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The Observer - 22 October 2017

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In The New Review
How Brass Eye
invented fake news
id Mitchell and
7-day TV listin
Sanele Junior Xaba
is breaking the mould
of male modelling
£2.49 FOR
e Rose America’s most
Willem Dafoe Martin
PAGE 13 ¥
Spain announces direct rule
to crush Catalan ‘rebellion’
In the Magazine
beautiful family Harry
Austerity puts
public workers’
wages below
private sector
by Jamie Doward
region of powers
■ Rajoy slams
Public sector workers’ pay has dipped
below that of their private sector
counterparts for the first time since
the financial crash, after seven years of
austerity and cuts to spending.
The revelation, which will pile
pressure on the chancellor, Philip
Hammond, to abandon the public sector pay cap in next month’s budget, is
contained in Treasury figures obtained
by the GMB union. The analysis of
hourly earnings shows that last year
public sector workers were paid 0.6%
less than private sector colleagues
in similar jobs. By comparison, they
enjoyed a premium of 3.1% compared
with the private sector in 2005, rising
to 5.8% in 2010.
by Stephen Burgen
1 2 A
Sunday 22 October 2017 £3.00
Spain was plunged deep into political
crisis yesterday after the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced that he is
stripping Catalonia of its autonomy and
imposing direct rule from Madrid in a
bid to crush the regional leadership’s
move to secede.
The decision, which prompted fear
and anger across Catalonia, has dramatically escalated Spain’s deepest constitutional crisis since the restoration
of democracy in 1977. Observers say the
move could raise the spectre of Basque
nationalism, and have repercussions
across a Europe that is facing the rise of
nationalist and separatist movements.
Following an emergency cabinet
meeting yesterday morning, Rajoy said
he was invoking Article 155 of the constitution to “restore the rule of law, coexistence and the economic recovery and
to ensure that elections could be held in
normal circumstances”.
Pending almost certain approval in
the senate on Friday, direct rule will be
imposed as of next weekend. Citing the
Catalan government’s “conscious and
systematic rebellion and disobedience”,
Rajoy said Carles Puigdemont’s government would be stripped of its powers
and its functions would be assumed by
the relevant ministries in Madrid.
The Catalan president will not be
empowered to call elections, which
Rajoy said he hoped would be held
within a maximum of six months. “We
are not ending Catalan autonomy but we
are relieving of their duties those who
have acted outside the law,” Rajoy said.
He did not go into details of how
Article 155 would be applied but a government statement said: “A series of
measures will be introduced regarding
sensitive issues such as security and public order, financial management, taxation,
the budget and telecommunications.”
Over recent years, the Catalan government has been creating the structures
iews | Plus Dav
Dee Rees
in London by
Antonio Olmos
for the Observer
New Review.
■ Madrid to strip
Features | Rep
ortage | Arts
| Rev
Cold Christmas coming for May as
Brexit and budget crises loom 8-9
Observer Comment 32
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont leads 450,000 protestors in Barcelona yesterday. Photograph by Ivan Alvarado/Reuters
of a parallel state in readiness for independence. It has expanded the inland
revenue department, as well as other
parts of the regional administration, and
has established “embassies” in a number
of foreign capitals. Under Article 155, it is
likely that all of this will be dismantled.
Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras accused the government of “totalitarianism” while Barcelona’s mayor Ada
Colau called the move “an attack on everyone’s rights and freedoms”.
Rajoy has the support of most of the
opposition, King Felipe and the EU,
whose leaders gave him their backing
War of attrition against Madrid 21
Mariano Rajoy profile 30
Observer Comment 32
at Friday’s Council of Europe meeting. Pablo Echenique, a spokesman for
Podemos, tweeted: “The most corrupt
party in Europe, which has 8.5% of the
vote in Catalonia and is going to govern
it. A terrible day for any democrat.”
On Friday Felipe, who faces criticism
for his apparently partisan support of
the government over the illegal Catalan
referendum, said: “Spain has to confront
the unacceptable attempt at secession by
a part of the national territory.”
Recent government actions – the
police violence on 1 October aimed at
thwarting the regional referendum on
independence, the jailing of the leaders of the two main pro-independence
organisations, the threat to imprison the
popular Catalan chief of police, and now
Article 155 – all serve to reinforce the
secessionists’ narrative of repression at
the hands of an undemocratic and antiCatalan Spanish regime.
Nevertheless, Rajoy put the blame
on Puigdemont, saying he lacked the
stature to deal with the situation. “This
would probably never have happened
if a different person with similar ideas
had been in charge. But this is what happens when you put yourself in the hands
of radicals,” he said, a reference to the
anti-capitalist CUP party that props up
the centre-right Catalan government.
While Rajoy insists that Article 155
doesn’t imply suspending autonomy,
this is not how the move will be seen
in Catalonia and 450,000 people took
to the streets of Barcelona yesterday to
demonstrate against direct rule.
Puigdemont and other members of
Continued on page 21
Last month, Hammond announced
a partial lifting of the 1% pay cap,
affecting only the police and prison
officers. The new figures will lead to
more calls for the cap to be abandoned
altogether in the budget, which is
being billed as make or break for the
chancellor after the party’s disastrous
performance in last June’s general
election. Protest marches by public
sector workers calling for the pay cap
to be lifted have taken place across the
country this autumn.
Last night the GMB claimed the
Treasury had repeatedly refused
to release the information until it
officially complained and threatened
to refer the matter to the Information
Commissioner’s Office. The chief
secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss,
refused to release the updated analysis
when challenged in parliament.
Rehana Azam, the GMB’s national
secretary for public services, said
the Treasury estimates “kicked away
the last prop” behind the government’s policy of enforcing real-terms
public sector pay cuts, and disproved
Hammond’s reported claim in a July
cabinet meeting that public sector
workers are overpaid. Azam said: “It’s
no wonder that ministers fought tooth
and nail to cover up these damning
Continued on page 9
2 | NEWS
Dispatch Leninsk-Kuznetsky
A century after Lenin’s revolution, the last
tsar still holds a place in Russian hearts
prophesying glorious revolution. The
embalmed corpse of the real Lenin
still lies in the marble mausoleum on
Red Square, 93 years after his death
in 1924. Visitors these days are mainly
curious tourists rather than committed Leninists, though the vociferous
response from the ageing contingent
of Russian communists to every suggestion that it might be time to lay
the Bolshevik leader’s body to rest in
the ground means he is unlikely to be
moved soon.
Gorky Leninskiye, the country house
where Lenin spent much of his time
after the revolution, ruling by telephone, is now eerily deserted. Its centrepiece is a vast museum dedicated to
Lenin, constructed from white marble
and opened in 1987 to coincide with
the 70th anniversary of the revolution.
In its first years, the complex received
school groups and tour parties every
day; now the attendants had to open
the doors and turn on the lights when
your correspondent arrived at 1pm, the
first visitor of the day.
The museum guide, Olga Nikolayeva,
described Lenin as “a man who created
a state the like of which the world had
never seen before”. But she also spoke
in terms that would have been unthink-
The events of 1917 still
divide the country
– the Bolshevik
leader may dominate
the landscape, but he
has a rival in Nicholas II
thanks to a resurgent
Orthodox church
Vladimir Lenin gazes impassively into
the middle-distance from his pedestal
outside the courthouse in LeninskKuznetsky, a Siberian mining town that
bears his name. Lenin, who called for
“bloodsucking” rich men to be hanged,
seems an incongruous figure to stand
guard outside a court of law in capitalist Russia.
Recently, an even more surprising
monument has appeared in the town’s
main square. A group of enthusiasts,
with the full support of the mayor,
unveiled a statue of Nicholas II,
amid fanfare and the blessings of
an Orthodox priest: a monument to
Russia’s last tsar in the central square
of a town named after the man who
ordered him killed.
Leninsk-Kuznetsky, 2,200 miles
east of Moscow, provides a neat visual
summary of the confusing conundrum
that 1917 presents for modern Russia as
it marks the centenary of the October
revolution. Under President Vladimir
Putin, other historical events have
been co-opted by the Kremlin and
woven into a narrative of centuries of
Russian greatness. But the tumultuous
year of 1917 – in which the February
revolution deposed the tsar, and then
the October revolution swept away the
brief attempt at democratic government and installed the Bolsheviks – is
harder to see in black-and-white terms.
Vyacheslav Telegin, the mayor of
Leninsk-Kuznetsky, said there was
nothing strange about celebrating both
the tsar and the Bolshevik leader. He
categorically ruled out removing the
Lenin statue or changing the name of
the town back to Kolchugino, as it was
called until 1922. “We can’t rewrite
history, and it’s not for us to decide
whether it was right or not,” he said.
“Our generation still remembers
who Lenin was, but what if the children
now won’t? He made a contribution to
Russian history. It’s difficult to say if it
was positive or negative but we can’t
ignore it – we have to remember it.”
In the early 1990s there were some
efforts to erase the communist past:
Leningrad became St Petersburg again;
Sverdlovsk, named after the Bolshevik
Yakov Sverdlov, became Yekaterinburg.
In Moscow, the statue of Felix
Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka
(which would go on to become the
KGB), was toppled from his perch outside the Lubyanka building, the KGB
But Russians lost their appetite for
erasing the symbols of the Soviet past.
Thousands of settlements retained
their communist-era names, the
Lubyanka continued to house the
headquarters of the FSB, the KGB’s
successor agency, and communist party
officials have not been disbarred from
government, as they were in many
other countries.
In Russia, this issue was more
complicated: after all, both Mikhail
Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin had been
party officials. But admiration for
Nicholas II is growing. The Orthodox
‘When we look at the
lessons from a
century ago, we see
how ambiguous
the results were’
President Vladimir Putin
Orthodox priests bless a statue of
the tsar while the death of Lenin is
marked in Gorky Leninskiye. Alamy
church canonised the last tsar and his
family in 2000. The passions stoked
among a strongly religious minority have been in evidence with the
scandal over Matilda, a film out next
week about the tsar’s affair with a
ballet dancer. Orthodox activists have
promised violence against cinemas that
show the film, and a number of public
figures have spoken out about the inap-
propriateness of besmirching the tsar’s
Russians continue to be split in their
evaluation of 1917. A survey this April
by the independent Levada Centre
found that 48% of Russians saw the
October revolution as a positive event,
and 31% saw it as a negative event, with
21% finding it hard to say.
