Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Labour, solidarity and the pensions strike

Letter to the Guardian:

"Labour MSPs in Scotland and Labour assembly members in Wales will refuse to cross picket lines on 30 November in solidarity with millions of public sector workers. As Labour MPs and councillors we will not cross picket lines at Westminster or town halls. Instead we will be joining picket lines to do what Labour politicians should do: be on the side of labour.

The government's attack on public sector pensions is totally unjustified and unsupported by any economic or actuarial case. It is a crude attack on public sector workers who are already suffering a pay freeze while many face the threat of losing their jobs. This is part of a wider attack by this government on public services and the welfare state, which Labour must resist.

We stand in full solidarity with workers on 30 November – and encourage our fellow Labour politicians to do so too."

John McDonnell MP, LRC Chair
Linda Riordan MP, Halifax
Ronnie Campbell MP, Blyth Valley
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Paul Flynn MP, Newport West
Martin Caton MP, Gower
Cllr Charlynne Pullen, Islington
Cllr Kevin Hind, Bury St Edmunds
Cllr Andrea Oates, Broxtowe
Cllr Geoff Lumley, Isle of Wight
Cllr Andy Walker, Redbridge
Cllr Kieran Thorpe, Welwyn Hatfield
Cllr Claire Traynor, Maghull
Cllr Mike Jones, Maghull
Cllr Kingsley Abrams, Lambeth
Cllr Dave Young, Calderdale
Cllr Clive Grunshaw, Wyre/Lancashire
Cllr Mike Rowley, Oxford
Cllr Van Coulter, Oxford
Cllr Matthew Brown, Preston
Cllr Jenny Smith, Bristol
Cllr John McGhee, East Ayrshire
Cllr Jay Kramer, Hastings
Cllr Patrick Vernon, Hackney
Cllr John Tanner, Oxford
Cllr Tom Neilson, North West Leicestershire
Cllr Mick O'Sullivan, Islington
Cllr Sam Tarry, Barking & Dagenham
Cllr Tony Belton, Wandsworth
Cllr Lynne Allen, Hillingdon
Cllr Greg Marshall, Broxtowe
Cllr Barry Buitekant, Hackney

Please note that the image does not form part of the letter

Monday, 28 November 2011

Film director Ken Russell dies aged 84

"Never wear jeans. They signify a lapse of taste. 
I've never been in fashion. I'm ahead of my time, not in step with it."

1927 - 2011

Friday, 18 November 2011

Branson takes Northern Rock private

By Sharlene Goff, Elizabeth Rigby and Patrick Jenkins of the Financial Times

Sir Richard Branson is taking nationalised bank Northern Rock back into private hands four years after its collapse triggered widespread panic across financial markets. Virgin Money, backed by a consortium including US financier Wilbur Ross, has agreed to buy the bank for £900m ($1.42bn), including debt. The government has taken a loss of up to £500m on the “good” part of Northern Rock – which it propped up with £1.4bn of equity in 2010. Ed Balls, shadow chancellor, questioned whether it was the best time to sell banking assets given that markets were “in turmoil”.

Analysts said the price – which includes £747m in cash, £150m of debt and a further £130m depending on future business performance – was reasonable considering the dire state of the economy. The total return from Northern Rock will also reflect the contribution from its £45bn old loan portfolio, which has made about £600m of profit. George Osborne, chancellor, said the deal offered “value for money”, adding: “It was clear to us that this was the best deal for the British taxpayer. We were getting more money back than any other deal on the table.”

The sale marks the end for one of the most notorious names in British high street banking. Northern Rock will be rebranded as Virgin when the deal completes on January 1. People close to the deal said Mr Ross was the biggest investor, putting up £260m of cash, compared with £50m apiece from Virgin Group and Stanhope Investments, the Abu Dhabi fund. Virgin will have a stake of about 46 per cent in the newly enlarged Virgin Money, with Mr Ross holding 44 per cent and Stanhope close to 10 per cent.

Sir Richard’s ambitions for Virgin are muted despite his desire to challenge the UK’s biggest banks. It does not plan to open more branches than the 75 acquired and will not launch current accounts until 2013. Mr Ross plans to sell out in a few years when Virgin will look to float part of the bank for 1.5 times book value, compared with the 0.8-0.9 ratio paid by Virgin. Lord Myners, the former Labour city minister, said given the “respectable” price paid, he was “not sure the backers on the Virgin deal will enjoy a particularly good return”.

