Saturday, 26 November 2011

Eurozone in Meltdown - rally with Tony Benn

As crisis spreads through the Eurozone at a rate that no one could have imagined, the ruling financial elite offers nothing but further austerity measures. The need for a Europe-wide mass movement in defense of democracy and social welfare has never been so important.

Join us at this Coalition of Resistance rally just two days ahead of the biggest strike and day of action in Britain for decades.

Eurozone in Meltdown
No Cuts - No Privatisation

Tony Benn,
John McDonnell MP,
Ntina Tzouvala (Synaspismos youth, Greece),
Arianna Tassinari (Co-President, SOAS Students Union),
James Meadway (senior economist, New Economics Foundation),
Kate Hudson (Coalition of Resistance),
Lee Jasper (BARAC),
Kevin Courtney (Deputy General Secretary, NUT)

Monday 28 November, 6:30pm
University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY
Click here to download printable flyer
Invite your friends on Facebook

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Mayor, the IPCC, the Metropolitan Police Service and London’s black communities: a tale of woe

R.I.P Mark Duggan
Picture from R.I.P Mark Duggan
The debacle of the bungled Independent Police Compliant Commissions “ independent “ investigation over the shooting of Mark Duggan signal is shocking and is now spiraling completely out of control.

 IPCC has lost credibility and community confidence.

 Many others and I fought for the creation of the IPCC to replace the discredited Police Complaints Authority. The reality is today those ardent supporters of the concept of independent police investigations are profoundly disappointed with the overall performance of the IPCC. The organisation seems to be rudderless at the moment and incapable of establishing a clear and independent identity that can demonstrate objectivity and fierce determination in the search for the truth.

 The IPCC is in real danger of losing its entire credibility with black communities and needs to set out an urgent case for reform, including strengthening its investigative powers and excluding former police officers from working as independent investigators.  It needs to set out how it intends to reform itself and win back community trust and confidence.

Deaths in custody remain the fault line in police and black community relations.

 Mark Duggan’s shooting was the catalyst for the summer riots that took place in August. However, what many people are completely unaware of is that Mark Duggan was the fourth black man to die in deeply suspicious circumstances whilst in police custody in England since January this year. His death followed the deaths of Smiley Culture, Kingsley Burrell and Demetre Fraser. Since Mark’s death there has been one more tragic death of a black man in controversial circumstances, that of Jake Michaels in Cheshire.

Deaths in custody represent the seminal fault line in English police and black community relations. This issue runs deep reviving memories of a time when black men were hunted like dogs and killed by psychopathic white racists. 

From slavery to apartheid and onto the streets of London, this issue remains current and informed by both a historic and contemporary black experience of policing characterized at times by racism resulting in overwhelming and unnecessary force.

Black men have always been hugely over represented in deaths in police custody figures over the last 30 years.  Cases such as those of Clinton McCurbin, Colin Roach, Roger Sylvester and Brian Douglas are just a few of the familiar names known in the black community all of who have died after brutal contact with the police.

 As a community we are yet to witness a single police officer successfully convicted with any offence despite the controversy surrounding these cases.

Mayor rejects the concept of institutional racism and gives a green light to discrimination.

When it comes to tackling institutional racism the lead comes from the very top. Boris Johnson has inculcated a patronising Etonesque ‘colour blind ' policy and political culture at City Hall. Put simply no one at City Hall understands racism or thinks challenging discrimination is a real priority for London.

This attitude is distinguished by the casual dismissal of race issues and has given rise to administrative culture that has given a tacit green light to a group of senior MPS police officers that have always despised the Lawrence Inquiry and its recommendations. As a result anti racism in policing as a policy priority has been dismissed as a direct result of the example set by the Mayor himself.

Neither the Mayor nor the current Commissioner believes that the Metropolitan Police Service is an institutionally racist organisation. The Mayor declared the very same in the Metropolitan Police Authority Race and Faith Report published in 2010. This is a serious political error of huge proportions in a City like London.

Unrestrained stop and search alienates communities.

In operational policing terms, the Mayor sanctioned a massive increase in stop and search rates in response to youth violence. That led to communities becoming increasingly alienated from police officers as they saw racist stop and searches taking place without any restraint or accountability. Last year alone saw a 70% increase and since 2008, the total increase has been a staggering 300%.

As for the Mayor Boris Johnson, his preferred approach seems to be from the Sepp Blatter school of tackling institutional racism. A friendly handshake, a smile and the vilest racism can be dismissed, excused and forgiven.

Of course, the Mayor’s Office is not the only organisation with little or no appreciation of the reality of the issues of racism and policing.

IPCC loses credibility with black communities.