As the centenary approaches on
7 November (the anniversary of the
October revolution falls in November
because the tsarist system used a different calendar), public discussion has
largely been limited to intellectual cir-
cles, with little airtime given to debating the meaning and legacy of 1917 on
state television. The revolution, while
ostensibly absent from the debate,
continues to cast a long shadow over
modern Russia, however. “The tragedy
of the early 20th century is imprinted
in Russia’s cerebral cortex,” wrote
journalist Mikhail Zygar in a recently
released book on 1917.
The book probes parallels between
modern Russia and its predecessor a
century earlier, many of which were
evident at Zygar’s costumed book
launch party, held at a tsarist-era mansion in central Moscow last week, and
featuring a performance of monologues drawn from speeches or diaries
of various historical players active in
1917, often given a modern twist.
When Rasputin appeared to the
Empress Alexandra, it was from the
screen of an “Orthodox TV channel”,
looking eerily similar to a modern-day
Christian channel funded by a politically influential, ultra-religious financier who wants to restore the monarchy. And when the writer Maxim
Gorky appearing on Skype from exile,
and appealed to citizens not to give
money to the tsarist regime because
“it has no links with the people”, there
was a smattering of applause among
the mainly liberal Russians gathered
at the event. The performance ended
with Lenin cartwheeling through the
drawing room of the mansion while
able in the Soviet period, admitting that
“some people would see the October
revolution as nothing but a coup”.
Putin has been equivocal in his
statements on the revolution but has
made it clear that his main issue is the
violent seizure of power undertaken
by the Bolsheviks. Putin has fetishised
the sanctity of statehood, however
distasteful the ruling regime may be:
whether it be in modern-day Kiev or
Damascus, or in tsarist Russia.
“When we look at the lessons from
a century ago, we see how ambiguous
the results were, and how there were
both negative and positive consequences of those events,” said Putin
this week, coming back to a thought he
has expounded on many times before.
“We have to ask the question: was
it really not possible to develop not
through revolution but through evolution, without destroying statehood and
mercilessly ruining the fate of millions,
but through gradual, step-by-step
This, ultimately, is the key message
from the Kremlin as the anniversary
approaches. Monarchists and the
ultra-Orthodox are free to idolise
Nicholas II; communists and nostalgics
are free to look back on the Bolsheviks
as the harbingers of a new civilisation,
but state collapse and violent protests
are always to be condemned.
Others say Russia would benefit
from a more open discussion of the
events of 1917 and their far-reaching
consequences. “Russia has never come
to terms with its past,” wrote Zygar
in the conclusion to his book. “The
historical traumas are still raw; the psychological hang-ups persist. Russian
history is an illness. Our history has
made us all sick.”
Back in Leninsk-Kuznetsky, Andrei
Froshkayzer, who collected donations
from business people and organised
the creation of the Nicholas II statue,
described the tsar as “a great man and
a patriot”. Froshkayzer expressed
ambivalence about the legacy of Lenin,
however. He would prefer the town
to change back to its tsarist-era name,
Kolchugino, but had been told categorically that the authorities wanted
to keep the current name. “Of course
it would be good if we were not named
after Lenin, but it’s probably better to
keep things as they are,” he said.
NEWS | 3
Colwall Quoining
Dessert apple named after a village near
Malvern, Worcestershire. It has angular
ridges – ‘quoining’ refers to its corners
– and crisp, coarse flesh with a sweet,
nutty flavour. Green with splashes of
red. Available January to October.
Pig’s Nose Pippin (pictured below)
Named after its flattish top, resembling
a pig’s snout. It has a sweet and
aromatic flavour. Available mid-October.
Byford Wonder
It has yellowish flesh and a sharp and
aromatic flavour. Available in October.
Ten Commandments
Red apple ready late September. Its
name refers to the 10 red spots that
feature around the core – visible when
sliced in half.
Brithmawr Forester
A South Wales apple that can be used
for cooking, eating fresh or cider. Ready
for picking from mid-September.
‘We are finding, naming and protecting hundreds of varieties,’ says Steve Oram, an apple diversity officer. ‘There are possibly thousands more to discover.’ Alamy
Take your pick: great British apple boom
brings back hundreds of forgotten varieties
As events across the
UK celebrate Apple
Day this weekend,
John Vidal talks to
growers preserving
our ‘lost’ harvest
Britain is enjoying a remarkable apple
boom, as hundreds of new community
orchards revive lost varieties and contribute to a thriving heritage market.
According to Steve Oram, who is the
apple diversity officer at the wildlife
charity People’s Trust for Endangered
Species: “We are adding new orchards
to the register all the time. Some are in
allotments, others in schools and even
housing developments.
“After the postwar years of neglect
and destruction, when 90% of the UK’s
orchards were lost and supermarkets
sold only a few varieties and imported 70
to 80% of their apples, it is very exciting.”
The Newquay community orchard
in Cornwall was started in 2015 with a
£66,000 crowdfunding appeal. More
than 2,000 trees, including 120 local
heritage varieties, have been planted on
land donated by the Duchy of Cornwall.
“It has been a huge success so far,” says
operations manager Natalie Frost. “We
have 300 volunteers and employ seven
people – we haven’t even had a harvest
yet. There’s a huge resurgence of people
wanting to engage with nature. We find
it is attracting schoolchildren, retirees,
people from all parts of the community.”
Other community orchards are proving so popular they are being robbed of
their harvest, possibly to supply the fastgrowing “craft” cider market.
“Two weeks ago … someone got on to
one orchard site with a truck and cleared
every tree of the pear apple variety,” says
David Curry from Plymouth who works
with more than 20 community orchards
“They left the rest. The pear apple is a
lovely juicy, sweet apple. They knew
what they were doing.”
The big growers say community
orchards have found a niche. “There is
a great interest now in growing heritage varieties. We are seeing a lot of small
community orchards being planted with
100-odd trees,” says James Simpson,
chair of trade body English Apples and
Pears and one of Britain’s biggest apple
growers. “These are starting to generate
fruit and are supplying the growing heritage apple markets.”
Tom Adams, a young orchardist from
Weston Rhyn, near Oswestry, Shropshire, who works with the Marcher
Apple network of apple enthusiasts, is
one of a growing number of apple detectives who are helping to track down and
revive varieties of the fruit which were
thought to have been lost for good.
He cites the case of bright yellow apples found on an old tree in a
neglected orchard in south Shropshire.
The single tree was an ecological and
historical mystery: no one knew when it
was planted and there was no mention of
it in the national fruit collection of more
than 2,200 apple varieties.
“It was probably 100 years old and
the only one of its kind left. It was a lost
variety. Its DNA was tested and it was
shown to be unique,” said Adams. The
tree is one of more than 60 “lost” varieties which have been found growing
near the Welsh border. After several
years of research it was last year identified as a Bringewood pippin, first bred in
the early 19th century by horticulturalist
Thomas Andrew Knight. All 60 varieties
have now been saved.
The Marcher group is part of a burgeoning movement of growers and
enthusiasts using old books and modern DNA testing to identify, propagate,
and popularise Britain’s wealth of rare
apples. Many, like Adams, who grows
more than 50 varieties are also selling
heritage trees.
“They are finding, protecting and
naming hundreds of apple varieties,”
says Oram. “There are possibly thousands more varieties waiting to be discovered. Many were never recorded by
the authorities or commercial growers
but were grown by farmers, smallholders and households. We know of 924
varieties being grown which are not
registered at Brogdale [the Kent home
‘We found
a tree that
was 100
years old
and the
only one
of its
kind left’‘
Tom Adams,
apple grower
of the national fruit collection] but there
are probably hundreds more. About 300
are cider varieties.”
Some of those found have no names;
others are being named after the person
or place they were found or what they
look like. New names added recently
include Halfpenny Green B, Link Wonder, Nancy Crow and Burr Knot.
Sue Clifford, founder of the Common
Ground environment group, which
launched a movement to save traditional
orchards nearly 30 years ago, and came
up with the idea of an annual apple day,
says apple awareness is now high and a
corner may have been turned.
“Until quite recently, every farm,
country house and suburban garden had
its own collection of fruit trees. We lost
nearly all these old orchards in the 1970s
and 80s. We are in a far better place than
we were then, but we were starting at a
very low point.
“It is astonishing how people have
picked up the idea of planting small
orchards. There is much more planting
now, a growing urban and rural movement and a resurgence of interest in
ciders. Community orchards are becoming very important to places, and people
are rightly proud of them. Apple Day has
become a new harvest festival.
“But supermarkets were always the
problem and they still are. Only one in
three apples we eat comes from the UK,
and they are still selling apples from Australia. They are just not thinking. They
could do much better.”
4 | NEWS
National Trust defeats move
to ban trail hunting on its land
Board accused of bowing
to hunting lobby after it
uses proxy votes to
sway result in its favour
by Ben Quinn
The National Trust was accused of succumbing to pressure from the hunting
lobby after a motion to ban trail hunting
on the organisation’s land was narrowly
defeated at its annual conference yesterday, sparking warnings that some members would cancel their subscriptions in
Members, including the explorer
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, had backed the
motion as a means of prohibiting trail
hunting – in which hounds and riders
follow a scent path laid earlier – which
has long been regarded by animal rights
campaigners and others as a means of
circumventing the 2004 hunting ban.
While the motion was endorsed
by 28,629 member votes, with 27,525
against, it was ultimately defeated after
the counting of 3,460 proxy votes, which
were authorised to be used at the discretion of other members and the trust’s
board of trustees.
Before the vote, the charity’s board
had recommended that the trail hunting
should be allowed to continue following
recent improvements in licensing conditions to further safeguard conserva-
tion and access on the trust’s land. Some
2,057 proxy votes were cast in favour.
Helen Beynon, an NT member who
tabled the motion to halt the issuing of
licences for trail hunting or the exercise by hunts of their hounds on trust
land after witnessing one earlier this
year, said: “I believe the only reason
our motion has failed is because most
National Trust members haven’t seen it
with their own eyes. If they’d have seen
what I’ve seen, then I have no doubt they
would have voted with us.
“I was surprised that, despite all
the evidence available to the trustees,
they advised members to vote against
our proposal. They have led people to
believe that there is no problem. But
there is a problem – hunts will now be
able to continue their barbaric hobby on
land which is meant to be protected for
people and animals. It’s disgraceful, and
the trust should be ashamed.”
The League Against Cruel Sports,
which had supported Beynon and other
NT members in bringing the motion,
described the result as a “massive backward step for justice and a shot in the
arm for cruelty”.
Peter Martin, an NT member and
chairman of the Badger Trust who supported the ban, said that badger setts
were being routinely filled in during the
hunting season, often burying badgers
alive. “No organisation can license or
permit illegal activities on your land.
If you are not prepared to commit
resources to monitor illegal activity and
to ensure it does not take place on your
land, then you must ban it,” he said.
