Friday, 18 December 2015

Jermaine Baker. The Death Rattle of Metropolitan Police Black Community Relations In London

Last nights Tottenham meeting on the shooting by an armed Metropolitan Police officer of 28 year black man father of two, Jermaine Blake gave those with eyes to see and ears to hear, the opportunity to glimpse the residual anger of London black communities.  Though many would describe the  meeting as 'angry' most would have no idea how deep and entrenched this anger is. We are tired of the trite paternalism of the formulaic corporate response and the glib political soundbite from elected politicians.

With over 30 years experience in dealing with Police/Black community policing crisis I can say that things have never been so bad as they are in London right now. I have attended far too many of this type of meeting, where our community suffers in pain after receiving tragic news that yet another black men has died in police custody. And just as in 2011  the wider white community has failed to recognise and or acknowledge our anger and pain

You can see the questions I asked to the expert panel of assembled dignitaries here.

'If a monkey can use a smart phone to take an a award winning selfie why can't get to work?

I  want to state for the purposes of clarity from the get go.

I believe that another round of civil disturbance in London are almost inevitable. Here's why.

Jermaine Blake shot by police. .whilst asleep in his car' 

Alienation has now become entrenched,  austerity is the lens through which an already discriminated community see ever rising levels of homelessness, poverty and unemployment.

My community cannot physically endure anymore and when black peoples backs are against the wall we are forced to come out fighting for truth and justice. The reality is a poor community is now under acute pressure  economically, politically, judicially and out there on the streets.

Such is the situation we face unprecedented and immense social, political, ethical pressure/ Against this backdrop we  also face a crisis of ethical black leadership. These realities cannot be divorced from each other.

Ethical black leadership is absent without leave, the leadership we do endure is, by and large accommodationist,  gatekeeping, dusty negroes whose interests lie in maintaining the status quo.

The Voice speaks for an entire community. 

The meeting was chaired by my good friend, Stafford Scott and the radical Tottenham preacher Pastor Nimms. The meeting heard from the assembled expert panel and was addressed principally by David Lammy MP, the Independant Police Complaints Commissioner Cindy, the MPS Deputy Assistant Commissioner Helen King and Borough Supt Dr Victor Olisa.

I was impressed with Davids Lammy MP's action in supporting the family and instantly contacting the Attorney General's office that prompted an note of advice being sent to editors of newspapers and wider media that were reporting that Jermaine Baker was a 'gangster' he was not. The meeting accused the MPs of leaking that information despite their trenchant denials on the night.

The most dramatic moment of the evening was the announcement of IPCC Commissioner responsible for the now criminal homicide investigation into the murder of Jermaine  Cindy Butts announced that the Police Officer concerned (when are we going to have his name?) had been formally arrested.

Cindy Butt IOCC make history. 

Lets be clear here, whatever the criticisms of the IPCC and Lord knows I have been vociferously critical of their many failings, on this occasion. I think we should applaud them for taking such swift and decisive action.
Both I and many victims families have been campaigning for over 30 years for police officers involved in contentious deaths in custody to be routinely and automatically suspended.

This demand to provide community reassurance had been doggedly resisted by the MPS and yet on this occasion the officer was first suspended, as a result of a request made by the IPCC, then the officer was arrested. Unprecedented in recent time. I note the welter of social media comments from ex or serving officers seeking to play things down by stating ' officer suspension' post any shooting incident is 'normal procedure' This is MPS spin and reflects the atmosphere of sheer panic in New Scotland Yard and among officer more generally.

Assuming these are evidenced based decisions, the action taken by the IPCC should be applauded as precisely the type or response we had all envisaged when we campaigned for the abolition of the discredited Police Complaints Authority and the creation of the IPCC.

However, a note of caution. In the annuals of British Policing only thirteen Police Officers have actually been arrested and charged with either murder and or manslaughter of members of the public.

British juries, the majority of whom have been white have, despite on occasion compelling evidence, refused to convict a single officer of any homicide crimes. I have long been of the view that the irrational nature of racial prejudice means that majority white juries trying complicate race cases, find it difficult to objectively identifying their own sub conscious and sometimes conscious racism. This results in perverse justice with juries reaching bizarre and perverse conclusions.The inquest juries decision in the Mark Duggan case provides a good example of this culture.

That cold denial of justice, which is epitome of the lived black experience here in Britain, is the reason I'm personally in favour of ensuring black Jury representation in cases where race is a complicating or motivating factor.

