Richard Wilson's blog

richardcameronwilson AT yahoo dot co dot UK

Posts Tagged ‘Don’t Get Fooled Again

The Corruption Party launches its manifesto…

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In each of the three main parties there are MPs and Peers whose central ideological commitment is self-advancement. These are the people who will slavishly follow the instructions of their leadership rather than questioning the official line, lavish favours on their corporate sponsors, grab every financial perk that Parliament’s opaque and discredited rules allow, threaten to sue for libel when exposed, and steadfastly oppose efforts to reform the UK state’s secretive and corruption-prone political system.

In reality, these people cannot accurately be described as Conservatives, Liberals or Socialists (champagne or otherwise), because the agenda they follow is not actually about political ideology at all. These people are members of the All Party Group for Corruption and Self-Advancement, aka the Corruption Party.

Members of the cross-bench Corruption Party have far more in common with each other than they do with those MPs across the political spectrum who do their best to represent their constituents honestly, and will not be bought off by vested interests.

Many Corruption Party members were among the 98 MPs who, long before the expenses scandal hit the headlines, tried to stop the issue ever coming to light by quietly voting to exempt themselves from the Freedom of Information Act.

Many others were caught up in the outstanding exposé by the Sunday Times last year, and again this month, when Noble Lords and Right Honorable Members were captured on film offering to turn Parliamentary tricks in exchange for hard cash. Many others have yet to be exposed, but doubtless they will be, sooner or later…

And many more have been involved in efforts to railroad through a draconian law, parts of which have been written in their entirety by corporate lobbyists, that could grant the government sweeping powers to block websites and cut off whole households from the internet, if someone, somewhere, claims that their ‘intellectual property’ has been infringed.

In some cases the corruption will be clearly and demonstrably illegal. More often it thrives amid the loopholes and ambiguities of Parliament’s culture of soft-touch self-regulation. The Party’s main manifesto pledge is to Keep Corruption Legal. Their rallying cry is “I acted entirely within the rules”. Their party slogan is “None of your business”.

But the rank and file of the Corruption Party are the civil servants and Parliamentary staff who help to facilitate the crime. The fees office that waved through exorbitant and unfounded expense claims – and even proactively encouraged MPs to claim more. The departmental staff who hold secret meetings with corporate lobbyists. The civil servants who leave government in order to “hawk their contact book to the highest bidder”.

It’s perhaps inevitable that the most high-profile figures – MPs, ministers and ex-ministers – will fall hardest when exposed. But it seems worth asking whether the cumulative sleaze of the faceless civil servants and quangocrats might not actually be more insidious. While the scrutiny of our MPs’ behaviour is welcome, I suspect that the “next big scandal but one” may end up being about the role played by those people whose names seldom make it onto the front pages.

Written by Richard Wilson

March 30, 2010 at 9:13 am

Standby for more #Trafigura fun and frolics

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We’re still finalising the details, but on Thursday evening I’ll be unveiling the next step in the ongoing campaign to persuade Trafigura to end their attacks on freedom of speech in the UK. It will involve music, and talking, and cameras, and a number of TBC peaceful, legal activities!

If you’d like to get involved, please do contact me via richardcameronwilson AT yahoo dot co dot uk

Written by Richard Wilson

November 17, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Al Jazeera’s “Listening Post” on Trafigura and Carter Ruck

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I’ve long been a fan of Al Jazeera’s willingness to cover stories and angles that other news media won’t touch, and was pleased to have the chance to contribute to the programme above. I was even more pleased when I saw how it had turned out – definitely one of the best overviews of the story that I’ve yet seen.

UPDATE …on a free speech tangent, the techie guerilla campaign against the litigiousness of UK chiropractors continues with a sneaky pop at the General Chiropractic Council.

Written by Richard Wilson

October 29, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Newsnight being threatened by Carter-Ruck for reporting Hansard proceedings

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See also: “Trafigura coverage still curtailed by libel abuse”

From Theyworkforyou

Evan Harris MP: My final question relates to the ongoing problems of English libel law in respect of Trafigura. My understanding is that “Newsnight” is being threatened by the lawyers for Trafigura, Carter-Ruck, if it repeats an allegation against Carter-Ruck that deaths were caused by the dumping of toxic waste in Ivory Coast, even though in 2007 Hansard reported the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations laid by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs before Parliament, and a memorandum of explanation to those regulations stated:

“The recent example of the release of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast leading to the deaths of a number of people and the hospitalisation of thousands underlines the risks involved in the movement and management of waste.”

How can it be that that can be in Hansard, yet there are still threats of legal action against “Newsnight” if it reports the very same wording that is used in there? That cannot be right. Although there are powerful interests at stake, there is a public interest in the fact that there was a settlement made—hundreds of millions of pounds paid over in that settlement—and yet the public in this country are not allowed to know some of the contents of those news reports. We have a responsible media by and large in respect of such matters, and it is about time that English libel laws and English laws in general caught up with that fact.