Opponents accused those behind the
motion of seeking to turn the issue into a
political football. Among them was Ann
Mallalieu, the Labour peer and president of the pro-hunting Countryside
Alliance, who said that it was wrong for
the trust to divert resources into such an
issue. “Argue your case for a change in
the law elsewhere, but do not damage
this charity,” she said.
Orna Ni Chionna, a member of the
trust’s board who outlined its case
against the motion, insisted that things
would be “substantially different” under
the new guidelines introduced this year.
Terriermen, traditionally involved in
digging out foxes, were being banned
from trust land, while the guidelines
specified the use of non-animal-based
scents to reduce the chances that foxes
and other animals would be chased.
“This is a polarised subject, one in
which we can’t afford to be driven by
emotion,” she said, adding that the trust
had to respond to the experience of staff,
visitors and members. “I have seen the
pressure that rural communities are
under and the role hunting has played
in supporting them, but it is not always
pursued responsibly and when things go
wrong it is unpleasant, to say the least.
All this stretches the tolerance of our
members, visitors and staff.”
A total of 79 annual licences were
granted last year to applicants seeking
to engage in trail hunting on trust lands.
Licences are granted on the understanding that the hunt simulates a traditional
chase, but without foxes being deliberately pursued or killed.
Stormwatchers gather in Porthcawl, south Wales, yesterday, as high seas slam into
the seafront. Storm Brian brought wind speeds of up to 78mph in parts of north Wales.
(Weather forecast, page 49). Photograph by Chris Fairweather/Shutterstock
NEWS | 5
End of the fantasy: how Game of Thrones
star left Westeros to embrace gritty realism
Indira Varma tells
Vanessa Thorpe why
she took a challenging
role in new Channel 4
film as a mother who
suspects her partner
is abusing her child
It is a crime that terrifies parents, and is
one of the hardest to tackle in a drama.
Now, Indira Varma, last seen facing
down her enemies as a vengeful Sand
Snake mother in Game of Thrones, is to
put the fantasy kingdom of Westeros
far behind her to star in a Channel 4
film about the fear of domestic child
sexual abuse.
Varma walked away from her highprofile role as Ellaria Sand this summer,
keen to embrace work set in the real
world. Yet in Unspeakable, an unsettling
one-off drama, her character is still consumed by the desire to protect a daughter – this time against a potential threat
from inside her own household.
She will appear alongside Luke
Treadaway in a fictional account of an
allegation that started out as a documentary project. It was written in response
to the growing understanding of how
widespread domestic abuse is and how
toxic suspicion can be.
“The idea behind it, that we don’t
really know who to trust any more and
that anybody could be an abuser, is really
frightening,” Varma told the Observer
this weekend. “But what do we do in
response to that knowledge? Become
At the beginning of Unspeakable,
which will be broadcast early next
month, Varma’s character Jo, a working
single mother, receives an anonymous
tip-off that her 11-year-old daughter is
no longer safe at home. The unwelcome
news, pointing the finger at a new boyfriend, Danny, arrives by text one morning. It is this everyday approach to the
topic that may startle viewers in an era in
which television drama is dominated by
serial killer shows and police shootouts.
Described by David Nath, the Baftawinning writer and director behind the
project, as “an antidote” to the extreme
domestic antics seen in recent popular
television series such as Doctor Foster
and Broadchurch, it stays within the
realms of reality. Although it has a fictional plot, Nath says it was inspired by
dozens of real-life cases.
And this is partly why Varma was
drawn to her role. “Purely selfishly, I
felt I don’t often get the opportunity to
Indira Varma made
her name playing
Ellaria Sand, a
vengeful mother,
alongside Pedro
Pascal in Game of
Thrones; in her
latest role she also
seeks to protect
her daughter. HBO
Luke Treadaway as Danny, the new
boyfriend of Indira Varma’s character, Jo.
‘The poison can’t go
away, particularly if
the crime is the worst
thing anyone can do
under your roof’
David Nath, writer and director
play someone who is normal with relatively normal problems. I have done a
lot of fantasy television drama, but not
so much domestic drama. This story has
real momentum, but a subtler emotional
palette. I was up for doing something on
a smaller scale, about a significant issue.”
Varma added that she was reassured
that Nath, who also made the acclaimed
documentary The Murder Detectives,
had a background in serious journalism.
“Hopefully, the power of this story
is that it could happen to any family on
any day,” said Nath. He wanted to create
a sense of the overriding paranoia that
can overtake a mother. “The things we
hear all the time about this subject mean
we can’t think about it in a rational way.”
Initially, Nath’s team at Story Films
looked into a fly-on-the-wall treatment
of an abuse accusation. “It is not a story
you can tell well through documentary,
partly, of course, because the anonymity
of the child must be the priority,” he said.
“At the beginning, we wondered if
we could do it through the eyes of the
authorities handling the complaint, the
police or the social services. But that
would be quite dry and process-driven.
It was better to look at it before the introduction of a third party and concentrate
on a woman balancing her role as a
mother with her new role as girlfriend.”
It is the unknown source of an allegation that can give it disruptive power,
Nath believes. “It can trigger a whole
series of thoughts, but how do you
know the veracity of it? And once you
are thinking about whether it is true or
not, you have already betrayed that partner.” Varma’s new, younger boyfriend is
played by Treadaway, star of the film A
Street Cat Named Bob.
“The longer you leave it to talk about
it, the more evidence there is of a failure
of trust. Everything in your day is suddenly about looking for clues,” said Nath.
Set in the claustrophobic atmosphere
of a family home, the drama allows the
viewer to judge the accused man from
the perspective of his new partner once
she has received the text message. “We
are inside this woman’s mind for two
days and once the poison has been put
into her mind, it can’t go away. This is
particularly true when the crime is the
worst thing that anyone could do under
your roof. You are forced to confront the
stigma it would bring,” said Nath.
Darker still is the thought that Nath
says has nagged at him since he finished the drama. “We can all talk about
the power of the accusation, the change
it makes to a normal day, but I have
come to think subsequently that men
have somehow lost the trust of women.
There is a prevailing anxiety about new
For Varma, regardless of the truth
revealed at the end of this drama, it is the
close-up portrayal of human reactions
that is most compelling. “It is one little text message that explodes over 48
hours and that makes it so plausible,”
she said.
How Weinstein’s A-list accusers gave
women worldwide a voice
Special report, pages 15-17
U-turn on housing benefit cap for elderly and vulnerable
Move follows outcry
from charities and
evidence that housing
projects have been axed
by Toby Helm
Plans to cap housing benefit for thousands of mentally ill, elderly and other
vulnerable people in supported housing are to be re-examined after protests
by MPs and charities.
The rethink, expected within
weeks, also follows evidence from the
National Housing Federation, which
found that 85% of schemes to build
new homes for vulnerable people have
been shelved by housing associations
because of fears that the new funding
system will make them unsustainable.
More than 700,000 people in
supported housing usually have the
accommodation element of their costs
met entirely through housing benefit.
But under plans announced by the government in 2015, and due to be introduced from next year, these payments
would be capped in the same way as for
people renting in the private sector.
As accommodation costs are higher
in supported housing, because of the
extra services and communal spaces
provided, charities and others critics
say the proposed system would leave
residents facing big potential shortfalls.
This is despite ministers saying that
they could get help from special funds
run by local authorities.
The plans have caused an outcry,
with charities warning the system
would be bureaucratic, unworkable
and would leave people facing uncertainty and worry about whether they
could afford to remain.
Supported housing provides a
secure, safe place for the most vulnerable, the majority of whom are
older people or those with long-term
disabilities, as well as the mentally ill,
people with disabilities, those at risk
of homelessness and women fleeing
domestic violence. An inquiry by the
communities and local government
and work and pension committees
in parliament, called for an urgent
rethink, saying: “In particular, we have
been concerned by reports of providers
choosing to postpone or cancel investment decisions, as well as increased
levels of anxiety among vulnerable tenants who fear they may no longer have
the guarantee of a home for life.”
The communities secretary, Sajid
Javid, told a recent session of the communities and local government committee the report had been “very helpful” and he expected to announce a
decision soon that would show
ministers had listened. Pressure
for a climbdown is mounting
before an opposition day debate
on supported housing that will
take place on Wednesday.
Tomorrow, the charity
Sajid Javid says his decision
will be announced soon.
Rethink Mental Illness will publish a
report showing people with the highest
needs, and the highest costs, are likely
to suffer the biggest shortfalls in rent.
The charity says this will be most
evident in parts of the country where
rents are cheapest and therefore housing benefit payments will be lowest.
Research has shown the cap will mean
housing benefit will only cover about
two thirds of accommodation costs in
some parts of the country.
Gillian Connor, head of policy partnerships at the charity, said: “We are
hopeful the government has listened
to the consensus of the sector: that a
one-size-fits-all approach to supported
housing will not work and will leave
some of the most vulnerable people in society at risk. It is looking
increasingly like the government
has heeded these warnings and
may be about to take a different
approach to reforming this vital
“We would absolutely
welcome a rethink and
a chance to shape reforms that ensure
everyone is able to get the support they
Caroline Abrahams, a director of Age
UK, said: “We would be pleased and
relieved if the government has decided
to rethink its proposed policy. We need
more supported housing for older
people in this country, not less, but
the proposals threatened a postcode
lottery, with many providers having to
withdraw services or close schemes
altogether. The consequences for older
people of pressing ahead would have
been disastrous, so it’s very good news
if the decision has been taken to adopt
a different policy approach.”
Labour’s shadow secretary of state,
John Healey, said: “These plans remain
a sword of Damocles hanging over
homeless hostels, women’s refuges and
sheltered housing for the frail elderly.
The chaos caused by the Conservative
plans has already halted 85% of new supported housing. Ministers must use this
week’s Labour-led Commons debate to
drop their flawed plans for good.”
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6 | NEWS
PM told to keep pledge over debt relief for poor
Lords ambush would
force Tories to fulfil
‘breathing space’
promise to millions
by Michael Savage
Policy Editor
Theresa May is under pressure to fulfil
her pledge to give people struggling with
debts “breathing space” from the bailiffs
as figures show that half the British population are financially vulnerable.
A cross-party group of peers, including a former Tory minister, is planning to
bounce the prime minister into handing
those in difficulty a grace period, during
which they would be protected from
enforcement proceedings and mounting
interest charges. They would be able to
use the time to seek help.
A proposal for a six-week “breathing
space” was included in the Tory manifesto but has yet to be enacted.