AC Helen King and Supt Olisa's shame and embarrasement is obvious

What was clear from last night's meeting was the both Deputy Assistant Commissioner and Borough Superintendent Dr Victor Olisa were desperately poor in providing reassurance to an anxious and angry public. Their performance was poor and inflamed the audience with their patronising defensive comments

They sought to impress or implore, I know not which, the assembled audience with glowing references to the police as ' hard working public servants'  who ' put their life on the line to protect you'. This was not the time.

The response of the audience was to periodically shout them down forcing them to stop before continuing, which they did with great difficulty.

It was an appalling demonstration of the chasm of misunderstanding between the Metropolitan Police and London's Black communities.  Their contributions were rigid formulaic and defensive. They had to be pushed by the audience to offer an apology to the family and community for the shooting of Jermaine. The MOS haven't even offered that most basic of human courtesies and steadfastly refused to do so, despite appeals on the night.

Tottenham Supt Olisa did however, formally confirm that Jermaine was not a 'gangster' as misrepreported by the media and a nast allegation that is still circulating on twitter and MSM ( see , nor was he a member of a gang', neither was he on the MPS Gang Matrix, that unusually given that 78% of the Matrix is made up of Black Gangs fulfilling my prophecy that Trident Anti Gang Command has concluded that all gang criminality in London is conducted by black men.

A close friend of Jermaine repeated that allegation that ' Jermaine was shot whilst sleeping, that he was not a gangster and that the two men arrested with him were entirely innocent of allegations of being part of a prison break escape as reported.

Dr Darren Henry. 'Jermaine was asleep when he was shot' 

That charge was repeated by Dr Danny Henry Vice Chair of Haringey Stop and Search Monitoring. A group that reports directly to the Mayor of London (also missing in  action on this issue) .

Mr Henry repeated the allegation that Jermaine was asleep when shot. He also stated that eyewitnesses were afraid to come forward because they say what happened in the Mark Duggan case are petrified of being negatively targeted by the police and the press.

He alleges that no warning was given by officers.  He went onto say that the Met were refusing to deal with Turkish organised crime that is so powerful that its able to recruit and coerce black boys into doing their bidding. Powerful stuff from one so close to the Mayor Boris Johnson.

So it looks like, as I perviously stated in an earlier article that Jermaine may have been asleep when shot. That if true, this will lead to appalling and long term consequences for London. In the wake of  deaths in police custody of Smiley Culture, Sean Rigg, Azelle Rodney, Mark Duggan and now Jermaine Baker, the festering weeping sore that is London's black/police relations has become septic and is likely to mature into gangrene.

The impending London Mayoral elections probably saw Boris Johnson ruthlessly calculate that his toxic policing legacy to London is one that is likely explode all over someone elses watch. He may be disappointed.

Its not all bad news however, In addition to the IPCC taking such strong action I am told by a reliable source that rather remarkably,  the key witnesses in determining the officers eventual arrest were the statements and testimony of his fellow officers.  Now if true, that would be hugely welcomed by all right minded people committed to justice. I hope its true, however we will have to wait and see.

In relation to Police Bodycams these technology saviours and restorers of public confidence have been a resolute failure in relation to police shootings. Ironically introduce in the aftermath of the killing of Mark Duggan in 2011, body cams were announced by Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe to  a fanfare publicity amid claims that the Metropolitan Police wanted to be the 'most transparent in the police service in the world'  in attempts to restore public confidence.

In August this year Nathaniel Brophy was shot by the Met Police in a dispute about rent arrears in community meetings it was revealed that the specialist firearms officers don't wear them, not all regular officers have them. It has become clear that all firearms officers don't wear them and those who did positioned them in the wrong place on their uniforms'. As a result the IPCC has lots of film of officers boots.  The IPCC has asked the the MPS address this issue urgently, the MPS in response drags is foot.

Brophy's Father has said his son, who survived, told him that he'd been shot with his hands up, with no weapon in his hand.

Nathaniel Brophy shot over rent arrears in Brixton. 
We were offered body cams by the Commissioner Hogan Howe and Mayor Boris Johnson as a solution to rising police community tensions, yet there is no MPS policy in relation to sharing of the videos with the public for reassurance purposes.  Further the IPCC does not have the technology to download the videos from MPS servers so are entirely reliant on the MPS to provide them with film.

These cases illustrates the toxic nature of Police/Black community relations in London.