Virgin Money was advised by Greenhill and Virgin Group by Quayle Munro. The government was advised by Deutsche Bank.

Financial Times & Steve Bell, the Guardian

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Benetton pulls advert with Pope kissing imam

The Benetton clothing company has withdrawn an advert showing Pope Benedict XVI kissing a top Egyptian imam on the lips after the Vatican denounced it as an "unacceptable" provocation. Benetton had said its "Unhate" campaign launched Wednesday is aimed at fostering tolerance and "global love."

The campaign's fake photos show six purported political nemeses in lip-locked embraces, including Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez, and Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. The photo of the Pope had been on the company's website all day but was pulled about an hour after the Vatican's protest. A Benetton spokesman confirmed to The Associated Press that the Pope advert is no longer part of the campaign.

Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement that the advert was "an offence against the sentiments of the faithful and a clear example of how advertising can violate elementary rules of respect for people in order to attract attention through provocation."

On the company's website, executive deputy chairman Alessandro Benetton is quoted as saying that global love is an ambitious but realistic goal. "At this moment in history, so full of major upheavals and equally large hopes, we have decided, through this campaign, to give widespread visibility to an ideal notion of tolerance and invite the citizens of every country to reflect on how hatred arises particularly from fear of 'the other’ and of what is unfamiliar to us," he said.

Associated Press

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Work Programme company wanted volunteers to train clients

A4e, a prime contractor for welfare-to-work training, asked a volunteer centre to provide it with volunteers to help with CV workshops for the unemployed, writes Chloë Stothart for Third Sector Online.

A4e, one of the prime providers of the Department for Work and Pensions’ Work Programme, asked Volunteer Centre Oxfordshire in an email if it could provide volunteers to help with CV workshops for unemployed people on the programme. A4e did not specify in the message how long the work would last but did require the volunteers to get Criminal Records Bureau checks.

The email, sent by Howard Goldby on behalf of Hannah Aubrey at A4e Oxford, said: "What we are hoping for is some volunteers to help the trainer on the workshops, as some of our customers need more one-to-one support to complete their CVs. The ideal volunteer would possess very good IT skills, a lot of patience, and be able to work alongside the trainer so that the customer will have a completed CV."

The centre did not refer any volunteers to A4e. Lindsay Watts, manager of the Volunteer Centre Oxfordshire, said Work Programme providers referring clients to volunteer centres without paying the centres "gives people the wrong impression of volunteering. It is taking advantage of people who do not know any different. They might not even know it is a profit-making company."

Nigel Lemmon, welfare director at A4e, said in a statement: "It is not A4e’s policy to expect volunteer agencies to work for free under the Work Programme and we take this accusation very seriously. It is not in our interest, or the interest of those we help, to do so. Working fairly with third sector partners is important to us and critical to the successful delivery of the Work Programme for us all. We are investigating these allegations thoroughly. We only work with volunteer agencies where they are happy to work with us to support our customers back into work – improving the lives of those individuals and benefiting their communities."

Monday, 14 November 2011

Pebble-pinching penguins

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Berlusconi resigns

Silvio Berlusconi has tendered his resignation as Italian prime minister. President Giorgio Napolitano accepted his offer and is likely to appoint technocrat Mario Monti his successor. Berlusconi lost his majority amid an acute debt crisis that threatens the eurozone. He promised to go once MPs had approved new austerity measures. He is Italy's longest-serving post-World War II prime minister - having dominated political life for 17 years. His premiership has recently been marred by many scandals.

Berlusconi's journey to the presidential palace was an undignified one. He was booed along the way, with demonstrators calling him a "buffoon". The outgoing prime minister said he felt "embittered" after hearing the insults.

After losing his parliamentary majority on Tuesday, Berlusconi promised to resign after austerity measures, demanded by the EU and designed to restore markets' confidence in the country's economy, were passed by both houses of parliament. Members of the lower house voted 380-26 with two abstentions on Saturday, a day after the Senate approved the measures that have now been signed into law.

Berlusconi has been prime minister three times since he first took office in 1994. He has described himself as Italy's best head of government since the country was created nearly 150 years ago. However, he is currently involved in several trials for fraud, corruption and having sex with an under-age girl, and has attracted media attention for so-called "bunga-bunga" parties which young women were allegedly paid to attend.

After accepting Mr Berlusconi's resignation, Mr Napolitano is expected to formally ask Mr Monti or another candidate to form a government of technocrats.