With official figures suggesting
that almost 8 million people are overindebted, the government is facing a
Lords rebellion over the issue. Baroness
Altmann, the former Tory pensions minister, has helped draw up an amendment
with Labour and the Lib Dems to force
the government’s hand.
A survey has found that half the UK
population are financially vulnerable
and that one in six would be unable to
cope with a £50 increase in monthly
Baroness Altmann,
a former Tory
pensions minister,
is one of the peers
trying to force
Theresa May to act.
bills. More than 4 million people are
already in serious financial difficulty,
falling behind with bills and credit card
payments, according to a survey of personal finances by the City regulator, the
Financial Conduct Authority.
Those aged between 25 and 34 are
the most over-indebted. Charities are
also warning that an expected rise in
interest rates this week will make the
situation even worse. The debt charity
StepChange has said that the proportion
of its clients falling behind on payments
has gone over the 40% mark in the first
half of 2017. More than 620,000 families
in England and Wales are spending more
on overdue bills than on food.
The Tory manifesto was clear, stating:
“Problem debt can be hard to escape and
can compound family breakdown, worklessness, stress and mental health issues.
We will adopt a “breathing space”
scheme, with the right safeguards to prevent abuse, so that someone in serious
problem debt may apply for legal protection from further interest, charges and
enforcement action for a period of up to
six weeks.”
Government insiders said there had
been a battle to include the measure in
the manifesto, as it was not cost-free to
the Treasury. Some of the debt relates
to public money such as council and
other taxes. However, it was eventually
included in the document in an attempt
to demonstrate May’s commitment to
righting social injustices.
Labour has devised an amendment
to the financial guidance and claims
bill, which is working its way through
parliament. Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, who drew up the proposal, said:
“It’s surprising that the Conservatives,
having – like Labour – committed to a
‘breathing space’ scheme in their election manifesto, are now dithering on its
While the Lords vote is a headache
for the government, charities are pushing for the breathing space rules to be
announced by Philip Hammond in next
month’s budget.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of
the Children’s Society, said: “A breathing space for families in problem debt
is needed now more than ever. Bailiffs
at the door is something that no child
should have to experience, but all too
many do. It can take just one unexpected
cost or life event, like losing your job, to
push families into problem debt.
“Falling into problem debt places
enormous strain on parents and children alike: becoming ill with stress, bullied at school, or forced to cut back to
the bone on food and heating. A breathing space would give these families a
pause from mounting fees and being
pursued by creditors while they get
their finances in order and agree a plan
to affordably repay what they owe. This
[Lords] amendment is an important step
towards giving families in debt the help
they need to get back on their feet. Families simply cannot afford for there to be
any delay in making this debt respite a
reality, and we urge the chancellor in his
autumn budget to stay true to the government’s election promise.”
The government has said that it backs
the breathing space plan, but that it
needs more time to design the policy.
Firms push to
add extra veg
to British diet
by Denis Campbell
Health Policy Editor
Eat more vegetables – it is the constant
exhortation from doctors, dieticians
and public health experts, but falling
sales of greens suggest the advice is
being ignored.
This week 30 retailers, cafe chains
and catering companies will pledge to
include more vegetables in their products. Schools and councils will also
be involved, as well as some leading
employers who will commit to making
it easier for staff to get their five a day.
Greggs, the high street chain known
for its pasties and rolls, is among those
joining the Pledge for Veg campaign.
From January every one of its soups
and leaf-based salads will contain
enough vegetables to count as at least
one of someone’s five a day. From next
year, half of all Greggs sandwiches will
contain at least half a portion of vegetables and the company plans to sell an
extra 15 million portions of vegetables.
Malcolm Copland, commercial
director of Greggs, said it was making
the changes after strong sales of its
“balanced choice” range showed there
was demand for healthier options.
The accountancy firm PwC is one
of 30 public and private organisations
that will make the pledge for veg at
meetings in London, Edinburgh and
Cardiff on Tuesday. In partnership
with the contract caterer BaxterStorey,
which feeds PwC’s 18,000 staff, it will
increase the fruit and vegetables available in its canteens and improve its
vegetarian and vegan offerings.
“Eating more vegetables has so many
benefits,” said Bridget Jackson, PwC’s
head of corporate sustainability.
Obesity is rising and diets low in
vegetables are a factor in about 20,000
deaths a year in Britain. Evidence from
the Global Burden of Disease project
shows that poor diet is the biggest risk
factor in Britain for death and disability from diabetes, heart disease and
other illnesses.
NEWS | 7
Hollywood? It’s
finished, claims
director who
fled to New York
Paul Haggis with model
and photographer
Helena Christensen
at a benefit dinner in
New York this month;
above, filming with
Adrien Brody in 2013.
Shutterstock, Allstar
Director Paul Haggis tells Vanessa Thorpe
how the Weinstein scandal and falling
box-office receipts demand a rethink
of big-budget movie-making in LA
A change of the old order in Hollywood is long overdue, according to Paul
Haggis, the Oscar-winning film-maker
behind the hit films Crash and Million
Dollar Baby.
Speaking this weekend, the Canadian
screenwriter and director said many
of the established rules of big-budget
showbusiness should be re-examined in
the light of falling box-office receipts and
the recent scandalous claims and revelations about the enduring influence of the
casting couch.
“Los Angeles is a town run by a group
of powerful corporations, the studios,
and they inevitably want to make what
they know they can sell. This means they
often lag a few years behind creatively,”
he said.
A reliance on sci-fi and youth franchise reboots is not enough, he said. “I
love comic-book movies, but do we want
a diet of only that? It is about money, of
course. The studios have to make more
than they did last year, so we have Fast
and Furious number whatever.”
Haggis, who wrote the screenplay for
Casino Royale (2006), as well as Clint
Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima and
Flags of Our Fathers, and whose exposé
of gritty Los Angeles life in Crash earned
him international plaudits in 2005, said
his desire to make grown-up films had
led him to leave Hollywood. He said the
insular nature of Los Angeles both conceals bad behaviour like Harvey Weinstein’s and inhibits creative risk-taking.
“It is one of the reasons I moved to
New York. LA is pretty much a oneindustry town and conversations
become quite circular. In New York I
talk instead to neuroscientists, bakers
and restaurateurs.”
The film-maker hit the headlines
seven years ago when he cut ties with
the Church of Scientology, a powerful
force in Hollywood, and began to speak
out against them after 35 years inside the
movement. He appeared in the Emmywinning documentary Going Clear in
2015, revealing the disappointment he
felt once he had seen through the mystical hierarchy of the church.
Now Haggis, 64, who is working on a
documentary about the early days of the
Aids epidemic in San Francisco, said he
enjoys greater artistic contact with the
outside world, including at international
film festivals. “I look forward to the
cross-pollination and the fact that filmmakers in New York and Europe have a
completely different approach,” he said.
Next weekend he will receive the inaugural Vision Award in recognition of his
career at the Evolution Mallorca international film festival .
“People have been hoping for a new
trend of more serious American filmmaking for a while,” Haggis said. “I
remember when I was Oscar-nominated
for Crash in 2006, the other contenders
were all serious films, Capote, Brokeback
Mountain, Good Night, and Good Luck
and Munich, so I thought Hollywood
had turned a corner. But people told me,
rightly, that it was just an anomaly.”
Ironically, it was a hunger for Hollywood films with greater depth of content
that established the success of Harvey
and Bob Weinstein’s Miramax and then
The Weinstein Company.
“It is really hard for their innocent
‘Were people covering
for paedophiles, too?
I find it particularly
terrible that people
had their dreams held
to ransom in that way’
employees in New York, who worked
hard and may well lose their jobs, but
a lot of people are compromised by
Harvey’s alleged actions,” said Haggis. “Although everyone thinks it is
vile behaviour, you have got to focus
on those who may have protected him.
For me, they are as guilty as he is and in
some cases more so, if I can say that. I
mean, he was a predator and a predator
is a predator. But what about those who
would rather look the other way?”
Haggis does not think sexual harassment and abuse are endemic in Hollywood, but he admitted it is a “fairly sexist” town. “It is not an innocent place and
never has been. Most of this behaviour
has been aimed at women, but I am sure
that former child stars such as Corey
Feldman and Corey Haim, who have
both made allegations in the past that
no one took seriously, are worth considering, too.
“Were people covering for paedophiles, too? We have to think that may
have happened as well, because no one
speaks out about being abused just to
benefit their career. I find it particularly
terrible that people had their dreams
held to ransom in that way.”
Hollywood, Haggis believes, always
invites newcomers to sell their souls.
“People make compromises, but you
don’t have to. I did sometimes, of course,
especially in my early TV days. But then
I made a conscious decision: if it doesn’t
sell, it doesn’t sell.
“I hawked the screenplay for Crash
around the studios for the longest
time. They all turned it down. But I
felt I couldn’t keep selling little pieces
of my soul, and now I have earned the
right to the final edit on the films I
direct. Sometimes people won’t work
with me because of that, but there you
are. How many academy awards have
they won?”
This December, London will host a
fundraising event for Haggis’s charity,
Artists for Peace and Justice, which since
he founded it in 2009 has raised millions
of pounds to fund education in Haiti. “We
can’t solve poverty there, or anywhere
else, but at least we are giving them the
right start so that they can come up with
their own solutions,” he said.
How A-list accusers gave women
worldwide a voice Special report, 15-17
Weinstein accuser says fear of losing work Firms pledge extra veg help for
stopped her making harassment allegations those struggling with five a day
by Mark Townsend
The actress Katherine Kendall has
revealed how the fear of being “blackballed” by Hollywood’s powerbrokers
stopped her from making claims of
sexual harassment.
Kendall, 48, publicly alleged earlier
this month that Harvey Weinstein had
harassed her in his apartment in 1993,
claiming that the producer “literally
chased me” and stopped her from getting past him to reach the door.
In an interview recorded in July
and obtained by the Observer, Kendall
refers to inappropriate behaviour from
a powerful unnamed producer and
reveals she was “scared” to go public
because of how she might be subsequently treated or viewed.
“You make yourself a target in a way
– I was awful scared that I would be
judged, even blackballed. They could
make it so you don’t work,” she said.
Kendall also said that at the time of
the alleged attack, complaints of sexual
harassment made by women were routinely dismissed. “If you were a woman
who complained about someone harassing you, people laughed at you. You
didn’t have a leg to stand on.”
Another factor that stopped
Kendall, best known for her starring
role in the 1996 film Swingers, from
speaking out for 25 years was the fear
that it would attract significant scrutiny of her and that people would cast
her as a victim.
“I never went to the press because I
was too scared. I didn’t want attention
brought on me for that.”