Responsibility for this bitter state of affairs, can in large part, be laid at the door of Mayor Boris Johnson. It was he who abolished borough based Police Consultative Groups instigated by Lord Scarman specifically to plug what he observed as a ' dangerous information vacuum' that led to the 1986 uprising in Brixton. The lack of information was cited again as a key factor in the immediate aftermath of the shooting of Mark Duggan. It was he who sanctioned huge increases in stop and search in London until Home Secretary Thersea May reigned him in and yet the Met remains defiant increasing stop and search numbers even higher despite Mays protestations.

It is he who has failed and it us that pays the price.

Boris Johnson Poisonous policing legacy for London

Today, the open monthly public meetings, where anyone could challenge the local police in relation to racism, brutality or professional failures is over, done. These groups were membership based and anyone could join and stand for election. These are now replaced by woefully funded, cheap replacements called Safer Neighbourhood Boards (SNB's) made up of hand picked people chosen and agreed by the merry Eton Mess that is Boris Johnson.

The first project of the hapless Mayor and the local SNB's was to roll out the Mayors new flagship response to knife crime Operation Shield. Its been a total disaster rejected by Lambeth, Haringey and many others who have charged the Mayor of seeking to criminalise poor black families and communities. Also gone is the '1000 black mentors for 1000 black boys' flagship policy, that died a death along with Boris's much trumpeted commitment to tackle youth violence in London.

No lessons learned form Mark Duggan. 
This is message to all London and UK politicians. Take heed and act fast, given the critical  circumstances it may be even now too late to avert further widespread disturbances.

The arena of police community relations and consultation in London is now a desolate landscape, largely absent of real community accountable representation from credible local community representatives.

The Metropolitan Police's failure in this regard will cost London dear and was no doubt the motivation behind calls for the resignation of the Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe at last night meeting. This is the single worst period of London's turbulent policing history.

My advice is simple for what its worth.

Spend £10 million in re-establishing race equality as an urgent policy priority for London now. Get yourself a radical race equality plan that targets race inequality, religious bigotry and discrimination. Avert the impending crisis and save the nation 200 million.

Lamentably the story of London's African Caribbean community is not an isolated issue. Much the same state of affairs can be said to exist in relation to London's Muslim community. As a result of 'anti terror' arrests and the Governments disastrous 'Prevent' strategy has resulted in the deep alienation of the Muslim community.

The MPS need to positively repair their parlous relationship with London's Muslim and African Caribbean communities  Thats two ticking time bombs.

If London doesn't learn it will burn. These issues continue to ferment for the next Mayor under the malign and wilful neglect of police institutional racism by Boris Johnson.

What is required is not some half arsed policy proposals, warm reheat's of previous failed initiatives,  designed to o catch headlines rather than save lives. What we need is the adoption of radical policies anti violence policies and a urgent repair of the relationship between police and community in London.

If I were you I'd pay close and particular attention.

Watch this space...

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

London will burn, if it does not learn. The Shooting Of Jermaine Baker

IPCC Criminal Investigation into the Met Police shooting of Jermaine Baker

There is rising anger in London’s black communities in the wake of the police shooting of Jermaine Baker in Wood Green Tottenham and Nathaniel Brophy in Brixton. Both were shot and by Metropolitan Police Officers. 

This will have gone largely unnoticed by most in the media and our myopic politicians and London MP’s.  

Metropolitan Police and Black community relations in London are now toxic and providing a potentially combustible and explosive environment. 

Why so bad? Well, as a direct consequence of almost eight years of Boris Johnson’s tenure police as Mayo;who abolished of local Police Community Consultative Groups established by Lord Scarman in the wake of the 1986 Brixton uprisings; who declared in June 2009 that the Metropolitan Police were no longer an institutionally racist institutionthe huge spike in the abusive use of Stop and Search; the use of the discredited and discriminatory law of Joint Enterprise; the rise in suspicious deaths in police custody of black men like Sean Rigg, Smiley Culture, Mark Duggan, Nathaniel Brophy and Jermaine Baker; a welter of race police complaints; the falling number and low rank of black officers in the service; the Mayors failure to tackle knife crimeserious violence and rape all aspects of youth violence; all of these issues have lead to dramatically falling levels of confidence of London’s black communities in a police service that remains 90% white in a city that  is 50% Black and ethnic minority

The simple unacknowledged truth is that London’s black communities relations with Met are today the worst they’ve ever been in the last 20 years

Father of two, 28 year old Jermaine Baker was shot whilst alleged waiting to spring a couple of Turkish gangsters from jail. I am have now been told that Jermaine was actually asleep in the car at time with two other friends who were both subsequently arrested. It is reported that  they were woken when they heard the car window being smashed and then a single shot. No one knew who if anyone had been shot as all had been asleep. It was only when the other two were dragged from the car seconds later, that they realised Jermaine had been shot. 