Today, we learn from Stafford Scott, writing a powerful piece in the Guardian that he has decided along with a second member of the IPCC Community Reference Group to resign.

 This follows their initial collusion with the lies put out by the police and endorsed by the IPCC, falsely claiming that Mark had shot a police officer. Let’s be absolutely clear about this that was a blatant lie.

If Boris Johnson office had the necessary political experience and community links within Tottenham, he would have known that. I knew within an hour of the shooting that the community had labeled the police version of events a lie and in policing terms one has to police according to a community’s perceptions.

 This serious political failure to understand and have an appreciation of black communities and policing issues allowed frustration and anger to build up. The cost to the country and London would be many millions of pounds; it is remarkable that this Mayor continues to evade responsibility for failing to provide real leadership at a time of crisis.

IPCC has fatally compromised the investigation into Mark Duggan’s death.

Stafford Scott was one of the members of the IPCC Community Reference Group (CRG) established to provide reassurance to a skeptic community that the police actually removed the taxi that Mark Duggan was traveling in minutes after he had been shot.

 The IPCC investigator agreed that the vehicle could be moved before the IPCC investigators had even reached the scene. Why did the Police want to move the vehicle and why did the IPCC investigator agree to that request?

 What we now know is that there is no forensic evidence linking Mark to the gun found in a sock found at the scene. However, we are told that a ‘box ‘that was found in the back of the taxi had Marks DNA on it.  The box, it is suggested, had contained the gun found at the scene.

Their assumption we are expected to believe is that Mark placed the gun in the box, put the box in the back of a taxi and set out according to police to seek his revenge for the killing of a close friend of his.

 If the taxi was removed by the police minutes after Mark was shot who can say whether the ‘box’ was actually in the taxi or placed there by the police themselves? 

The gun was used in a previously reported crime and there now seems to be real confusion about whether the crime was investigated or not and the gun impounded as evidence.

 There also very serious questions to be asked if the crime was not investigated. For example how is that such a serious and violent crime can be ignored leaving the public at risk? This will undermine the extent the public has confidence of reporting such crimes to the police.

Stafford Scott was right to resign, as was his colleague. There can be no doubt that the IPCC has completely compromised this investigation. The current IPCC commissioner should be replaced .Our call for a public inquiry into deaths in custody has never been so urgent and necessary.

 These are the many questions that are swirling around concerned communities in London. These are the issues that are being routinely ignored by a Mayor and a Commissioner, who remain largely oblivious to demand for justice from London’s black communities. The reality is that should there be another death in custody in London and these issues are not effectively recognised and dealt with by the Mayor and the IPCC the fire next time could make the summer riots look tame.

Lee Jasper

PRESS RELEASE: Racial Discrimination at New College, Oxford University & in the Employment Tribunal

Press Release on behalf of Lee Jasper
and The Campaign for Racial Equality at Oxford University.