Paris Olympics 1924

A fascinating image for the games considering what was to take place in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Frankfurt Group is turning back the democratic clock

The European Union has always had problems with democracy, a messy process that can interfere with the grand designs of people at the top who know best. When Ireland voted no to the Nice Treaty, it was told to come up with the right result in a second ballot. The European Central Bank wields immense power, but nobody knows how the unelected members of its governing council vote because no minutes of meetings are published. That said, the latest phase of Europe's sovereign debt crisis has exposed the quite flagrant contempt for voters, the people who are going to bear the full weight of the austerity programmes being cooked up by the political elites.

Here's how things work. The real decisions in Europe are now taken by the Frankfurt Group, an unelected cabal made of up eight people: Lagarde; Merkel; Sarkozy; Mario Draghi, the new president of the ECB; José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission; Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the Eurogroup; Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European Council; and Olli Rehn, Europe's economic and monetary affairs commissioner.

This group, which is accountable to no one, calls the shots in Europe. The cabal decides whether Greece should be allowed to hold a referendum and if and when Athens should get the next tranche of its bailout cash. What matters to this group is what the financial markets think not what voters might want. To the extent that governments had any power, it has been removed and placed in the hands of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF. It is as if the democratic clock has been turned back to the days when France was ruled by the Bourbons.

In the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that electorates have resorted to general strikes and street protests to have their say. Governments come and go but the policies remain the same, creating a glaring democratic deficit. This would be deeply troubling even if it could be shown that the Frankfurt Group's economic remedies were working, which they are not. Instead, the insistence on ever more austerity is pushing Europe's weaker countries into an economic death spiral while their voters are being bypassed. That is a dangerous mixture.

Larry Elliot, the Guardian

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The 1% are the very best destroyers of wealth the world has ever seen

Our common treasury in the last thirty years has been captured by industrial psychopaths - that's why we're nearly bankrupt, writes George Monbiot

If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire. The claims that the ultra-rich 1% make for themselves – that they are possessed of unique intelligence or creativity or drive – are examples of the self-attribution fallacy. This means crediting yourself with outcomes for which you weren't responsible. Many of those who are rich today got there because they were able to capture certain jobs. This capture owes less to talent and intelligence than to a combination of the ruthless exploitation of others and accidents of birth, as such jobs are taken disproportionately by people born in certain places and into certain classes.

The findings of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of a Nobel economics prize, are devastating to the beliefs that financial high-fliers entertain about themselves. He discovered that their apparent success is a cognitive illusion. For example, he studied the results achieved by 25 wealth advisers across eight years. He found that the consistency of their performance was zero. "The results resembled what you would expect from a dice-rolling contest, not a game of skill." Those who received the biggest bonuses had simply got lucky.

Such results have been widely replicated. They show that traders and fund managers throughout Wall Street receive their massive remuneration for doing no better than would a chimpanzee flipping a coin. When Kahneman tried to point this out, they blanked him. "The illusion of skill … is deeply ingrained in their culture."

So much for the financial sector and its super-educated analysts. As for other kinds of business, you tell me. Is your boss possessed of judgment, vision and management skills superior to those of anyone else in the firm, or did he or she get there through bluff, bullshit and bullying?

In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading British businesses. They compared the results to the same tests on patients at Broadmoor special hospital, where people who have been convicted of serious crimes are incarcerated. On certain indicators of psychopathy, the bosses's scores either matched or exceeded those of the patients. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders.

The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly, Board and Fritzon point out, closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong sense of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.

In their book Snakes in Suits, Paul Babiak and Robert Hare point out that as the old corporate bureaucracies have been replaced by flexible, ever-changing structures, and as team players are deemed less valuable than competitive risk-takers, psychopathic traits are more likely to be selected and rewarded. Reading their work, it seems to me that if you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a poor family, you're likely to go to prison. If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a rich family, you're likely to go to business school.

This is not to suggest that all executives are psychopaths. It is to suggest that the economy has been rewarding the wrong skills. As the bosses have shaken off the trade unions and captured both regulators and tax authorities, the distinction between the productive and rentier upper classes has broken down. Chief executives now behave like dukes, extracting from their financial estates sums out of all proportion to the work they do or the value they generate, sums that sometimes exhaust the businesses they parasitise. They are no more deserving of the share of wealth they've captured than oil sheikhs.

