Posts Tagged ‘Stratford’

Private Eye: Despite Denials, Dawn Butler Did Conspire Against Corbyn

February 5, 2020

This fortnight’s Private Eye for 7th – 20th February 2020 has a piece about Dawn Butler, the Shadow Equalities Minister, who is one of the candidates for the Labour Party deputy leadership. Butler has been claiming very loudly that she never took part in any coup to unseat Jeremy Corbyn, in a bid to gain support from the party’s left. Or rather, to old Labour types like myself, the real Labour centre and mainstream. However, Private Eye has contradicted this and said that it simply isn’t true. The article on page 9 runs

Labour politicians who thought they had seen it all have been left gasping in goggle-eyed astonishment at the shameless brass neck of “Red” Dawn Butler. She is prepared to say or do anything in her quest for party’s deputy leadership.

Butler has decided the route to victory lies in feeding the belief of left-wing members that Corbyn would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those meddling MPs. “We have some real selfish MPs,” she said as she outlined her plan colleagues’ treachery at the deputy leadership hustings at the end of January. After “Jeremy” was elected as leader, they thought it was OK to “join a coup” and deselect him. They “lost us” the 2017 election.

Butler’s own loyalty stood in stark contrast to their backstabbing. “I supported Jeremy the first time and I supported him the second time but I was more angry the second time because it should never have happened.”

The Eye apologises for baffling readers with the arcane jargon of academia, but Butler was talking what political scientists call “total bollocks”. As a matter of record, leading the MPs who resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet was the “False” Dawn herself. Her colleagues have also noted the effectiveness of Butler’s fight against what she described in the Mirror on 24 January as the “disgrace” of poverty in “one of the wealthiest countries in the world.”

She almost certainly has no intention of allowing poverty to disgrace her. The expenses scandal revealed that, even though she was a London MP and did not appear to need a publicly funded second home, she still had one house in Wembley and another in Stratford, and claimed for a jacuzzi-style bath to be fitted. “Labour must put aspiration at the heart of the class struggle,” Butler told the Mirror. This contest is revealing that nothing is closer to Butler’s heart than her aspirations for herself.

Now I assume this is all correct, but it should be noted that over the past five years or so that Corbyn has been head of the party, Private Eye has been consistently attacking him. He’s head of the Labour Party, so it’s natural that the magazine would attack him simply as a matter of course, same as it would the other political leaders. However, part of the Eye’s campaign against him was pushing the anti-Semitism smears against both himself and his supporters. The Eye was founded by former public schoolboys, and is still very much establishment. Possibly far more so now than when it started out, as it did initially support the Labour party. Or at least right up until the time the Tories fell and they entered government. The Eye showed that it feared and hated Corbyn as someone who took socialism and working class aspirations and needs seriously, as well as his internationalism and very open support for the Palestinians. This means that it will definitely have a bias against Butler, at least now that she is positioning herself as from the Party’s Left. Butler also has a point that part of the reason Corbyn never succeeded in taking Number 10 was because he was always being undermined by plotting and intrigue from the Blairite right, even if she was a part of it at the time.

I’ve posted up a piece already, split into two parts, criticising her plans for Black and Asian only shortlists and her determination to fight misogyny. Praiseworthy as these ideals are, in the current political climate there are real questions and drawbacks to both. If they aren’t carefully handled, they could increase and create new forms of racism and sexism, rather than combat them.

I therefore leave it up to the reader to decide for him- or herself whether Private Eye is right about her, and whether they are publishing this as a genuine exposure of her mendacity, duplicity and greed. Or whether they’re simply doing it because they want to discredit her as someone now claiming to represent the Labour left.

 

Surveillance Britain: Police Using Massively Inaccurate Facial Recognition Technology on Ordinary Brits

May 20, 2019

Here’s another piece of news that should further worry anyone concerned that Britain is slowly sliding down the tubes towards a surveillance state. The rozzers have launched a pilot scheme for a facial recognition system. They’re testing it out by photographing the fizzogs of ordinary British citizens walking down the streets. And it’s already resulted in one extremely dubious arrest. One man didn’t want to be photographed by the cops, and so he hid his face. The rozzers then pounced and fined him for ‘disorderly conduct’. This was filmed by the Beeb’s Politics Live. It’s completely disgraceful. The man had committed no crime, except to protect his own privacy against the state.