 Please contact
Lee Jasper,
Gregory Lewis,

Gregory Lewis left, meeting the Reverend Jesse Jackson Snr
Last year I was contacted by a black chef, Gregory Lewis who worked at New College, Oxford University for eight years. He was treated extremely badly and there was clearly racial discrimination involved.  The director of the Race Equality Council in Oxford advised him to take a claim to Employment Tribunal, which he did.  He was unable to access legal assistance. Gregory contacted me because he could not understand why the tribunal hearing, which found in New College’s favour, seemed to have been conducted in a way that seemed to practically ignore the evidence they presented, whilst overlooking lies, inconsistencies and a total disregard for equality legislation on the part of New College.
The legal process has been a long drawn out one. Gregory has been suffering from depression and anxiety caused by the racial discrimination he experienced since October 2008 and the stress of legal proceedings has exacerbated his condition. 
New College staff blatantly lied under oath during the tribunal hearing last July. The HR Officer had no idea of what the specific duties of Higher Education Establishments were under the RRA (amendment) 2000. There was no monitoring in place to ensure there was no racial discrimination in any of their policies, such as disciplinary action, access to training and promotion; the only equal opportunities monitoring with regard to racial group that New College had in place, was a tick box on their application form. 
Gregory Lewis had been interviewed for the role of head chef, after being a second chef at Oxford University for twenty years, eight of those at New College.  There had never been a black head chef at an Oxford University college. At that time, as second chef, Gregory held the highest position of any black member of staff at New College. (He was acting head chef for over a year).  There were no black fellows, tutors or managers. They interviewed Gregory along with other candidates, none of whom were taken on. New College management advised Gregory to go on a course to better his chances of getting the still vacant, head chef’s position.  They did not offer him the opportunity to go on this course before the interview, but during cross examination, the catering manager said that he ‘would not have employed anyone who did not have the qualification already ‘unless they were a Jamie Oliver’, so the interview was a farce unless they believed that a black chef might at any time morph into a white TV chef!
While he was away on the course (and still acting head chef as far as he knew), the college took on a new (white) head chef through the back door without even letting Gregory know, totally humiliating him in front of his colleagues. The message was clear: the black man does not deserve any respect.  The person they took on had not even made the shortlist for the original interview and had no experience in a university setting.
 The original interview notes (received during legal proceedings) made rude comments about Gregory Lewis that were clearly based on racial stereotyping, making him out to have a slave mentality and unable to follow instructions or understand what they were asking of him. This was a chef that had won many awards during his time working at Oxford University colleges and received many compliments in writing from important guests.
New College management embarked on a series of actions designed to intimidate Gregory and force him out of his job. In the end he was too ill to work and they dismissed him on grounds of medical capability.
The judge and lay members at the Employment Tribunal in Reading were dismissive of the evidence given that management had racially stereotyped Gregory, and the judge said that ‘being lazy and stupid is not a stereotype of a black man’. Evidence was provided to show this, but it was ignored. Gregory had a long list of grievances but the tribunal judge and panel skimmed over them and let New College and their representative dictate what was mentioned.  When I met him he was mentally and physically exhausted by the whole process and had lost complete faith in the system that was supposed to protect him from racial discrimination. I told him to keep fighting; the truth was on his side and the law was supposed to be as well! 
I helped him to set up a campaign to highlight the racial discrimination at Oxford University colleges. This was before David Lammy exposed Oxford University’s appalling record on admitting black students and employing black fellows.  We submitted Freedom of Information requests which uncovered the fact that many Oxford colleges were flouting equality laws and were, in some cases, arrogantly unconcerned about it.  EHRC, on receiving the information provided by the campaign, wrote to Oxford University’s Vice Chancellor telling him to remind Oxford colleges, which are autonomous, of their duties under equality law.
When Gregory Lewis received the judgement from the Employment Tribunal in writing, he was shocked to find that not only had the judge disregarded what he had said about racial stereotyping, he had substituted his own racial stereotype, saying that he thought he was stereotyped as a black Caribbean man as being ‘laid back to the extreme’!
At the London Employment Appeal Preliminary Hearing, the judge and panel were not impressed that the Reading Employment Tribunal judge and panel, regularly hearing cases of racial discrimination, appeared to have little understanding of racial stereotyping. (The lay members at Reading Employment Tribunal had agreed with the judge that being lazy and stupid was not a racial stereotype of a black man!).The Employment Appeal Tribunal were also concerned that the case appeared to have been tried as an unfair dismissal case with little regard to the racial discrimination side of the case.
I would like to know what training Employment Tribunal judges and lay members have with regard to equal opportunities and race issues. If they are as ignorant on race issues, as those that conducted Gregory Lewis’s case, it is no wonder that so few people are successful in bringing racial discrimination cases against their employer.  Employment law is a totally uneven playing field, with claimants having little access to legal assistance and employers like those from Oxford University having unlimited funds to fight their victims.  I understand why most of them give up, the threats of costs and the stress is unbearable in a lot of cases. 
The Employment Appeal Tribunal ordered that the case of Gregory Lewis V New College, Oxford University was subject to a full Appeal Hearing in London.  Nothing will change until we insist that the laws against racial discrimination are upheld. Black people suffering racial discrimination at work should not be experiencing it all over again in the Employment Tribunals and courts that are their only recourse. 
Unfortunately, Gregory’s situation is not unfamiliar.  I have spoken to many black people, who have experienced similar treatment when applying for promotion. We as a people should be long past the stage where, when trying to progress through hard work and dedication, we are regarded as ‘uppity’ and expected to shuffle our feet, say ‘yes massa’, and be grateful for whatever lowly position these institutionally racist employers decide we are good enough for.
Victory at Employment Appeal Tribunal Hearing
The hearing took place on October 14th 2011. The judge in the original Employment Tribunal hearing made submissions for the appeal which included this statement regarding racial stereotyping:
It was, of course, the Claimant and his representative who raised the question of “stereotypical” views of Black Caribbean males.  I still do not believe that there is a stereotypical view of Black Caribbean males being “lazy and stupid”.  They may have a more “relaxed” approach to life than other ethnic groups but that is not in any way a derogatory assessment and in any event was not in reality a relevant feature in this case.  The Tribunal was unanimously satisfied that the Respondent’s assessment of the Claimant was as identified of paragraph 51 of the Written Reasons which related purely to the assessment of the Claimant as an individual and was not based on any stereotypical view of male Caribbeans’.  (Judge Coles)