The rest of us are invited, by governments and by fawning interviews in the press, to subscribe to their myth of election: the belief that they are possessed of superhuman talents. The very rich are often described as wealth creators. But they have preyed on the earth's natural wealth and their workers' labour and creativity, impoverishing both people and planet. Now they have almost bankrupted us. The wealth creators of neoliberal mythology are some of the most effective wealth destroyers the world has ever seen.

What has happened over the past 30 years is the capture of the world's common treasury by a handful of people, assisted by neoliberal policies which were first imposed on rich nations by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. I am now going to bombard you with figures. I'm sorry about that, but these numbers need to be tattooed on our minds. Between 1947 and 1979, productivity in the US rose by 119%, while the income of the bottom fifth of the population rose by 122%. But from 1979 to 2009, productivity rose by 80%, while the income of the bottom fifth fell by 4%. In roughly the same period, the income of the top 1% rose by 270%.

In the UK, the money earned by the poorest tenth fell by 12% between 1999 and 2009, while the money made by the richest 10th rose by 37%. The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, climbed in this country from 26 in 1979 to 40 in 2009.

In his book The Haves and the Have Nots, Branko Milanovic tries to discover who was the richest person who has ever lived. Beginning with the loaded Roman triumvir Marcus Crassus, he measures wealth according to the quantity of his compatriots' labour a rich man could buy. It appears that the richest man to have lived in the past 2,000 years is alive today. Carlos Slim could buy the labour of 440,000 average Mexicans. This makes him 14 times as rich as Crassus, nine times as rich as Carnegie and four times as rich as Rockefeller.

Until recently, we were mesmerised by the bosses' self-attribution. Their acolytes, in academia, the media, thinktanks and government, created an extensive infrastructure of junk economics and flattery to justify their seizure of other people's wealth. So immersed in this nonsense did we become that we seldom challenged its veracity.

This is now changing. On Sunday evening I witnessed a remarkable thing: a debate on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral between Stuart Fraser, chairman of the Corporation of the City of London, another official from the corporation, the turbulent priest Father William Taylor, John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network and the people of Occupy London. It had something of the flavour of the Putney debates of 1647. For the first time in decades – and all credit to the corporation officials for turning up – financial power was obliged to answer directly to the people.

It felt like history being made. The undeserving rich are now in the frame, and the rest of us want our money back.

George Monbiot is the author of the bestselling books 'The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order' and 'Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain'

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cameron 'delighted as union leaders walk into strike trap'

Strikes by millions of public sector workers over reform of their pensions will bolster support for the Government's austerity drive, senior cabinet sources have claimed.

No 10 is said to be "delighted" at the prospect of walkouts on 30th November despite a more generous offer being made to union leaders last week. Liberal Democrat and Conservative ministers privately believe their argument will be strengthened by public anger at disruption by state workers who will still have more generous retirement funds than most in the private sector.

"Militancy could be good for the coalition in the longer term," said a very senior Lib Dem minister. "It will be troublesome immediately, but the public is not with the unions. In the current economic circumstances, it will be difficult for the unions to gain public support for their case. We are confident that we can win the argument, and strikes will only damage the unions." A Conservative minister added: "It is clear No 10 is delighted that the unions have fallen into their trap."

Last week the Government unveiled a new offer as the "best we are going to get" in terms of money, which included future schemes being based on a pension to the value of 1/60th of average salary accruing for each year worked rather than 1/65th. No one less than ten years off retirement will see changes to the date they can draw their pension or the amount they receive. If a deal can be struck, no further changes would be made for twenty-five years.

The unions immediately said the offer was not good enough to call off strikes that will hit public services including schools, courts, hospitals and councils. Ministers are gambling that the public will not side with strikers. The talks have been led from the Government side by Francis Maude, the Tory Cabinet Office minister, and Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury. "We want agreement and to be able to finalise details of the plans by the end of the year," said a source close to the talks. "The ball is now in the unions' court."

The Government insists that it is a "basic mathematical issue" that civil service pensions need reform. No 10 has vowed to do "whatever we can to ameliorate the consequences of the strike", and believes the walkouts could drive a wedge between the unions and the public. "If you are a public sector worker you will still end up in a situation where you have a defined pension at the end of it that's clear and generous," a Downing Street insider said. "If you are in the private sector, the vast majority don't know what their pension is."

Unison, which represents one million people, from school dinner ladies and bin collectors to social workers and NHS staff, defended the results of its ballot in favour of striking after just 29 per cent of those eligible took part. Ballot papers have now been sent to 200,000 members of the NASUWT teaching union. They are expected to be joined by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Union of Teachers, and for the first time in the dispute the National Association of Head Teachers is balloting members.