In the interview, Kendall also says
the harassment affected her profoundly, describing how the experience can leave women “shattered”.
She said: “People don’t realise that
those things can be downright scary
and can leave a woman shattered,
fragmented … ” Another reason for
not going public was shame, said
Kendall. “When someone perpetrates against another person
like that it actually makes the
person who got perpetrated
upon feel ashamed.”
In an interview with
the Washington Post last
week Kendall revealed
she finally decided to
go on the record over
Katherine Kendall says
she was harassed in 1993.
Weinstein’s alleged attack after Ashley
Judd came forward this month with
her story about the producer, the first
leading actress to do so.
More than 50 women have so far
accused Weinstein of sexual harassment, unwanted attention or rape.
He has denied allegations of criminal
sexual harassment, rape and sexual
assault. Accounts of Weinstein’s
alleged attack on Kendall detail how
the producer invited the aspiring
actress to a screening, after which he
asked if she could stop by his apartment. Kendall claims Weinstein
chased her naked around his flat and
asked if she would at least show him
her breasts, to which she repeatedly
said no.
In the interview, given four
months before the slew of
allegations against Weinstein
emerged, Kendall talked about
the methods employed by
sexual predators in the film
industry. “Famous people try
and lure you in to make [you]
think you should do it: ‘Hey,
they did it so you should do it.’
But there is never any consequences for these people, they
have power.
by Denis Campbell
Health Policy Editor
Eat more vegetables – it is the constant
exhortation from doctors, dieticians
and public health experts, but falling
sales of greens suggests the advice is
being ignored.
This week 30 retailers, cafe chains
and catering companies will pledge to
include more vegetables in their products. Schools and councils will also
be involved, as well as some leading
employers who will commit to making
it easier for staff to get their five a day.
Greggs, the high street chain known
for its pasties and rolls, is among those
joining the Pledge for Veg campaign.
From January every one of its soups
and leaf-based salads will contain
enough vegetables to count as at least
one of someone’s five a day. From next
year, half of all Greggs sandwiches will
contain at least half a portion of vegetables and the company plans to sell an
extra 15 million portions of vegetables.
Malcolm Copland, Greggs’s commercial director, said it was making the
changes after strong sales of its “balanced choice” range showed there was
demand for healthier options.
The accountancy firm PwC is one
of 30 public and private organisations that will make the pledge for veg
at meetings in London, Edinburgh
and Cardiff on Tuesday. In partnership with the contract caterer Baxter
Storey, which feeds PwC’s 18,000 staff,
it will increase the amount of fruit and
vegetables in its canteens and improve
vegetarian and vegan offerings.
“Eating more vegetables has so many
benefits,” said Bridget Jackson, PwC’s
head of corporate sustainability.
Obesity is rising and diets low in
vegetables are a factor in about 20,000
deaths a year in Britain. Evidence from
the Global Burden of Disease project
shows that poor diet is the biggest risk
factor in Britain for death and disability from diabetes, heart disease and
other illnesses. While more people
are eating fruit since the five-a-day
campaign began running in 2003, sales
of vegetables have fallen.
“Most people desperately need to
eat more veg but are struggling. Four in
five people in the UK want to be eating
more. We desperately need the food
system to work harder to help us,” said
Anna Taylor, executive director of the
Food Foundation, one of the organisers
of the new campaign.
8 | NEWS | Politics
Cold Christmas coming for May
Philip Hammond is under pressure from
several directions over the welfare
budget. Some MPs want claimants to
face a shorter wait before receiving their
first universal credit payment. Others
want poor workers to be able to retain
more state support as they increase their
hours. Others want an end to a freeze on
working-age benefits that is hitting the
poorest hard as inflation bites.
Helping the young will be a theme of
the budget, but with no easy ways of
raising cash, Hammond may have to
plunder older people to find the money.
Cutting the amount of tax relief that
well-off older workers can put in their
pension is a tried and tested way of
raising funds, but that could upset
Tory MPs. Money has to be found for
pledges to freeze tuition fees and boost
affordable housing.
While European leaders handed May a
lifeline this week by agreeing to start
talking among themselves about a
future trade deal with Britain, they
have also made clear that the prime
e to stump up
minister will have
e €20bn
far more than the
(£18bn) divorce bill
she has offered iff
she has any hope
of securing a trade
deal. More money
means more angry
Tory Eurosceptics.
Ministers have already said that
wage increases for some public sector
workers will no longer be capped at
1%, while cabinet figures such as Boris
Johnson back bigger pay packets.
However, small increases will anger the
unions – as will any attempt to favour
one group of workers over another. An
expensive dilemma.
The PM is entering a defining period in
which she will have to defy enemies at
home and abroad. Next month her
embattled chancellor must revive Tory
fortunes with a successful budget. In
Europe, the phoney war is finally over
by Toby Helm, Michael Savage
and Phillip Inman
In the last few weeks at prime minister’s
questions a group of female Tory MPs
have stood in front of the entrance to the
Commons chamber, within the eyeline
of Theresa May and opposite the press
gallery, loyally nodding at almost every
word she has uttered. This position, at
what is known as the Bar of the chamber,
is much sought after by MPs on set-piece
occasions, as it is also in the view of television cameras.
“It used to be a place taken up by Tory
men like Iain Duncan Smith and Jeremy
Hunt,” says Labour MP Lucy Powell. “So
a group of Labour women then tried to
occupy it. But now the Tory whips have
clearly told their women to get into
chamber early and just stand there.
“It is a desperate attempt by the Tories
to show they are in charge of the place
when the reality is that they are simply
losing control of it.”
At PMQs last Wednesday May struggled again in the House of Commons
despite the efforts of her most loyal
MPs. So confident was Jeremy Corbyn
that he felt able to do something he had
never done before, at the outset – stare
at the prime minister and welcome a fall
in unemployment that had taken place
under her government. As Corbyn had
clearly hoped, Conservative backbenchers duly roared and waved their order
papers in delight. Then, with the smiles
still on Tory faces, the Labour leader
proceeded to wipe them off by firing
question after question on domestic
matters, pounding the prime minister
with accusations about her record on
everything from the chaos over universal credit to falling real wages, rising personal debt, homelessness and the effects
of the pay cap on public sector workers.
Corbyn turned the tables.
Brexit alone has tested May’s resilience and raised questions among MPs
in her own party about how long she can
go on. Her cabinet is split between hard
Brexiters – the likes of Boris Johnson,
Liam Fox, Andrea Leadsom and Michael
Gove – and the ex-Remainers-turnedsoft-Brexiters led by Philip Hammond,
Amber Rudd and Damian Gree.
With no Commons majority, she has
found herself trapped in the middle,
unable to make the financial concessions that Brussels is insisting on before
allowing talks on a new trade deal with
the EU to begin. The hard Brexit wing
of her cabinet and party simply won’t
let her offer up more money to effect
the divorce.
Many Tories now say they would prefer a “no deal” Brexit to one that offered
too much to the EU. At a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, May won
some more breathing space when European leaders agreed to extend the deadline for progress until December. “We
have bought some more time,” said one
pro-Remain former Tory minister. “But
the problems – the sticking points – are
precisely the same. And the clock is ticking. At some point she will have to lead in
one direction or the other.”
Large UK employers, including some
in the car industry, and big financial
institutions in the City of London, are
now warning ministers privately that
unless clear progress is made by Christmas, to show that a deal will eventually
be done and a transition period agreed in
Coming up with a proposed deal that all
the cabinet agree with looks like a huge
task – even before May can begin trying
to convince Brussels to accept it. Some
Brexiters want scope to diverge from
EU rules. Remainers
are concerned
that changing
course from the
EU will
w dent our access to its
single market. No agreement
in sight. Resignations cannot
be ruled out.
principle, they will have no option but to
make contingency plans to shift employment out of the UK.
As if that were not enough for one
prime minister, May’s domestic problems are accumulating and threatening
to swallow her up too. It is on the home
front that Labour believes it can hurt the
Tories most, by holding May to account
on her promise to improve the lot of the
“just about managing”. Political debate
over the next few weeks will probably
focus less on Brexit and increasingly on
Hammond’s 22 November budget and
what it can deliver for the “just about
managing”. At the very least, May’s government needs to show it has a coherent
plan for the home front which makes
sense of her stated mission, even if it
lacks one on Brexit.
But Hammond faces a hugely difficult
task at a time of grave economic uncertainty and rising national debt. As the
Observer reports today, the chancellor is
under intense pressure to help 5.4 million public sector workers, whose pay,
according to the Treasury’s own figures,
has fallen behind those in the private
sector for the first time in more than a
decade. The unions are demanding that
he use the budget to lift the 1% cap on
annual pay increases.
Charities and pressure groups are also
demanding that a cap on in-work benefits, announced by George Osborne in
2015 and due to run until 2020, be lifted.
The calls intensified last week when
official figures showed that inflation
had risen to 3%. The independent Resolution Foundation has calculated that
May will face a growing drumbeat from
Tories wanting her to walk away from
Brexit talks without a deal. Bernard
Jenkin, the influential pro-Brexit MP,
has suggested she has until spring to
make serious progress. Other hardliners
make the case that Britain would
flourish without a deal. Businesses
will have to begin preparing for such
an outcome and making decisions
based on the assumption that a deal
may not be reached – led by the
relocation plans announced by financial
services companies.
Michael Savage
a one-earner couple with two children
will lose more than £300 a year from
the combination of frozen benefits and
inflation. Torsten Bell, the RF’s director,
said Hammond should use the budget to
“ease the squeeze on low- and middleincome families, not make it worse”.
Then there is the growing chaos
surrounding the flagship Tory welfare
policy – universal credit. Tory MPs
concerned about the six-week wait that
claimants have to endure before receiving any money under the new system
demand that it be cut to four weeks.
This would cost the Treasury hundreds
of millions of pounds a year.
‘The sticking points
remain the same and
the clock is ticking.
At some point she
will have to go in one
direction or the other’
Former Tory minister
There are now powerful figures championing the need for more investment in
the welfare system. One is former Tory
leader Iain Duncan Smith, the pioneer of
universal credit, who resigned in March
last year after Osborne repeatedly raided
the budget for the new benefit. He told
the Observer that Hammond needed
to “look at whether we are putting the
right support into universal credit” and
Politics | NEWS | 9
as Brexit and budget crises loom
Voters critical of Brexit process but
spurn fresh referendum, says poll
Michael Savage
Policy Editor
Voters disapprove of Theresa May’s
handling of Brexit but the country
remains deeply divided over the decision to leave, according to a new poll
for the Observer.