The EAT judgement (MR G F LEWIS v NEW COLLEGE OXFORD) says: ‘We agree with Ms Robinson (acting for Gregory Lewis on behalf of the Bar Pro Bono Unit and only instructed on the morning of the hearing) that here the judge has at least given the appearance of holding a stereotypical view, in that he takes a view that a more relaxed approach to life is exhibited by Black Caribbean males, than by other groups.  In our judgment, that is inappropriate.  It is put as an allegation of actual bias but we prefer to regard it, and we uphold it, as being an allegation of apparent bias.
Given that there was evidence as to stereotypes, it ought to have been dealt with and not been the substitution of a view by the judge.  The matter which worried Judge Hand’s division of this Tribunal was the finding by the judge and Mr Cameron in their subsequent comments, that there was no such attitude towards Black Caribbean men in this country, a view which surprised very much the lay members in Judge Hand’s division and Judge Hand too.
In that respect, it is a matter that we too might have a view about.  Since there is no challenge before us to the evidence which Ms Ruskin (Gregory Lewis’s partner who represented him at the Employment Tribunal) says she put before the Tribunal as to a divergent view of two universities (we have not seen it), we consider that there would have been substance in her submission and it was not fair for the Tribunal to form such a view.’

Smugness and Superiority exhibited by New College Oxford management: Snobbery or racism?

From the EAT judgement: ‘Further, we consider there is substance in Ms Robinson’s point that given that at least Mr Cameron considered that the witness team from New College was smug and superior, that should have been a matter which was dealt with in the Judgment in accordance with its duty to make inferences.  Were they smug and superior because they were above a mere chef?  Or was it anything to do with the fact that he was Black Caribbean?’
(In fact Judge Coles said in his written comments to the EAT that: ‘I note that in the comments from the member Mr Cameron he refers to the facial expressions of the University witnesses and observers potentially being described as having ‘an air of being smug and superior’ and that was certainly a perception which all members of the tribunal reached’).
‘Particularly in the light of what Ms Robinson contends is a highly dismissive superior and arrogant approach by Dr Parrott in responding to the Claimant when he raised the issue of what “Mr Pangloss” meant.’(A comment made by Dr Parrott about Gregory Lewis during his interview).  ‘The don was to produce a three-page essay which had some unfortunate epithets about stupidity and malice.  Irony was not what was called for.  The Tribunal ought to have decided these matters in relation to whether or not there was any race discrimination involved in the decision to dismiss in the light of all that material.’
‘As a matter of law, the Claimant is entitled to a fair hearing by three persons who all have an open mind and who make decisions on the basis of what they hear together. If one of them does not meet that test, then the decision must be set aside.’

The decision of the original tribunal has been set aside and remitted to a freshly constituted panel at the Employment Tribunal.

 Lee Jasper
Campaign For Racial Equality at Oxford University

UPDATE: The Employment Tribunal hearing will be on Monday 30th July 2012, Tuesday 31st July 2012, Wednesday 1st August 2012, Thursday 2nd August 2012 and Friday 3rd August 2012 at 10am at Employment Tribunals, 4th Floor, 30/31 Friar Street, Entrance in Merchants Place, Reading, Berkshire RG1 1DY.

G Lewis speaking at the Black Student's Campaign Conference (far right)
Gregory Lewis
Lee Jasper
Lee Jasper

PRESS RELEASE: Racial Discrimination at New College, Oxford University & in the Employment Tribunal
G Lewis speaking at the Black Student's Campaign Conference

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

I'm attending the Stephen Lawrence Murder Trial at the Old Bailey

Stephen Lawrence R.I.P.
Thursday 17th November at 09:30am 

Jury swearing in Monday 14th November.  Trial is scheduled to start sometime later this week. We will advise as soon as we know. Trial is set to last 6 weeks.
Please promote and support this event page:
This is for all those who reject racism and uphold the principle of justice for all British citizens regardless of their race or faith. Those who love justice and hate racism. I would ask that we encourage people to attend the trial and let the country know that we have not forgotten Stephen or indeed all the other victims of racist murders.
As the economic crisis worsens so will racism. Stephen died during the last recession in the early 1990s, in the 1980s we had civil disturbances and concerning the arrests that followed we had a huge number of miscarriage of justice cases all over the country. So we need to ensure that we are ready to support justice and reject racism.
Now advised that Court 16 seats only 30 people. In that case,  I may think about calling a number of demonstrations of solidarity and support for the Lawrence family  outside the court . The defendants families will no doubt be there and they and the Lawrence's will be given seats and if there are any left they will be given to the public. Any other ideas or proposals will be welcomed.