It is said no one moved, no one threatened the police, no one knew they were being targeted by police, all were asleep at the time.

The press have reported that Jermaine ‘ came out firing’ at the police after being challenged whilst sitting alone in his Black Audi. The press have also reported that Jermaine was a ‘close friend of Mark Duggan’ this I’m reliably informed is utter bullshit, but typical of the police and press smearing of the suspect, that now routinely follows all suspicious deaths in police custody. Who gave this information to the press ? Obviously the Met Police who else who have interesting access to feed that line? 

In an unprecedented move, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has launched a criminal investigation.  The IPCC is also said to have requested that the officer concerned be formally suspended.

In 30 years of civil right campaigning I have never seen such strong action taken by the IPCC and or its predecessor body the discredited Police Compliant Authority. 

One can only assume that there must be compelling evidence that has lead the IPCC to take the unheard of decision to launch a criminal investigation. 

We now know that the firearms officers involved were not wearing the much-heralded technological saviours of Police/Black community relations, the world famous police Bodycams. What this points to is the utter confusion about the policy of police bodycams. 

The IPCC doesn’t have the technology to download bodycams video so are totally reliant on the Met for access. Secondly all Met Police officers, in particular and worryingly specialist firearms officers, do not routinely wear the body cams

When the Bodycams are worn and do work as we found out in the case of the August Brixton shooting of Nathaniel Brophy, shot on the Tilson Gardens Estate over a dispute over rent arrears and a planned eviction, the Police bodycams, were not mounted in the right the position by officers and in the case of Brophy much of the captured footage only managed to record officers boots.

In relation to the latest shooting of Jermaine Baker, the IPCC is now meeting Londons black communities and explain why they felt it necessary to take such strong action and what where the general circumstances that led to the killing of Jermaine. 

Cindy Butts former member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, now anIPCC Commissioner must now engage with the local Tottenham community and Londoners more generally and explain what happened. 

The key lesson of the London riots in 2011was the need to ensure good communication with communities. What exists now is a glaring information vacuum 

The absence of information in such a febrile atmosphere is a castrophic error. 

London is teetering on the edge of another riot. All the indicators are flashing red and an s usual the establishment is blindsided, constantly minimising or dismissing the problem and remains as if it has no clue as to the real level of anger out there. 

All activist for justice such be on notice to attend the IPCC/Police community consultation at Thursday 17th December 2015 6.30 Tottenham Town Hall, Tottenham Hall approach London N15 4RW

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

UK Equality and Human Rights Commission Is Britain Fairer? Fails On Race.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has recently published a major report on equality and fairness in Britain. The report entitled 'Is Britain Fairer? is an assessment ten years after the closure of the Commission for Race Equality (CRE) and the establishment of the Commission itself and five years after the introduction of the 2010 Equality Act.

First a little bit of background information on the Commission itself set up in 2004.

The EHRC was supposed to advance the cause of equality, bringing together all of the separate equality commissions into single umbrella organisation. 

Introduced by the then Labour Government, the Commission was driven by the likes of Trevor Phillips, then Chair of the CRE and Deputy Prime Minister Harriet Harman, with the fulsome support of the Liberal Democrats, and of course the famous human rights and  Lib Dem lawyer Anthony Lester who argued strongly for change.

Black communities were told that this amalgamation of equality commissions would significantly advance the cause of race equality and make real the promise of race equality in our life time.

The equalities campaigning organisations, such as Stonewall, Womens and Disabilities campaigning organisations argued at the time, that race equality was greater political and legislative priority for Government, than were the issues of homophobia sexism or disability discrimination. This was a basic error of assessment of the actual objectives realities of that time and a reflection of the lack of understand that these equality organisations had about the prominence of race equality. I don't believe that such misunderstanding can be solely laid of the door of ignorance. I believe there was real 'political' hostility and professional jealousy of the public profile of attached to the issue of racism post the publication of the Stephen Lawrence McPherson Inquiry. 