The Brexit process is proving more
complicated than some voters thought
and more are now pessimistic
about the process than optimistic. However, few back the idea
of holding a second referendum
that could see Britain stay in
the European Union.
Half of voters (49%) disapprove of the way in which the
prime minister is handing
the Brexit process, according to the Opinium poll.
Two in five Leave voters (39%) disapprove of
her stewardship of the
issue. Overall, only 27%
approve of her handling.
While 34% are more
pessimistic about Brexit
than at the time of the
referendum, 23%
are more optimistic.
Only 20% expect
Female Tories
make a show
of support, but
May cuts a
lonely figure.
Photograph by
James McCauley/Rex/
examine giving greater support to claimants, cutting the wait for payment. Many
Tory MPs are also calling on Hammond
to address the Tories’ lack of support
among young voters, perhaps by offering
some form of tax break or other financial help.
But it all costs money that Hammond
and the Treasury will insist they do not
have. The chancellor was handed extra
spending power last week, when figures
for the first six months of the financial
year showed that this year’s annual
budget deficit was likely to be at least
£10bn lower than forecast. With tax
receipts growing at 4% a year since April
and government spending restricted to
3%, the chancellor is bringing down the
deficit faster than the Office for Budget
Responsibility (OBR) expected. But an
expected downgrade in forecasts for
productivity growth will wipe out about
two-thirds of the £26bn of financial
headroom the chancellor left for himself
between 2017 and 2022.
There are also growing calls from
hard Brexiters in his own party for Hammond to stump up more than the £250m
agreed so far to prepare for the possibility of a “no deal” Brexit. These Tories see
the chancellor as an impediment to the
kind of pure Brexit they want and are
lobbying for him to be sacked by May
whenever she carries out a reshuffle.
The mighty challenge of Brexit cannot
be divorced from the equally formidable one of the approaching budget.
Two huge political car crashes are
likely to happen at once in the lead-up
to Christmas.
They’re back, as wrong as ever. Enough
of Lawson and his band of 80s ultras
Will Hutton, page 34
Air France boss says UK must follow
EU courts rules after Brexit
Business, page 40
Public workers’
pay falls behind
after cutbacks
Continued from page 1
figures. The Tories can never again
claim that public sector workers are
‘overpaid’ when the Treasury’s own
assessment proves otherwise.”
The chancellor maintains public
sector workers are still better off
than their private sector colleagues
because they benefit from higher
employer pension contributions.
But the GMB said its analysis
shows that they also pay in significantly more through employee contributions. Three in five public sector
workers pay in at least 6% of earnings
the UK to emerge with a satisfactory
deal from Brexit talks, with twice the
number (44%) believing that outcome
to be unlikely. Most say the Brexit process is proving more difficult than they
expected (51%).
Yet the poll suggests concerns have
not translated into large numbers of
people changing their minds over how
they voted. In fact, there is support for
leaving the EU with no deal. More voters opted for that outcome (37%) than
the alternatives of entering a transition
period where we remain in the EU
single market until we can negotiate a
satisfactory deal (25%), or abandoning
Brexit altogether (23%).
While 40% of voters back staying
in the single market “even if it means
allowing free movement of labour”,
some 37% want to end free movement
“even if it means we leave the single
market”. There was a huge split in polling between Remain and Leave voters,
with 74% of Remainers prioritising
the single market and 66% of Leavers
believing that ending free movement
was more important.
There is little appetite for a second
referendum that would give a choice
between the deal on offer and remaining in the EU. Most voters (53%)
said that they did not want a second
referendum, compared with 35% who
did. Even a quarter of Remainers opted
against another vote. Meanwhile, it
appears pledging one would enrage
those who voted Leave, with 82%
against another national poll.
A second referendum is a virtual
dead heat, with Remain on 46% and
Leave on 45%. Only 5% who voted
Remain last year and 6% who backed
Leave appear to have changed their
minds. The polling was conducted
online among 1,005 people on
Thursday and Friday.
Adam Drummond, from Opinium,
said the public were giving May “little
credit for her handling of it so far”.
“Nearly twice as many disapprove
of the prime minister’s handling of the
issue as approve, a slight decline on her
position last month,” he said.
“Despite feeling that the process is
difficult and being handled badly, few
appear to be changing their underlying views. Indeed, 54% of Leave voters
agreed that ‘Brexit is a good idea in
theory but is being badly executed’.
“The country is still split down the
middle on the issue with little sign of a
decisive shift one way or another.”
Other polling experts believe the tide
may be turning against Brexit among
working-class voters. Peter Kellner, the
veteran former YouGov pollster, said
he believed there could be a “gradual
shift” taking place among working-class
(C2DE) voters.
“[In] polls since the start of August,
we see a steady decline in the proportion of C2DE voters saying Brexit was
the right decision,” he wrote in Prospect
on average, compared with one in
seven private sector workers. In the
summer the Observer reported that the
health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and the
education secretary, Justine Greening,
had lobbied for an easing of austerity,
while several senior Conservative MPs
had warned that public services would
be in growing peril without an urgent
loosening of the purse strings.
External pressures are adding to the
chancellor’s difficulties. Inflation hit
3% last week, while most public sector
wages remain capped at 1%. Azam said:
“The average local government worker
earns about £20,000 while teaching
assistants are paid just £12,000, and
all public sector workers have lost
thousands due to a planned decade of
real-terms pay cuts.
“It’s shameful that in one of the
world’s richest nations some of our
public sector heroes are forced to take
on debt or use food banks to make ends
meet. Enough is enough. In the budget
the chancellor must announce the
Under the article 50 process, the UK will
cease to be a member of the European
Union in March 2019. If, by this time, no
satisfactory deal has been agreed, what
do you think should happen?
Britain should leave the EU without a deal
Britain should enter a transition period
where we remain in the EU single market
until we can negotiate a satisfactory deal
Britain should abandon the Brexit
process and remain in the EU after all
Don't know
To what extent do you approve or
disapprove of the way that Theresa
May has handled the process of the
UK exiting the European Union?
Strongly approve
Somewhat approve
Neither approve nor disapprove
Somewhat disapprove
Strongly disapprove
Don’t know
Net approve
Net disapprove
Do you think leaving the European
Union will ultimately be good or bad
for the UK?
In the next few years
Net good
Net bad
in 10-20 years’ time
Net good
Net bad
fully-funded, above-inflation pay rises
that public sector workers need and so
desperately deserve.”
A Treasury spokesman disputed the
GMB’s claim that it had deliberately
withheld the analysis. “There was no
delay in releasing the information,”
a spokesman said. “We answered the
original response promptly, and when
the questioner asked for an internal review we looked carefully at it,
and released further information as
requested within the timing guidelines
set out in the FOI code.
“Salaries in the public sector are
now broadly comparable to those in
the private sector after running ahead
of the private sector for many years.
Many public sector workers benefit
from generous pension entitlements,
giving around a 10% premium in many
cases. We have confirmed the acrossthe-board 1% public sector pay policy
has been lifted and the independent
pay review bodies will report their
recommendations in spring 2018.”
10 | NEWS
Furious parents say collapsing academy
trust asset-stripped its schools of millions
Communities demand
answers after ‘mass
transfer of funds’ left
pupils forced to reuse
exercise books, says
Frances Perraudin
‘It’s scandalous’:
teacher and union
officer Sally Kincaid
and concerned
parent Josie Farrar.
Photographs by
Gary Calton for
the Observer
“I want my children to have the education
I didn’t get,” says Josie Farrar, 46, who
has two children at Freeston Academy in
Normanton, West Yorkshire.
Her children had been back at school
for two days at the start of term in September when parents had a letter saying
the academy trust that managed Freeston
and 20 other schools across Yorkshire
was disbanding. “That was a real worry
for me. One of my sons is in year 11 and the
other in year nine. Year 11 is an important
year, as it’s his GCSE year.”
Wakefield City Academies Trust now
stands accused of “asset stripping” after
it transferred millions of pounds of the
schools’ savings to its own accounts
before collapsing. On 8 September it
released a statement announcing it would
divest itself of its 21 schools as it could not
undertake the “rapid improvement our
academies need”. It said that new sponsors would be found to take them over.
While Ofsted rates four of those
schools as good or outstanding, 11 out of
the 14 primary academies and six of the
seven secondary schools the trust was
running are below the national average.
Parents, teachers and governors have
now called on the Department for Education to ensure that the trust’s collapse
will not leave the schools out of pocket .
Hemsworth Arts and Community
Academy, a mixed secondary school in
Pontefract, had £220,000 of funds, raised
by volunteers at Christmas markets and
other school events, transferred to the
trust’s accounts earlier this year. It also
saw a further £216,000, which had been
held back for capital investment, moved
over. “It’s not the trust’s money. It’s our
money,” said a former governor at the
school, who did not want to be named.
“It’s money for the people in the area,
their children and their grandchildren. It
wasn’t for them to take.”
Heath View primary school in Wakefield had £300,000 transferred to the
trust in September 2016. Another school,
Wakefield City Academy, had more than
£800,000 transferred towards the end
of 2015. In both cases the trust told the
schools’ governors that the transfer was
a loan. Wakefield City Academy even
received a number of small repayments.
However, since the trust’s collapse both
schools have been told that it no longer
acknowledges the transactions as loans.
For Wakefield City Academy, the
money had been held back to provide a
financial cushion for when a particularly
large cohort of children – born during the
early 2000s baby boom – arrive in the secondary school system. “This money was
our rainy day money,” said Kevin Swift,
despite the fact that the trust was facing
a large budget deficit. The DfE has so far
refused freedom of information requests
to see the final report.
The previous month, it had emerged
that the trust had paid almost £440,000
to IT and clerking companies owned by
Ramsay and his daughter. In a statement
at the time, the trust said internal vetting
procedures had found that the contracts
represented the best value.
Although serious questions have been
raised about financial managment, there
is no suggestion of fraudulent activity.
Speaking at a public meeting of parents, teachers and trade unionists in Doncaster last Thursday, National Education
Union activist Sally Kincaid said the trust
was guilty of “asset stripping” its schools,
which had been instructed to only spend
money on “essential items”.
“The amount of money that has been
taken out of those schools is scandalous,”
she said. “The schools are not allowed to
spend a penny at the moment, on anything, whether it’s bits of paper or pens.
We’ve got GCSE students having to use
the back of last year’s kids’ work to do
their work on for this year.”
Earlier this month, the DfE named its
“preferred” eight new sponsors for the
schools abandoned by the trust. One of
those new sponsors, Delta Academies
Trust, formerly known as SPTA , was
stripped of three of its schools in 2015
following concerns about low standards.