The Department for Education, which assumes the 30th November strike will be "bigger" than the one in June, is sending a two-page information bulletin to every school in England in an attempt to persuade teachers not to strike. Similar information is being distributed by the Department of Health and the Treasury.

Last month, Mr Maude told The Independent on Sunday: "At a time when the economy is not growing as strongly as everyone hoped, I think for the trade unions to be casually engaging in strike action that inflicted economic damage would imperil any goodwill that exists towards the trade union movement."

Independent on Sunday

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Families 'left stranded in appalling conditions' due to government cuts to regeneration projects

People have been "left stranded in appalling conditions" as a result of government cuts to regeneration projects, a group of MPs has said. The Communities and Local Government Committee said efforts to improve deprived parts of the North and Midlands had been stopped mid-stream. It said the government had "no adequate strategy" for regeneration in England and must help those left "trapped".

75 Grant Shapps: Don’t blame me, blame Labour

The cross-party committee focused on the decision to wind up the controversial Pathfinder housing renewal scheme last year. The scheme was designed to revive run-down areas in the North West, the Midlands, the North East and Yorkshire by tearing down old terraces and building new homes. But critics called it "an exercise in social cleansing" and said it had resulted in perfectly good houses being demolished - and often not replaced - when they could have been renovated. The committee said the decision to end funding for Pathfinder had left a "profound impact" on people's lives.

Labour chairman Clive Betts said: "We saw and heard for ourselves what happens when the government stops investing in regeneration. "In Rochdale, we found row upon row of boarded-up houses, the direct result of the withdrawal [of funding]. We met a family trapped in a half-abandoned street after the promise of a new home was not fulfilled. We heard similar stories from other Pathfinder areas. People have been left stranded in appalling conditions: many are owner-occupiers, often vulnerable people with no other options. The government must act to help these people and to eradicate the blight that has been left in so many neighbourhoods."

The committee said the government's regeneration strategy, published in January, provides "little confidence" that ministers have a clear plan of action. "It lacks strategic direction and is unclear about the nature of the problem it is trying to solve," the MPs said. "It focuses overwhelmingly upon the achievement of economic growth, giving little emphasis to the specific issues faced by deprived communities and areas of market failure." The MPs warned that government plans were "unlikely to bring in sufficient resources" - including from private sector sources - to improve the situation, and leaving deprived areas without help risked storing up social, economic and environmental problems for the future.

In response, Grant Shapps said it had been "tough picking up the pieces" from Labour's attempts at regeneration which relied on "bulldozing buildings... whilst desperately hoping someone might come along to reorder the rubble.

"We'll shortly be announcing additional funding to help those people living in the worst-affected streets, and we'll continue to untie the hands of councils and residents so they can make the key decisions over how they would like to improve their own neighbourhoods," he said. "But we know that true regeneration can only be achieved by creating the conditions for communities and businesses to thrive in. That's why local enterprise partnerships have already replaced the failed regional development agencies, and low-tax, low-regulation enterprise zones are being planted across the country to give businesses the incentives they need to grow their local economy and create thousands of new jobs."

BBC News

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

MPs call for tougher sentences for hate crimes

MPs are calling for tougher sentences for hate crimes committed against disabled people amid concern that they are on the increase.  An all-party group is pressing for such offences to be put on the same footing as acts of violence motivated by race, religion or sexual orientation, which would mean stiffer penalties.  The courts would have to take account of the motive when fixing the sentence.  For example, a life sentence for the murder of a disabled person would attract a longer minimum jail term.

Kate Green, the shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, has tabled amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill being debated in the Commons this week, which would ensure tougher penalties.  Her backers include Paul Maynard, a Tory MP and Simon Wright, a Liberal Democrat.

Ms Green said the aim was to "put the Government on the spot" to ensure that the issue of crimes against the disabled are taken more seriously.  She said a new approach was needed on a much wider front than sentencing.  "There is a growing problem of public hostility towards the disabled," she said.  "Public agencies sometimes appear to challenge the victims rather than the perpetrators."

The move follows the tragedy of Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her daughter in 2007 after being subjected to ten years of harassment and anti-social behaviour.  The family complained at least thirty-three times to Leicestershire Police.  Although an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission found that the police missed several opportunities to act, four officers were cleared of misconduct.