In reality whilst race issues had a higher visibility in the media, the idea that this translated into racism being effectively tackled, was risible. The equality organisations were supported in this delusion by Sir Trevor Phillips. He claimed large scale, institutional racism in Britain was now largely a thing of the past, despite solid and compelling evidence presented by black organisations at the time that demonstrated growing levels of racial inequality,. Equality organisations continued to support this line.

We were told that levelling up all equalities strands could only be a good thing. We were told that the litmus test for this assessment was the fact that 'Today (2006) whilst it's completely unacceptable to call a black person a nigger, its still acceptable to call a woman a bitch.'

I was one of many at the time, who argued vociferously against the proposal. Not only was it manifestly untrue that racism is a thing of the past. I cited our fear that once the CRE was gone, race equality would struggle to compete with other equality strands and that gains made my the publication of the McPherson Inquiry Report into The Death of Stephen Lawrence were in real danger of being lost.

I was attacked by both the London Evening Standard, The Daily Mail and Telegraph for criticising Phillips and commissioning research at the Greater London Authority to disprove his essential premise that racism was in decline.

My political calculation back then, was that without a laser like focus on race equality and a robust EHRC using its full range of legal powers in the manner pioneered by the CRE we would be in real danger of being relegated into a new equalities hierarchy where race would come last.

Since the establishment of the ECHR we have seen race equality drop off the political agenda like a hot brick. 

First we saw in 2010 the substantive weakening of the Equality Act, the slashing of budgets and in 2012 the removal of  Simon Wooley, the only Commissioner with lead responsibility for race along with Baroness Meral Hussien-Ece, the only Muslim on the Commission. 

Head of the Commission Trevor Phillips was also dismissed having served his purpose

The Commission has been a train wreck and not just for black people. 

People with disabilities have seen this Government target them through welfare reform that has left many hankering for the old days of a powerful independant Disability Commission. Meanwhile the EHRC has seen it budget slashed, its Commissioner replaced by Tory appointees most of  whom are people who have no track record of delivering substantive equality or campaigning insights.

Back to the EHRC Is Britain Fairer report the aim of which is to 'analyse' how much progress has been made in achieving the goal of delivering a fairer Britain

The first thing that struck me on reading this report is this disclaimer in the introductory chapter,

We have looked at the protections and rights afforded by legislation in place during the period of the review. We do not speculate on the impact of proposed future legislative or policy changes. Nor do we try to explain why there are differences in experienceand outcomes for some people who share a characteristic protected by law, or propose policy solutions.'

The fact that this report fails come to any conclusions about differential outcome is frankly staggering and constitutes an act of supreme political cowardice. 

It explains why the words 'racism' and 'institutional racism' are nowhere to be found in this report, except in reference to existing international legislations and conventions. 

There was some good news with GCSE 5* education attainment gaps closing for Black and some Asian groups plus the fact that Black and some Asian groups were more likely to enter higher education. 

However this progress is brutally undermined by the economic reality that Black and Muslim groups still suffer hugely increased rates of youth and adult unemployment. 

The reports cites evidence that overall school exclusion have declined and while it points out that Black children are still more likely to be excluded from school, the report gives us no indication of the figures. 

The report then states that for some ethnic minorities the number of people with no qualifications -  but declines to  comment on the fact that this has not translated to higher rates of employment

Not only is unemployment high among our communities but pay is decreasing. 

In addition to high unemployment rates child poverty in our communities also increased.

Accessing child care was also significantly much more difficult for Black and Asian people. 

In terms of health the report notes a decrease in the rate of infant mortality but doesnt state by how much or how this compares to other ethnic groups. 

In regards mental health here again we find racial inequality is getting worse. 

The reports notes, that 4.4% of Black people had contact with specialist mental health services compared to mixed ethnic group 3.3%, Asian 2.9% and 3.5% for white adults. 

In relation to compulsory mental health detention the report states...

In relation  Fairness in the  Justice System the report fails to identify the growing levels of racial disproportionality between Black, Asian and white defendants other than to restate the figures on Stop and Search. 

Interestingly, the Stop & Search figures have increased in the London area despite the rare legal intervention of the EHRC in 2010 led by former Commissioner Simon Wooley and recent interventions by the Home Secretary . This illustrates the weakness of the EHRC in delivering real change. Whilst the Home Secretary's Deaths in Custody inquiries is mentioned in the report, issues of disportionality in bail applications, criminal charging for like for like, first time offences, disproportionate sentencing of Black/Asian peoples and incidents of racism in prisons,  all are ignored. 

