such a  redundant worker would threaten the security of private sector employment in the economy.

See here.


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