Written by Richard Wilson

October 23, 2009 at 9:03 am

MPs to debate libel abuse and freedom of speech tomorrow

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gag

CarterRuck have already contacted your MP to give their views on libel, ahead of tomorrow’s debate on freedom of speech. Now’s your chance to give yours: www.tr.im/Cl3D

Written by Richard Wilson

October 20, 2009 at 11:25 am

Tweeters beware: Carter-Ruck’s oil-fuelled attack on press freedom is defeated, for now – but they’ll be back

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Trafigura’s cack-handed law firm Carter Ruck have now backed down from their extraordinary attempt to prevent the media from reporting the proceedings of the UK Parliament. It seems that the outrage generated on Twitter last night (which I had a hand in starting) may have had something to do with it. Gone are the days when it was possible to prevent information from becoming public simply by sending a stern legal letter to all the major newspapers and broadcasters. It’s far harder now to control the flow of information across the vast – and increasingly global – network of thousands of individual bloggers and “tweeters” who make up the internet.

In my more optimistic moments I’m hopeful that the net may ultimately help to stamp out the kinds of legal abuses that have kept dodgy libel firms in business for so long. But I think we also need to be cautious.

It seems to me that at the moment we have a massive opportunity to defend and advance freedom of speech, but this is in large part because the corporate law firms and PR hustlers haven’t yet figured out how to deal with the internet – and as time goes on they may get much better at it. They will also be lobbying vociferously – just as the music industry has already done – for governments to pass new laws (and amend old ones) to make it easier for companies to get sensitive websites blocked, and prosecute individuals who damage their interests online. I suspect that in the coming years this will become a major political battle-ground, and something for all democratically-minded people to keep a close eye on.

For as long as there’s someone, somewhere, with a lot of money to spend on stopping information from reaching the public, there will be law firms and PR companies with a strong incentive to find ways to help them do it. Carter Ruck may have been beaten today, but sooner or later they and their kind will be back.

Written by Richard Wilson

October 13, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Chiropractic pseudo-regulator ignores ASA instruction to stop claiming spinal manipulation can treat asthma and colic

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From Adventures in Nonsense

The General Chiropractic Council is knowingly and deliberately violating its own code of practice and continuing to mislead the very patients it is meant to protect.

My previous post detailed how the General Chiropractic Council resolved my Advertising Standards Authority complaint against them informally. I also noted that as yet, the GCC has not removed their Patient Information Leaflet from their web site. [the leaflet misleads patients by suggesting that chiropractic can be effective in treating colic and asthma]

About a week after the informal resolution was made (but before it was published), I spoke to the ASA on the telephone about the fact that they were continuing to make these unsubstantiated claims. A concerned ASA voice told me:

“We would have hoped they would have taken this down by now.”

So on the 6th October I emailed the GCC to ask their intentions:
“I notice that despite your informal resolution with the ASA, that the text still appears on your patient information leaflet here: http://www.gcc-uk.org/files/link_file/WhatCanI_142_5(Web-Version).pdf
Are you intending to take down or change this leaflet?”
And on the 8th, I received a reply in the post:

I emailed the ASA by email to get their take on this:
“I contacted the GCC following my finding that they had not removed the Patient Information Leaflet from their web site. I had a rather surprising reply from them this morning. They said that they will take it down in reasonable time – and suggested that this would happen once they had taken the time to re-write the document and translate it into several languages.
This is shocking. Surely it makes sense for them to take it down now if it breaches ASA standards – or not at all if it doesn’t. Surely while they are re-printing they should not be continuing to distribute the material?
Can you clarify the ASA’s position on this?”
And the ASA’s reply was fairly clear:
“We’d normally expect an advertiser to implement the changes as soon as is ‘reasonably practicable’ (bearing in mind the time involved in printing new leaflets).

However, if it’s a leaflet on a website then it should be taken down as soon as possible.”
So the ASA (rather unsurprisingly) agrees with me that it is unreasonable to continue to make unsubstantiated claims solely on the grounds that you haven’t got around to writing and translating anything honest yet.
Based on the informal resolution and the above text from letters and emails, I can’t draw any conclusion other than:
  • The Chief Executive of the GCC is fully aware that its Patient Information Leaflet violates ASA guidelines.
  • The Chief Executive of the GCC is aware that this leaflet is continuing to be made available on their web site.
  • The Chief Executive of the GCC is in no rush to do anything about it.
How can the GCC be expected to regulate the chiropractic profession when it knowingly and deliberately violates the very guidelines it is meant to be enforcing?

Written by Richard Wilson

October 10, 2009 at 10:05 pm