In terms of Hate Crime the repot had this to say...


There are other sections such as Housing and homelessness, palliative care for the elderly and civic particpation that show evidenced of worsening rates of discrimination. However the report takes  'pick and mix' approach to its focus on particular issues and as a result one is left with then overwhelming impression that this is a consequence of a political decisions taken by the EHRC. 

The most glaring example of this is in relation to Fairness in the Justice System where the reality of wholesale discrimination and institutional racism is largely ignored . 

Its clear for the evidence contained within this report and elsewhere that racial inequalities are indeed widening for the majority of Black and Muslim communities in the UK. Yet there is no substantive response offered by the Commission. 

There is virtually no reference to race equality campaigning groups research such as the Runnymede Trust, Black Mental Health UK,  Black Training and Enterprise Group, Operation Black Vote to name a few and no mention of the link between Immigration policy, political and media commentray and the huge rise in hate crimes for example. 

Whilst a link is suggested in relation to the murder of Fusileer Lee Rigby and the rise inAnti Semitism and Islamophobia.

Some statistics provide a comparitive trend analysis over time, others do not. 
There is no mention or comprehensive assessment of the Governments own equality performance nor any reference to an overarching race equality strategy.
The reports recommendations, such as they are, appear bland and unenforceable  without legal force and although the Commission has the power to act, in its current enfeebled state it has chosen not initiate ore even threaten legal action even where there is evidence of persistent or rising inequality. 

In relation to the question has racial inequalities increased or declined over the last five years the answer has to be yes, even when one looks at the anaemic and chaotic approach to the use of evidence set out in this report. 

There can be no other conclusion than that and what the EHRC should now do is to demand answers from Government instead of seeking to leave the public confused and patronising some of us with recommendations such as 'the need to collect more statistics and improve monitoring'.
Racism and racial inequality is on the increase and the EHRC seems to have nothing to say about it. Further illustration of the extent to which the issue of race inequality has fallen of the political agenda.  

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Kids Company: White privilege personified.

If you're a member of one of Britain's many black communities you've probably  had the experience where you've witnessed well articulated black expertise or experience ignored or invalidated until re-articulated and spoken by a white person.

We've all been there right? Sat in a meeting with the 'suits' who've ignored and marginalised your every word, only to see them erupt in a chorus of applause and adoration for a suggestion made by a white person, that you've made a thousand times before.

Its probably one of the more lesser known aspects of the British black experience and its true not for just white people. Lets be frank, our own can be just as bad, if not worse.

I know of black professionals who will often line up a white person to make suggestions to a black audience, recognising that if they were to suggest something similar they would most likely be sorted down or ignored. Women can face much the same dynamic.

Now hold that thought and think of the recent travails of Kids Company, who for the last 15 years were considered the  'cutting edge psycho-therapeutic' response to the needs of predominantly 'dysfunctional' black children.

I have known of the company for years and even declined to fund them whilst Policy Director for Equalities for the Mayors Office. My reasoning and assessment back then was simple. Kids Company were never going to have any problem getting funding. That was the underestimate of the decade.

If you've worked in the black voluntary sector, you'll know the scenario. Governments, civil servants, local authority officers, funding officers, with little to no real understanding of the reality racism and poverty are predisposed to pathologising black communities as problematic, the black voluntary sector as chaotic and incapable.

This lack of expertise and insight into the reality of racism and its effects, leads to cultural racism infecting public and private funding policy approaches. Lets be clear hear with regard to  Kids Company, their perspective was that black people are incapable of looking after their own children.

This  approach of course resonated and indeed elevated their standing in they eyes of Government and London's white middle classes.

Camila Batmenghelidjh and her all white Board at Kids Company, were seen, by many as the traditional 'white saviours' of poor black communities, who despite their best intentions. were incapable of looking after their own children.

It's a scenario that has its roots in an outdated, racist and colonial 'missionary approach' to 'community development' in Black communities.

Unfair? Lets remember what Camila told a Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System in 2006 where she told  the BBC and MP's that 'black women were hugely responsible for the family breakdown which fuels crime'

In front of an eager and attentive audience she informed them that in her 'experience', black women had a 'cruel' culture of rejecting black men and adolescent boys.  She told the Parliamentary committee that ...