“We are not football teams. We are not
part of the transfer market, where we can
be transferred from one multi-academy
trust to another,” Kincaid said last week.
“It’s not good enough.”
A Labour councillor for Conisbrough,
Lani-Mae Ball, said parents and communities need “a real choice and a real voice,
including the choice to return to a local
authority if they have been let down by
the multi-academy system”.
While a spokesman for the Wakefield
City Academies Trust declined to comment, the DfE said a failing academy
trust could never profit from the transfer of its schools. A spokesman said: “We
are working with the trust to ensure that
there is minimal disruption for pupils.
“We are also working with the preferred trusts and schools to ensure they
have the right support and resources they
need to improve the outcomes for pupils
as quickly as possible, which will include
the necessary pupil funding.”
Josie Farrar, meanwhile, is left to
wait and worry. “I left school at 13 with
nothing. In this day and age everybody
deserves the best education that can be
‘The amount of money
that has been taken is
scandalous, while the
schools were told not
to spend a penny’
Sally Kincaid, NEU
chair of the school’s local governing body.
“It wasn’t just left under the mattress. It
was money that we had anticipated we
would have a very definite need for.”
High Crags Academy primary school
in Shipley was instructed by the DfE to
join the trust in April 2016 after being
put into special measures the previous
year. When it joined it had a surplus of
£178,000, which was immediately moved
to centralised accounts.
Eric Fairchild, chair of the school’s
local governing body, said that on at least
High Crags Academy primary in Shipley. Newsquest Bradford Telegraph & Argus
two occasions the governors had asked if
its surpluses were being used to shore up
the trust’s accounts. They were reassured
that their money was safe. “It is grossly
immoral that our surplus funds are being
effectively taken away from the children
of our school who, in very many cases, are
very deprived,” said Fairchild.
The government has encouraged academies to join multi-academy trusts, promoting them as a support structure for
schools once they leave local authority
control. But the model has been dogged
by criticism. In March the Education Fellowship Trust became the first in England to give up control of its 12 academies
following concerns about educational
Parents, teachers and governors say
the financial problems at the Wakefield
City Academies Trust had been clear
for nearly a year before it collapsed. In
November 2016 a draft DfE report leaked
to the Times Education Supplement stated
that the trust was in an “extremely vulnerable position as a result of inadequate
governance, leadership and overall financial management”.
The draft raised concerns that the chief
executive, Mike Ramsay, had been paid
more than £82,000 for 15 weeks’ work,
NEWS | 11
Want your child to
be an engineer?
Give them a falcon
or a home brew kit
Early hobbies such as falconry or brewing are
crucial to a future technical career, study finds
by Michael Savage
Policy Editor
A childhood brush with beekeeping, a
foray into falconry or a fossil-hunting
trip could inspire a new generation of
much-needed engineers, scientists and
mathematicians, new research suggests.
Schools are being urged to consider
introducing children to a hobby related
to science, technology, engineering and
maths – the so-called Stem subjects –
after a major study found that it could
leave them with a lifelong interest and
shape their career path.
The research also suggested that hobbies may even help increase the number
of female scientists and those from ethnic minorities.
It comes as ministers desperately try
to boost the number of workers with
skills in Stem subjects – a key part of an
industrial strategy published at the start
of the year. Brexit is likely to intensify the
need for Stem graduates as immigration
rules are tightened.
The government has said it wants to
make Britain the best place in the world
to study maths, science and engineering.
However, the UK has a shortage of technical-level skills and ranks 16th out of 20
developed countries for the proportion
of people with technical qualifications,
according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
But a spot of astronomy could play a
role as well as investment, according to
a study by academics at North Carolina
State University, published in the International Journal of Science Education.
The research looked at a cohort of
almost 3,000 adult hobbyists in the US
who took part in 10 hobbies – astronomy,
beekeeping, birdwatching, robotics,
environmental monitoring, falconry,
gardening, home brewing, model building and rock collecting.
It found that in several groups, more
than half of the adult hobbyists reported
first participating in their hobby during their youth. The study said the
data “illustrates how crucial childhood
experiences are to encouraging lifelong
explorations in Stem”.
It highlighted an opportunity for
schools, as the role of teachers was not
reported as being the strongest influence in taking up the activities among
any of the hobby groups. Family was
rated as the greatest influence on hobbyists involved with gardening, rock
and fossil collecting and beekeeping.
Astronomy and robotics hobbyists rated
Falconry is one of the activities being used in schools to stimulate children’s interest in practical skills. Alamy
“significant events” as having a high or
very high level of influence on the start
of their interest.
It also suggests that more involvement by teachers could boost a love of
the hobbies among ethnic minorities.
“This work found family and friends to
be quite influential when sparking an
initial interest in a hobby. In the case of
minority youth, if their family and other
members of their immediate social net-
‘When I’m working
with adult beekeepers
it’s amazing how
many say they had
bees at school’
Julia Pigott, beekeeper
work are less likely to participate in a
Stem hobby themselves, then that child
is also less likely to be presented with the
opportunity to participate and develop a
Stem hobby.
“Children who don’t have these
opportunities through their family and
friend social network may be less likely
to become Stem-interested adults, and
may also be less likely to be interested in
a future career in Stem.
“This presents a profound opportunity for … teachers and other non-family
community members who spend time
with youth to play a greater role in supporting youth interest development in
free-choice Stem pursuits.”
Some schools are already working
with beekeepers and falconry to give
their pupils an insight that may change
their life choices. Julia Pigott, a beekeeper who works with two school pro-
jects in Cumbria, said that she had seen
the impression it made on some children.
“When I’m working with adult beekeepers, it’s amazing how many say they
had bees at school,” she said. “Quite a few
of the older generation will tell you that
their interest arose through a teacher –
in the old days, it was more common. I
think times are changing again.
“It is like all practical things where
you have a practical element – as soon
as you can take the lid off something and
take a look at the parts, you really get the
children’s interest. There is a sub-group
who are simply not interested, but there
is a significant group that are.
“The measurements inside a beehive
have to be very accurate, so they can get
into maths. If you’re lucky enough to
get any honey, you can get into selling,
managing the accounts of beekeeping at
schools. It goes into everything.”
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| 13
Barbara Ellen
Childcare crisis
takes more than
a financial toll
hildcare costs have risen up to
seven times faster than wages,
according to TUC research.
Average costs in England for
parents with a one-year-old rose 48%
between 2008 and 2016 and single
parents have been hit hardest, spending more than 20% of their wages on
While the government subsidises 15
to 30 hours of childcare for three- and
four-year-olds, most parents with oneyear-olds get no help. In the meantime,
some nurseries and childminders are
struggling or closing, because, while
their workload and obligations have
increased, state funding is inadequate.
Reading this, I realised that I’ve
been relatively lucky with childcare.
Although I was a single mum for years,
I could mainly work from home and
childcare became akin to an ongoing
game of logistical Twister – if I do this,
I can just about do that, and, if I put
my child there, I can just about make
it to there. A patchwork of nurseries,
babysitters, help from other parents,
after-school clubs and sometimes – in
emergencies – taking children along to
assignments. (Jimmy McGovern was
particularly good humoured about the
flying Lego bricks.)
Sometimes, it was all a Twisterstretch too far and I ended up in a
disorganised, undignified heap, but I
got through. Later, I had huge amounts
of help from grandparents – the UK’s
not-so-secret army of childcarers. Like
I say, lucky.
As the research suggests, other people aren’t so fortunate, Indeed, away
from the top tier of childcare (live-in
nannies, upmarket nurseries), for too
many people, the first questions always
have to be: what can we afford and
what’s flexible?
“Flexible” usually meaning can you drop the kids
off early enough so that
you don’t get a reputation
for being late at work. And
can you pick them up
late enough so that
you don’t get a
reputation for
sneaking off
early? In
this context, other
important questions – who can you
trust? Is the child happy? Are you
happy? – could start to seem almost
When your child’s welfare ultimately depends on you keeping your
job, childcare goes from being a choice
to being a basic utility, as indispensable
as the water from your taps and the
electricity that powers your lights. It’s
at this level that people are hardest hit
by substandard state provisions and,
of these people, it would seem that
women are the hardest hit of all, in
particular, very low earners and single
So what’s new, right? Indeed, it’s
amazing that, for so many women,
childcare and childcare costs remain
the single biggest thing they have to
sort out before they’re even “allowed”
to work. While there will always be
exceptions (increasingly so, as families
base decisions on who is the highest
earner), it still seems that women bear
the brunt, both of the aforementioned
issues of childcare and of not having
childcare (giving up jobs, cutting back
hours, stalling careers).
Although women are on the childcare frontline, ultimately, it’s the family
as a whole that pays the multifaceted
cost (financial, logistical and emotional) – that’s if the cost can be borne
at all. Part of the problem seems to
be this absurd, antiquated view of
childcare as a kind of lifestyle whim, an
indulgence, resulting in a government
that seems bewildered by criticisms of
its inadequate, underfunded system.
Why are so many younger children
not being funded? Why are childcare
professionals pressured to such a
degree that they must pass on additional costs to parents? When will it be
acknowledged that, for many
families, wages are intolerably out of step with the cost
of living? It seems high time
that childcare was viewed
more realistically – as
a basic utility, not a
luxury, and definitely
not a reason
why someone
decides that
they simply
can’t afford
to work.
Time to throw
the Tory out with
the bath water?
Pass the loofah: Tim Loughton MP can’t wait to find himself in hot water. PA
affair was
want to
second on
a man?’
Agony aunt
hile “phubbing” (snubbing people in favour of
your mobile phone) has
been around for a while, it
looks set to become even more socially
entrenched. Studies report that it’s
affecting various aspects of life, from
relationships, friendships and work, to
people becoming ever more isolated
from real-life interaction as they increasingly concentrate on their phones.
There are debates about whether people are natural “phubbers” or “phubees”
and speculation that being phubbed
drives anguished phubees deeper into
social media to spread the pain. It also
seems that men are more likely to decide
that it’s fine to have your mobile phone
out during a date, for a cheeky “phub”.
Tut, tut, manners, gentleman, please!
When women get friends to do the evacuate-the-date, fake “work emergency”
call, at least they have the decency to
make a big deal of fishing their phones
out of their handbags.
It seems a bit late to start lamenting
the metamorphosis of the human race
into screen-fixated zombies whose
brains and hearts hunger less for real
human connection than a new, cute
emoji. Anyone who has ever read
Philip K Dick could confidently predict
that it can only get worse.