Monday, 14 November 2011

MPA meeting - Regarding the policing of this years peaceful UFFC march

Policing at the UFFC march 2011 (Picture by Delroy Constantine-Simms)
24 November · 10:00am to 1pm
Metropolitan Police Authority,
10 Dean Farrar Street London SW1H 0NY

 FB event page:!/event.php?eid=300997226591636 


Letter from Samantha Rigg-David on behalf of UFFC (United Friends and Families Campaign):
MPA Full authority Meeting - Question to be raised regarding the policing of the UFFC march - 29th Oct 2011.

Catherine Crawford
Chief Executive
Metropolitan Police Authority
10 Dean Farrar Street

7th November 2011

Dear Catherine,

Re: Policing at United Families and Friends Deaths in Custody March

I write on behalf of the United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) to raise a question for the MPA Full Authority meeting on Thursday 24th November regarding the policing of the recent Deaths in Custody March in central London on Saturday 29th October 2011. We are aware the organisation INQUEST has also written to the MPA regarding this matter,

UFFC, a coalition of bereaved families, has been hosting an annual procession for 13 years in remembrance of loved ones who have died in custody or state care. The stewarded march, led by family members, entails a silent procession from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street. Following this, family members share experiences of the loss of their loved ones and then deliver a letter to Downing Street containing a list of recommendations for consideration by the Prime Minister. Traffic is often temporarily blocked in the process for a short time. Although it is an emotional event, the march has always passed peacefully and typically disperses around 4pm. The march provides a rare opportunity for grieving families to come together to highlight concerns to those in authority and also provide mutual support. Policing of the march in the past has appeared to be proportionate both in response to the sensitive nature of the event and also in recognition that it does not pose a threat to public order.

This year, at about 3pm, after delivering the letter to Downing Street family members and friends found themselves subject to aggressive and degrading treatment at the hands of a large deployment of what we believe were TSG officers. In addition to this a helicopter was flying overhead and we also noticed a FIT team had been deployed.

The sudden deployment of around 100 officers, in addition to the large number of uniformed officers already present, and the ensuing treatment caused panic, physical injury and distress to the remaining marchers. Attempts were made by stewards, legal observers and marchers to talk to the police, informing them this move was provocative and appealing for restraint, but this was ignored. The officers performed a ‘sweep’ of the road, as if clearing it of rubbish, pushing aside and trampling on anybody in their way. We believe there was only a small crowd of marchers in the road at this point with around half the march on the opposite side of the road. The actions of the police caused marchers on the opposite side of the road to move forward to join those being swept in an attempt to provide some sort of safety in numbers against this attack.

Many of those that the police ‘swept’ were vulnerable bereaved relatives including parents, grandparents and children. At one point officers picked up the mother of someone who had died in custody by her arms and legs and deposited her on the road like a ‘sack of potatoes’. Children were screaming in fear. After this the police began to form a kettle, which caused widespread intimidation and forced marchers to disperse in an undignified and cajoled manner without any proper closure to the march. Those who attended the march have told me they feel traumatised by the experience.

We understand it is not the role of the MPA to investigate the actions of individual officers on the march, however it does hold responsibility for holding the police to account over operational and tactical matters.

We believe it was both entirely unwarranted and unnecessarily confrontational to deploy these officers and wish the MPA to fulfil its public duty by assisting us in scrutinising how and why this decision was taken. I wish to attend the full authority meeting to raise this question in person.

We are fully cognisant of the climate of the times, in terms of heightened public interest around deaths in custody and levels of tension around public order policing. However, we believe this calls for intelligent and sensitive policing. We do not accept that the response of the police was justifiable, proportionate or in accordance with ACPO guidance around keeping the peace.

Yours sincerely

Samantha Rigg-David

(Sister of Sean Rigg)

On behalf of UFFC

All photographs taken at UFFC march 2011 by Delroy Constantine-Simms

Ray Lewis to be grilled over mentoring scheme - by Lester Holloway

I’m looking forward to Ray Lewis‘s appearance before a London Assembly committee to answer questions about the London mayor’s controversial mentoring scheme, which Lewis is credited with developing.