I also think that actually the mothers are hugely responsible, because they have created a culture where they can get rid of the adolescent boy; they can get rid of the male partner, they can survive on their own.'  24the October 2006 Ms Camila Batmanghelidjh Home Affairs Committee: 

Camila's view of black culture and Black History Month was equally problematic. Here's what she told the same committee.

' I really think these differentiations (Black History Month ) are destructive. Why are we having Black History Month? I am not sure that these constructs are very conducive to having a society that accepts everything as a citizen, and does not define people by their racial identities.'

We now know, through a report published by the National Audit Office, that although concerns were expressed about Kids Company by some senior Civil Servants, they were given a whopping £46 million over the last 15 years, money British black organisations can only dream about.

Further, the National Audit Office has uncovered what appears to be huge sums of money, inappropriately spent on paying peoples mortgages, private tuitions for her chauffeur and God knows what else.

Contrast this with London Evening Standards stories published in 2007 falsely alleging that over 17 London black organisations, all working in the same field, tackling youth violence, were potentially corrupt and or inept.  Two years later and investigations by Met Police. Boris Johnson Forensic Audit Committee, Audit Commission, London Development Agency, Deloittes Forensic accounting all concluded that not a single penny was found unaccounted for.

Kids Company were arrogant and patronising. They simply refused to work with other black organisations period. I know of occasions where funders suggested that they work in collaboration with other groups and were told by Camila in no uncertain terms  'You either give all the money to us or we pull out'.  They complied and backed down.

The reality is Government, desperate for political cover for the cuts to local authority budgets, blinded by their own prejudice, welcomed an Iranian 'Mother Theresa' saviour figure as the solution to our problems.

They loved her, this woman who dressed in vibrant 'ethnic' clothing. A woman who was happy to confirm and support their reluctance to fund black organisations. The Prime minister was also  impressed and in agreement with Camila's demonisation of black communities.

It is also true that with the reality of reductions to health and social care budgets, Government  needed a convenient fig leaf to mask huge cuts to children's services. Problem was Camila was happy to play the game as long as the cash kept coming and come it did by the bucket load

This peculiar conversions of interests and ' ethnic' alchemy worked for Kids Company and as a result local and central Government,  the adoring City of London and wealthy celebrities were all too willing to give Camila all the money she wanted.

No doubt some will say that Kids Company was extremely popular with the very community Camila held in such low regard.  I cannot, nor would I, deny that excellent work done with many with families, it would be churlish to do so.

The harm reduction, therapeutic approach to violence trauma and familial dysfunction utilised by Kids Company is the correct philosophical and pragmatic approach to this incredibly difficult and complex work. Work done by the Wave Trust over a decade a go pioneered this approach.

 Great work indeed but all is now overshadowed by the incredible way in which finances were managed.

Notwithstanding this good work, we cannot lose sight of the brutal fact that handing out huge sums of money every Friday afternoon will always be popular among poor, desperate, deprived  communities.

Then as we saw the slow unraveling of Kids Company, as it neared its end, we saw the hapless Alan Yentob Chair of Kids Company and Camila deploying the classic  'Mau Mau' strategy remonstrating with Government, telling them, 'If you close us down there will be riots.' 


Racism never comes cheap and the effect of Kids Company dominating the funding arena's and hoovering up all available funds, made possible because of the predisposition of white people to stereotypical tropes about black people and their fundamental fear of the black communities, has cost the country dear at a time of great austerity.  

£46 million of our money to be precise, millions that could have been spent more effectively in in other areas desperate for funds. Money that could have saved many of the credible and effective black and white voluntary sector organisations many of whom were sacrificed to ensure Kids Companys survival.

Such community organisations struggle on valiantly against the odds, but many have closed being unable to compete with Cameron's favourite charity. The damage of raised child expectations now being dashed is incalculable and the retrenchment of institutional racism in funding circles is explosive.

We are all victims of the  combination of hubris, racism arrogance, political naivety and white privilege that defined the charmed existence of Kids Company.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

I've heard the warm words of Cameron and the Tories on their 'commitment' to tackling racism before. I'm not impressed

I watched the recent speech of Prime Minister David Cameron at the Conservative Party conference, with much interest as I suspect did many on Black and ethnic communities. 

After the Powellite excesses of the Home Secretary Thersea May's toxic speech on immigration, the previous day, I tuned in anxious and concerned as to what the PM might say to either calm or inflame the anger felt by many in Britain's black communities.

This was his first major speech to the party since the May election. Not surprisingly Cameron was at his confident best. Buoyed by a jubilant atmosphere at the Tory conference his speech was classic Cameron. 