Mike in his article on this points out that there have been a couple of incidents where attempts to compile information on ordinary members of the public have resulted in disastrous mistakes, or deeply worrying infringements of personal freedom. For example, there were the innocent people, who suddenly found themselves with criminal records when their prospective employers started making background checks. Many of them were wrongly left without jobs because of this. And then there’s the DNA genetic database scandal, in which genetic material obtained from the public has been kept by the police, some of which was then illegally passed on for use in genetic research.

Mike also shows how this technology is also massively inaccurate. It had a failure rate of 96 per cent in eight trials in London between 2016 and 2018 according to the Independent. The software gave false positives, wrongly identifying innocent people as crims. It was also deployed twice in a shopping centre outside Stratford last year, where it had a failure rate of 100 per cent. This resulted in people being wrongly identified, including a 14 year old Black schoolboy, who was fingerprinted. The cops also stopped people for covering their faces and wearing hoods, and one man was fined for doing so in  Romford. The Independent found that shoppers were unaware their photos were being taken, despite the rozzers’ claim that the tests were overt, and campaigners have said that it’s being rolled out by stealth.

But despite its dangers and massive inaccuracy, the scheme is being defended by the Tories. Police Minister Nick Hurd has said that the technology offers ‘real opportunities’, said we are not a surveillance state, and that they have no intention of becoming one, and so the new technology must be used in a way that is sensitive to their impact on privacy, and proportionate.

To which Mike comments

Fail. It’s not sensitive to privacy and its use isn’t proportionate. But the Tories – and the police – won’t withdraw it, so we can only conclude that we do – indeed – live in a police surveillance state.

Police state Britain: Failed facial recognition pilot leads to fine for disorderly conduct. WTF?

This is precisely the type of information gathering that Privacy International and other campaigners were warning about in the ’90s. When DNA evidence first began to be collected, there were fears that it would be used to set up a national DNA database. In one incident, all the men in a small town where a rape had been committed were asked to supply samples of their DNA. There were concerns about what would happen to it afterwards, and that the material would be retained, even though the men were innocent. There were also fears that the collection of such samples would go from being simple requests to demands, and that anyone who refused, would automatically come under suspicion, even though they may be innocent.

It also reminds of the way the police also started compiling records in the 1980s of people they considered suspicious, as revealed in the Beeb documentary, Secret State. Perfectly innocent people suddenly had police files opened on them and their movements recorded for reasons that reflected the prejudices of the cops, rather than anything they’d done. Like being punks. One teenage girl was marked down as a potential suspect simply because she was pregnant and there was no father.

I am also not surprised by the massive failure rate of the technology at the moment. It seems par for the course that any and all information technology adopted by the state should be seriously flawed. Like all the computer systems supplied to local authorities in the 1990s by outsourcing companies like Crapita.

Black people are particularly at risk from these systems. The I newspaper a few weeks ago reported on the concerns about the massive under-representation of women and ethnic minorities in the computer industry. Only four per cent of employees in one of the big American tech giants came from ethnic minorities. As a result, the pattern recognition system they developed misidentified Black people as gorillas. Which makes you wonder who programmed this wretched system. The Klan?

As for not becoming a surveillance society, privacy campaigners have warned repeatedly about the dangers of ‘function creep’. Once one innovation or strategy is adopted, other agencies will want to use it, and so it will expand. Also, other forms have surveillance have become normalised. There were serious concerns about the use of CCTV cameras when they first appeared. Alan Moore deliberately wrote them into his depiction of a Fascist Britain in the V for Vendetta comic. He thought at the time that this would really shock people. Niall Ferguson shared his fears. He was also alarmed at how ubiquitous CCTV cameras had become here after he returned from a visit to China. But he was also astonished at how his concerns were not shared by anyone else.

And with the campaign by the IT and automobile industries, I wonder how long it will be before we get the repressive police state and its robots described by the great SF writer Ray Bradbury in his short story, ‘The Pedestrian’. In this tale, a man is stopped by a robotic police car simply for taking a walk in the middle of the night.

It’s SF as the ‘literature of warning’. It’s not meant to be prophetic. But somehow that seems to be the future these technologies are leading to.