I’d be particularly interested to see if questions are asked about former Tory mayoral candidate Steve Norris, who is both chairman of Lewis’s Eastside Young Leaders Academy and the London Action Trust, which was part of the consortium that won the £1.3m mentoring bid.
BBC London’s Kurt Barling reports:
“And now Mr Lewis’s letter of appointment as the mayor’s mentoring champion, seen by BBC London, reveals that he was told more than a year ago he would have “no decision-making or budgetary responsibility”.
The London Assembly is now asking if it was appropriate for him to be on the decision-panel responsible for choosing the best bid in the first place.
They are proposing to refer the matter to the district auditor.”
In 2008 Boris Johnson promised to match 1,000 black mentors with 1,000 black youth, but the latest figures show the winning bidders have only managed to link 21 mentors, well behind schedule.
London Action Trust papers lodged at the Charity Commission show the mayor’s budget adviser Nick Griffin joined LAT’s board just months after Boris won the 2008 London elections.
LAT has since gone into Administration, having managed to avoid due diligence during the bidding process, which was led by the mayor’s chief-of-staff, Sir Edward Lister.
The black consortium that came top of the bidding process was not chosen after failing due diligence.
It should be a very interesting session down at City Hall at the next Time for Action panel meeting…

Lester Holloway

Originally posted at:

Sunday, 13 November 2011

“I don’t give a monkey’s”, Boris tells black conference - by Lester Holloway

“I don’t give a monkey’s about the name of the conference”, Boris Johnson told his education conference today, following controversy over the dropping of the word ‘black’ from the title. Attendance was massively down on previous years, with large blocks of empty seats.

The London mayor said he just wanted the conference to go ahead after Labour MP Diane Abbott had left the project she began nine years ago in disgust at City Hall’s desire to fill the platform with Right-wing speakers. Friends of the MP said she wanted nothing to do with the event.

Using the word ‘monkey’ was at best thoughtless on the part of a mayor who has previously referred to Africans having “watermelon smiles”. Some audience members took offence at the monkey remark.
Campaigner Lee Jasper accused Johnson of “hijacking” what used to be the London Schools and the Black Child conference, which the mayor renamed London Schools and Our Children.

Speaking this morning to an audience of barely over 200 people – well down on the high of 3,500 that used to attend Abbott’s black child conferences – Johnson appeared unconcerned by accusations that he was “culturally cleansing” the capital of race-specific initiatives.

But one attendee said black Londoners had “voted with their feet” by staying away in droves. Bizarrely, education secretary Michael Gove opened his speech by proclaiming “The fact that so many have come here is an inspiration.” Audience members glanced around at the empty seats around them.

Eleven protesters, including myself, held placards outside the conference centre as attendees arrived.
Speaking into a megaphone Jasper joked about ‘tumble-weed’ as there were so few people going into the central London venue.

As the conference got underway Ray Lewis, Johnson’s controversial former deputy mayor made a hash of a joke, calling Gove “a black man”, adding: “Maybe not, just honorary.”
Lewis was attempting to lavish praise on the cabinet minister for his education policies, but the joke fell flat in the audience. One audience member, Patricia Lamour, said she was gob-smacked at the comment. “I can’t believe there was praise for Free Schools in the conference when all eight black-led organisations who applied to set up Free Schools have been turned down.”

Gove delivered a highly patronising speech, appearing to lecture the majority-black audience on how to raise their children. “You should wear a school uniform properly”, he said. “And when the bell goes… you should get learning now!” A woman sitting behind me groaned.
Gove appeared to take his cue on school discipline from his greatest fan, Katherine Birbalsingh, who has been granted permission to start a Free School.

“It’s cool to be smart”, the education secretary intoned earnestly. “What would he know about being cool?”, my neighbour quipped to me.

Boris Johnson  talked up the value of cubs and scouts, and boasted that he backed an education scheme in Feltham Young Offenders prison. Muttering in the audience, and a heckler who shouted “why wait ’til they get in jail?”, forced the mayor to respond and defend his plan as worthwhile.

Audience applause for the keynote speakers was lukewarm at best, a stark contrast to rapturous standing ovations in previous years when Abbott ran the event.
The mayor’s youth adviser announced that ime-constraints meant there was no time for audience questions, the first time this has happened since the MP for Hackney and Stoke Newington began the conference in 2002.

Other highlights included educationalist Tony Sewell sharing the mayor’s enthusiasm for cubs and scouts. Sewell did get a round of support from one segment of the auditorium when he claimed that Nigerian discipline was superior to that administered by Jamaica families.
One peeved audience member grumbled: “If you look at the youth who are killing each other, many have African surnames.” Sewell’s remarks were ill-judged and had the effect of diving the audience.

I had had enough – it was time to head to the death in custody march in memory of Demetre Fraser. “Oi!”, I heard as I left the venue. It was Ray Lewis. “Take that shit off your website”, he told me, referring to an earlier blog post about the mayor’s mentoring scheme.
“I’m not a board member of London Action Trust”, he said forcefully. “That’s libellous.”
I’ll have to check that out tomorrow, but given that BBC reporter Kurt Barling reported that he was associated with LAT – which was awarded the £1.3m mentoring grant before going into Administration – and the fact that members of the London Assembly had suggested that Lewis was indeed linked to LAT, this point will need further investigation.
More of this later…

By Lester Holloway
(First published at:

A black day for Boris Johnson.