What we saw and heard from the Tories was an audacious policy land grab of Labour ideas, offering the opportunity for the Prime Minister to seek to reposition the Tories, in the minds of the public at least, to the centre ground of British politics. 

Cameron deployed the classic tactic of triangulation first extrapolated by Dick Clark  Chief political strategy to former President Bill Clinton in his bid to get reelected during the US Presidential in 1996. Clark commented at the time that 

""the president needed to take a position that not only blended the best of each party's views but also transcended them to constitute a third force in the debate."

This speech was in many respects, classic Clinton with a nod to Tony Blair. Its a sobering fact that despite Clinton's overwhelming popularity with African American community racial inequality and poverty both grew under Clinton.

Political triangulation of this kind, can offer serious benefits to politicians who are deploy it effectively and David Camerons PR background and his ambition to crush Labour provided the perfect blend of skills and opportunity. 

Cameron spoke movingly about race equality and equality of opportunity in speech peppered with examples of racial and religious discrimination. This speech was to that extent, unprecedented I haven't heard anything like this from any Prime Minister in the last 30 years. 

Cameron regaled us with example after example of race and religious inequality   He said ; 

" One young black girl had to change her name to Elizabeth before she got any calls to interviews. That, in 21st-century Britain, is disgraceful. ”

He also mentioned " Opportunity doesn’t mean much to a British Muslim if he walks down the street and is abused for his faith,”
Before issuing a clarion call for us to work together stating,
"I want us to end discrimination and finish the fight for real equality in our country today.” 
Wonderful stuff, you might think except, Cameron and the Tories record on delivering race equality is undermined by their record in Governement. 
The Runnymede Trust recently published research that demonstrated that far from reducing discrimination, race inequality and social injustice Camerons Government has actually increased these social evils. 
In response to Georeg Osbournes May budget, Runnymede's view was emphatic."Black Britons worse off after Budget" was the headline in the Guardian on Budget day.  In 2012 in a briefing provided to the All Parliamentary Group on Race  on Black and Asian Unemployment they that found that,
55.5% of economically active Black men, aged 16-24, are unemployed. This figure has nearly doubled since 2008. The figure is 44.4% for all Black people aged between 16-24 . For economically active Asian people aged between16-24, unemployment has risen from 22.8% in 2008 to the current figure of 26.7%. Breaking it down by specific groups, this is 24.2% for Indian young people and 33.6% for Pakistani/Bangladeshi young people (ONS 2012) 

Or look at Criminal Justice. The Youth Justice Board published statistics reported in the Guardian in June 2015. 

" The share of Asian prisoners as a proportion of the total youth custody population has risen by 75% and the share of black prisoners, who now account for one in five young people locked up, has risen by 67%." 
Islamophobia in Britain is now rampant, bordering on the rank hysteria last seen during the McCarthyite era. Veiled Muslim women are the targets of constant racist attack whilst hate crimes have soared, particularly in London. 

If these facts are not enough to cast doubt on the integrity and veracity of our Prime Ministers commitment to tackling these issues. maybe this will convince. 

Prior to his election five years ago, David Cameron spoke with great passion and insight about the scandal of racism, the urgent need for action and his total commitment to ensuring these issues were addressed were he to be elected.  

Speaking to Operation Black Vote's 'Black Britain Decides" hustings meetings in 2010, Cameron gave a masterful performance, that impressed many at the time. 

As you can see form this video, the gap between Camreons rhetoric on racism and his actions is as wide as the Grand Canyon and only matched by his equally rhetorical commitment to that other great social evil tackle poverty. 

Despite his soaring eloquence and declarative  intentions the facts are chilling. Figures produced by the Department of Work and Pensions published in June 2015 showed that 4.1 million children live in poverty and increase of 500,000 since his election in 2010.

This is the rank hypocrisy of Cameron. Black and ethnic minoritioes should not be impressed with such cynical and scripted, sympathetic sounding rhetorical flourishes. Its a sign of our own political disempowerment and the utter contempt with which Cameron views our communities, that he has the brazen audacity to try and fool us once more.  

If we trusted him once and he fooled us, then thats on him. If however he returns  to fool us a second time and we fall for it, then thats on us.

The objective reality, the brutal truth, whatever Cameron's warm words about his 'determination' to tackle racial inequality, is simply this, the Conservative Party has no real commitment to race equality and austerity economics have amplified racism.