A study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that the case was only the "tip of the iceberg" because harassment of the disabled was "a serious problem."  It found that many disabled people were afraid to report such abuse, fearing the consequences or that they would not be believed.

The Independent

Challenging the idols of high finance

By Rowan Williams

In an article for the Financial Times, the Archbishop of Canterbury has thrown his weight behind the St Paul’s Cathedral anti-capitalist protesters, calling for a new tax on banks.

“It has sometimes been said in recent years that the Church of England is still used by British society as a sort of stage on which to conduct by proxy the arguments that society itself doesn't know how to handle. It certainly helps to explain the obsessional interest in what the Church has to say about issues of sex and gender. It may help to explain just what has been going on around St Paul's Cathedral in the last couple of weeks.

The protest at St Paul's was seen by an unexpectedly large number of people as the expression of a widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment that shows no sign at all of diminishing. There is still a powerful sense around – fair or not – of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers; of messages not getting through; of impatience with a return to 'business as usual' – represented by still soaring bonuses and little visible change in banking practices.

So it was not surprising that initial reactions to what was happening at St Paul's and to the welcome offered by the Cathedral were quite sympathetic. Here were people – protesters and clergy too, it seemed – saying on our behalf that 'something must be done'. A marker had been put down, though, comfortingly, not in a way that made any very specific demands.

The cataract of unintended consequences that followed has been dramatic. The Cathedral found itself trapped between what must have looked like equally unpleasant alternative courses of action. Two outstandingly gifted clergy have resigned. The Chapter has now decided against legal action. Everyone has been able to be wise after the event and to pour scorn on the Cathedral in particular and the Church of England in general for failing to know how to square the circle of public interest and public protest.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Statement from St Paul’s Cathedral on suspending legal action against Occupy London

St Paul's Cathedral says it is suspending its current legal action against the anti-capitalist protest camp outside the church. Here is the full statement:

“The Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral has unanimously agreed to suspend its current legal action against the protest camp outside the church, following meetings with Dr Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, late last night and early this morning.

The resignation of the Dean, the Rt Rev Graeme Knowles, has given the opportunity to reassess the situation, involving fresh input from the bishop. Members of Chapter this morning have met with representatives from the protest camp to demonstrate that St Paul's intends to engage directly and constructively with both the protesters and the moral and ethical issues they wish to address, without the threat of forcible eviction hanging over both the camp and the church.

It is being widely reported that the Corporation of London plans to ask protesters to leave imminently. The Chapter of course recognises the Corporation's right to take such action on Corporation land.

The bishop has invited investment banker Ken Costa formerly chair of UBS Europe and chairman of Lazard International, to spearhead an initiative reconnecting the financial with the ethical. Mr Costa will be supported by a number of City, Church and public figures, including Giles Fraser, who although no longer a member of Chapter, will help ensure that the diverse voices of the protest are involved in this.

The Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, said: "The alarm bells are ringing all over the world. St Paul's has now heard that call. Today's decision means that the doors are most emphatically open to engage with matters concerning not only those encamped around the cathedral but millions of others in this country and around the globe. I am delighted that Ken Costa has agreed to spearhead this new initiative which has the opportunity to make a profound difference."

The Rt Rev Michael Colclough, Canon Pastor of St Paul's Cathedral and a member of Chapter, added: "This has been an enormously difficult time for the Cathedral but the Chapter is unanimous in its desire to engage constructively with the protest and the serious issues that have been raised, without the threat of legal action hanging over us. Legal concerns have been at the forefront in recent weeks but now is the time for the moral, the spiritual and the theological to come to the fore."


Imagine – Grayson Perry: The Tomb Of The Unknown Craftsman

The new season of BBC1's Imagine begins with Grayson Perry – The Tomb Of The Unknown Craftsman. Over a two-year period, Imagine has had exclusive access to the creation of Perry's latest exhibition at the British Museum. This unique portrait of the artist at work sees editor and presenter Alan Yentob delve into Grayson Perry's childhood, join him on a motorbike pilgrimage to Germany and follow him as he explores the artefacts in the British Museum's collection which will inspire his own exhibition.

Throughout this period, Perry has been given free rein to choose items from the British Museum's extensive collection of more than eight million objects to feature in his exhibition alongside his own creations; from his trademark ceramics to sculptures, tapestries and even a working motorbike. The resulting exhibition, The Tomb Of The Unknown Craftsman, is his most ambitious show yet.

10.35-11.35pm  tonight on BBC1