ListRa Dawn Gilzene protesting  Boris's hijacking of the conference
It was an eerie atmosphere as we waited for delegates to arrive at yesterdays Boris Johnsons “Not the London School & Black Child” Conference.  As we held placards and fired up the megaphone preparing to engage and explain, it quickly became apparent that black people had voted with their feet and decided to boycott the event.
Lee Jasper

In previous years this important conference (the brainchild of Diane Abbott MP) was a standing room only, sell out event. Usually held at the Queen Elizabeth Centre it attracted over 3,000 attendees. Yesterday at the Institute of Education, barely 150 people attended.

The eerily empty conference - black people voted with their feet and stayed away

It was ever going to be thus. The political dynamics behind this once major black education conference provide an insight into the soul of City Hall and its attitude to black Londoners. Reported to me by a senior city hall insider it reveals a shocking degree of political cynicism, informed by a deeply patronising view of black Londoners.

How the event was stolen from Diane Abbot MP.

Speaking to an insider after the conference, I was provided with a fascinating insight into what actually happened on the top floor of City Hall. My authoritive source reported a poisonous and paranoid atmosphere at City Hall.

 “The long shadow of Lee Jasper still haunts the 8th floor any mention of your name sends them into complete panic.”  I found to that to be very amusing and was somewhat reassured that my criticism of the Mayor was at least hitting home.

Moving onto how the Mayor forced out Diane Abbott MP from her own conference, this is what I was told:

“The arrogance of Boris and his team of advisers led them to believe they did not really need Diane. Given they were funding the conference they assumed that they could call all the shots. They wanted to remove race as a component of the conference and demolish the idea of institutional racism in education.”

A protester spells it out clearly for Boris Johnson
How Boris failed London’s black communities.

Boris advised by his electoral guru the Australian Lynton “race card” Crosby, was told he needed to win back the black London vote and that private polling indicated this had virtually evaporated. This must in part be explained as a direct result of his failure to deliver on his manifesto policy on youth violence and his failure to introduce policies that addressed racism and our broader concerns.

Huge rises in stop and search rates of London black youth, 100% increase in suspicious black deaths in custody, massive rises in black youth unemployment, the August riots, increased levels of youth violence, abolishing London’s civic black cultural programme, the debacle over his mentoring scheme that has become mired in controversy all now constitute a solid critical black political narrative.

The mentor scheme has attracted serious accusations of cronyism and nepotism. These are some of the policy/issue based areas where Boris has not only failed to deliver but where his failure to act has contributed to making things immeasurably much worse.

Boris was told that the conference presented a perfect opportunity to stem the collapse of support across London’s black communities. 

My source continued,

“Lynton and Edward Lister (Chief of Staff) told Boris that he should use the conference to begin the process of shoring up the black vote. Boris handed this off to Munira Murza (Mayoral adviser) who then met Diane and demanded complete control of securing speakers and the conference database. Despite attempts by Diane to compromise they were having none of it. In the end Diane decided to walk”

“What was most shocking in the whole thing was the way in which Munira Murza treated Diane. She was particularly vicious… treating her with a degree of public contempt that was frankly gobsmacking!”

Boris summarily dismissed the longest standing black elected women in Europe Diane Abbott MP and stole her conference idea. A conference that she conceived and built up to be one of the premier conferences on London’s black political calendar.

London Schools and all our children conference.

As for the conference itself it was interesting at times: an amusing mixture of patronising guff and brilliant inspiration.

Boris’s usual “sunlit uplands” speech was received with embarrassingly tepid applause.

Surprisingly Boris made several references to me.  What had upset him was the Mail Online article that appeared that day. In it I accused him of “culturally cleansing the capital of all race specific initiatives”.

Eton glare.

I noticed both he and the Secretary of State of Education who sat on the stage in the small auditorium were glaring at me for long periods of time as I sat in the audience. I thought it was the Eton equivalent of an intimidatory stare as Boris fixed his steely blue-eyed gaze on me. I can only assume that this was some genteel Eton version of intimidation. To be honest I found their sustained gaze hilarious if not a little embarrassing.

Racially insensitive Boris puts his foot in it.

Boris responded to the article and seeking to explain why he removed the word “black” from the conference title told the majority black audience that as far as he was concerned “I don’t give a monkeys “about the name change. It was a huge mistake. The audience clearly thought so and a loud murmur erupted in the auditorium as they viscerally reacted to his arrogance and racial insensitivity.

Gove speaks to black people like simpletons.

What was to follow was worse. Michael Gove treated the audience as if they were complete and utter fools.

“School starts at 9am, make sure your child is on time!  “Uniforms are important” he went on and on and on… "Homework?  Make sure your child does it ". You could tell from the patronising nature of his remarks that he thought the audience were a bunch of black simpletons.


Institutional racism dismissed in favour of black division.

Image Detail
Tony Sewell: divisive
 Tony Sewell enhanced his reputation by seeking to divide the black community by negatively comparing Jamaican and Nigerian cultures. Tony’s view was that Jamaican culture had lost it discipline and no longer valued education.  According to him it is that, parental failure and peer group pressure which explained why black boys of Caribbean descent were failing in schools. In contrast West African children were doing well in schools and that he argued was because of the positive culture of Nigerian and West African families.

I found this most offensive. It was a concerted attempt to dismiss the extent of institutional racism and drive a wedge between black communities and as such was unforgivable. More worrying Sewell is set to head up an independent inquiry on behalf of the Mayor into London schools.

What always makes me smile with Tony is the fact that he is his own biggest fan’ He told the Mayor in relation to choosing him to head the inquiry “Mr Mayor I have to tell you that you made the right choice.”

Boris simultaneously alienates and divides London’s black communities.

Boris had managed to reduce a once major policy conference on race and education, attended by thousands into to a right wing ideological assault on the concept of institutional racism in schools and Caribbean culture. No wonder hardly anyone turned up.

The Mayoral electoral team have destroyed an event that, had they left alone, and worked in partnership wit Ms Abbott MP could have been an excellent opportunity for the Mayor to demonstrate his balanced commitment toward improving the educational performance of black children in London schools.

Instead he achieved the exact opposite and has now completely alienated himself from all but a small cadre of loyal blacks and those on his pay roll.

If you ask me, and this won’t be easily understood by many or the Mayor’s Office itself, but yesterday was a significant indicator that whatever black support Boris enjoyed in the past, has now collapsed through a combination of ignorance and inactivity on the issues that matter.

Incompetence and the failure to implement schemes such as the mentoring project, the rise of black deaths in custody and stop and search rates, massive rises in black unemployment and youth violence, failure to moderate Coalition cuts to London frontline public and voluntary sector services, eviscerating black cultural events, all go to represent Boris’s blindness on race issues. All have now led him to this pretty pass.

By Lee Jasper

All photographs by Lester Holloway.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Boris accused of 'cultural cleansing' after removing the word 'black' from title of conference for schoolchildren

Boris Johnson's education conference had 150 people attending as opposed to the 3,500 that normally attend. I think it's significant sign that he has now lost the support of our community - Lee Jasper (Picture by Lester Holloway)

Daily Mail article:
London Mayor Boris Johnson has been accused of 'cultural cleansing' and 'hijacking' a conference for black schoolchildren.

Protesters will gather outside the event in London which has in the past been called the London Schools and the Black Child conference.

It will now be called the ‘London Schools and our Children Conference.It is also understood that Diane Abott pulled out of the event but Boris Johnson’s office last night claimed she had left the project unexpectedly and before it was renamed.

It will now be called the ‘London Schools and our Children Conference.
It is also understood that Diane Abott pulled out of the event but Boris Johnson’s office last night claimed she had left the project unexpectedly and before it was renamed.

But furious campaigners also accused Boris Johnson of inviting only Right Wing speakers to air their views at the conference which is being held at London’s Institute of Education.

Campaigner Lee Jasper said: 'This is part of the mayor’s plan to culturally-cleanse London of all race-specific initiatives.

'The entire platform of speakers is of the view that institutional racism does not exist.

'This is the typical response of those on the Right who seek to dismiss the reality of racism and place the blame on the victims.'

Fellow campaigner Lester Holloway added: 'LSBC has always given a platform to a range of views about how to raise achievement of black children and tackle the barriers that hold them back.

'This year’s panel has been picked to echo the mayor’s own opinions, which has no credibility in the community.”

But last night Boris Johnson’s office hit back said that Diane Abbott had pulled out of the event at the “last minute” and organisers wanted to keep the conference going.

A spokeswoman said: 'We had to rename the conference because Diane of her own accord pulled out and that name was associated with her.

'We wanted to carry on this important event despite the timing of her pulling out and so we have gone ahead under a slightly different name.'
Listra Dawn Gilzene speaks out outside the conference, which had been hijacked by Boris. (Picture by Lester Holloway)
Lee Jasper protests outside the conference (Picture by Lester Holloway)
Protesters outside the conference (Photos by Lester Holloway)

 Article first published at:  Photos by Lester Holloway.