Then again, looking at your mobile
phone, or pretending to look at it, is
quite useful when you wish to avoid
being dragged into unwanted interactions. For instance, women travelling
alone on public transport could be
forgiven for using their phones as a
barrier to unwelcome overtures. The
phone screen has replaced the book
as a way of saying “leave me alone,
please”, without being overtly rude.
Perhaps not all phubbing means
that someone is a rude, desensitised,
brainwashed idiot. Maybe, for men and
women, sometimes it’s just a way of
signalling a wholly human need to be
Oh for phubb’s sake, leave me alone
t has been my solemn journalistic
duty to imagine Tory MP Tim
Loughton in the bath, so that you
don’t have to. Loughton, co-chairman of a cross-party parliamentary
group on mindfulness, has been
speaking of how, just like Winston
Churchill, he enjoys a long, meditative
bath. Loughton considers showers to
be “one of the greatest causes of stress”
and starts every day “working” in the
bath, reading papers and composing his
Where the ongoing bath v shower
debate is concerned, it seems to me
that either you enjoy lolling about in
your own filthy water… or you’re sane
and prefer to get clean quickly.
Aside from that, there’s already been
unpleasant prying into whether taxpayers stump up for Loughton’s watery
morning idylls – splashing about
with his rubber ducks and a damp
Daily Telegraph.
More pertinently, perhaps Loughton
could have been a tad more “mindful”
of people not wishing to imagine him
naked. You have to wonder if there
are enough bubbles in the collective
public consciousness to cope with such
an image. If ordinary British citizens
end up being “triggered” by bottles of
Matey, we’ll all know who to blame.
14 | NEWS
Ex-Cameron aide in tobacco firm lobbying row
Call for stricter rules on
‘revolving door’ after
Philip Morris is plugged
at Tory conference
by Jamie Doward
One of David Cameron’s closest advisers
has been caught up in a tobacco lobbying
row after it emerged that she promoted
a new product from the Marlboro manufacturer, Philip Morris, at this year’s
Tory party conference.
Labour has questioned whether Kate
Marley, who quit as Cameron’s special
adviser last year, breached parliamen-
tary rules barring ministers and government officials from lobbying the government for a period after they leave office
– a charge her new employer rejects.
The row has once again focused attention on the “revolving door” between
Whitehall insiders and the business sector, which is keen to hire former government advisers for their knowledge and
high-level contacts.
Marley’s role as head of government
affairs at Philip Morris International,
which she took up in July, was approved
by the Cabinet Office on two conditions:
first, she should not draw on privileged
information, and second, she should
“not lobby the UK government on behalf
of Philip Morris” for two years.
Marley attended this year’s Tory party
conference to promote Philip Morris’s
Kate Marley, who was awarded an MBE in
David Cameron’s resignation honours list.
IQOS product, which it claims reduces
harmful chemical emissions by heating,
not burning, tobacco. The product is the
cornerstone of the company’s fightback
against smoking restrictions and a move
away from conventional cigarettes.
The company has sought to harness itself to the government’s recently
unveiled tobacco strategy, promoting a
smoke-free future, in the belief that it
will help boost IQOS sales. Peter Nixon,
its managing director, has claimed that
it shows the government is on a “similar
path” to Philip Morris.
Marley, who was given an MBE and a
20% pay rise while serving under Cameron, was a member of staff promoting the product during the conference,
according to an article in PR magazine. It
reported: “Conference delegates cannot
avoid seeing tobacco giant Philip Morris International’s large and prominently
positioned stand.”
Jon Trickett, the shadow minister for
the Cabinet Office, said he would write to
Cabinet Office minister, Damian Green,
who has responsibility for government
ethics, to express concern that a former government insider could be seen
to be exploiting her previous position
in potential violation of parliamentary
rules. “Trust in politics and politicians
is at rock bottom,” Trickett said. “The
rules are not fit for purpose, but there is
no sign the government is going to make
them tougher any time soon.”
Trickett said he would press Green on
whether Marley had met ministers since
starting her new post and whether she
had met with anyone from government
while at the conference.
Philip Morris said Marley had sought
permission from the Cabinet Office
prior to her appointment. In a statement it said: “The conditions set out by
the Cabinet Office specifically permit
Kate Marley to have “routine contact”
with the UK government on “matters
aligned with government policy”. Kate
Marley’s role is to offer our company’s
support for the government’s plan in its
aim to encourage smokers to switch to
less harmful alternative products.”
However Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the anti-smoking charity Ash,
described Philip Morris’s claim to be
following a “similar path” to the government as “breathtaking”.
“After decades of deception by the
tobacco industry, it will take more than
the launch of single product to rescue
such a tarnished reputation,” Arnott
said. “While Philip Morris uses a former
adviser to David Cameron to vaunt its
harm-reduction credentials, it continues to aggressively market its traditional
lethal products in developing countries.”
Concerns about the revolving door
between Whitehall and business have
grown since Cameron’s government was
dismantled. Last week it emerged that
his former energy minister Lord Barker
is now chairman of a Russian oligarch’s
aluminium firm. And former chancellor
George Osborne now works four days a
month for investment giant BlackRock,
for which he is paid £650,000 a year.
At least 170 Whitehall officials were
approved for outside jobs between February 2016 to this March, according to
the National Audit Office
New rules could
cut stress of
buying a house
by Michael Savage
Policy Editor
A clampdown on gazumping and
other tactics that cause misery to
housebuyers and sellers is being drawn
up by the government as part of a
renewed attempt to reduce the stress
of buying a home.
New rules to stop people from
cutting their offer at an advanced point
in a sale, and “time wasting” by bidders
with no realistic hope of completing a
purchase, will also be examined as part
of a review of the rules.
Previous attempts by ministers to
improve the process have come to little.
However, Sajid Javid, the communities
secretary, is now launching an eightweek call for evidence from estate
agents, solicitors and mortgage lenders
in an attempt to make house buying
“cheaper, faster and less stressful”.
The practice of gazumping, which
sees a buyer lose out on a property at
the last minute after a higher offer is
received, is still an issue after years of
complaints. One radical option could
be moving the point at which an agreed
sale becomes legally binding.
Ministers will also consider new
“lock-in agreements” designed to
increase the trust between buyer
and seller. While a million homes are
bought and sold in England each year,
around a quarter of sales fall through
and millions of pounds are wasted.
“Buying a home is one of life’s largest
investments so, if it goes wrong, it can
be costly. That’s why we’re determined
to make the process cheaper, faster and
less stressful,” said Javid.
Subject here | NEWS | 15
It is no longer about just one disgraced man. The testimonies of sexual harassment
and abuse emerging from Hollywood to politics via sport and fashion have
forced society to examine men’s attitudes towards women, writes Gaby Hinsliff
rop a stone in a deep enough
pond, and you never know how
far the ripples will spread. It
is more than a fortnight now
since Harvey Weinstein was
first accused of sexually harassing
actresses in an article for the New
York Times, and still the repercussions show no sign of ending.
The film mogul now faces police
investigations in two countries,
including allegations of rape, and
the break-up of his business empire
after dozens of actresses and assistants came forward to say he had
demanded naked massages, had
stripped naked or had lunged at
them. But the ripples did not stop
with Angelina Jolie, Gywneth
Paltrow or Lupita Nyong’o.
They spread rapidly through the
film and television industry, into
modelling and music, politics and
sport – with the American gymnast
Continued overleaf
Some of the women in the public eye who have spoken out in the #MeToo campaign.
16 | NEWS | Special report
Accusers who gave
a voice to women
Continued from page 15
McKayla Maroney accusing a former
team doctor of repeatedly molesting
her from the age of 13.
A spreadsheet of “shitty media men”
to avoid began circulating privately
among American women journalists, gathering names as it went. The
European commissioner for gender
equality, Věra Jourová, told a breakfast
meeting in Brussels that she had been
a victim of sexual violence, adding:
“Don’t keep it with yourself. Don’t be
afraid to say it.”
And women were no longer afraid.
Urged by the American actress Alyssa
Milano to share their stories via the
#metoo Twitter hashtag, thousands
of women responded; at its peak, the
hashtag was tweeted half a million
times in 24 hours.
Before long, in Whatsapp groups
and private Twitter messages and reallife conversations, women started to
swap names. “X did that to me, too. Y
is a creep. Remember when Z grabbed
someone’s breasts at a party and
nobody did anything.” The simple act
of comparing notes turned out to be an
unexpectedly powerful catalyst.
“Abusers create an environment
where you feel incredibly isolated,
and that if you tell anyone there will
be consequences; or your shame about
what’s happened means that you keep
it to yourself,” says Sarah Champion,
the former shadow minister for equalities and a longstanding campaigner
against sexual abuse. “Realising you’re
not alone is a very powerful thing.”
And then the dam burst. On
Wednesday the digital media company
Vice announced it would no longer
commission the leftwing activist and
journalist Sam Kriss after an anonymous Facebook post from a woman
claiming he had pressured her to drink
vodka on a date (when she asked for
a soft drink) and forcibly kissed her
when asked not to. She was, she said,
nervous of offending him because
of his influence in the pro-Corbyn
Momentum movement. (Kriss publicly
apologised for “absolutely unacceptable behaviour”, while adding that the
woman had messaged him amicably
afterwards). That she was describing
an incident outside work did not stop
his employer acting, nor Labour later
suspending his party membership.
The next day GQ magazine sacked
its political correspondent, Rupert
Myers, within hours of a female writer
tweeting allegations about his conduct
over drinks in a pub.
And still the ripples didn’t stop. The
singer Tom Jones revealed he had been
propositioned as a young star, noting
that “what’s tried on women is tried on
men as well”. (While research suggests
nine out of 10 perpetrators are male,
and most victims female, men can also
be harassed by both men and women.)
Hours later, the Labour backbencher
John Mann declared he would report
a fellow Labour MP “who behaved
appalling [sic] to a young woman” to
his party leader and chief whip.
On Friday, Canadian producer
Gilbert Rozon resigned from several roles – including as a judge on
France’s Got Talent – after a newspaper
published allegations of sexual abuse
and harassment from nine women
spanning decades. Shortly afterwards
the editorial director of the US media
group Vox Media, Lockhart Steele, was
fired following an anonymous social
media post alleging sexual harassment. And in Britain a website called
LabourToo was launched, allowing victims to share such stories from within
the Labour party anonymously and in
confidence. Westminster is buzzing
with long-buried rumours, stories that
may have previously been investigated
but never reached the standard of
proof for publication. The ripples are
still spreading.
For many women this has been a
cathartic, almost exhilarating time – an
overdue moment of reckoning for abusive men who once considered themselves virtually above the law. There is
a sense of citadels crumbling. But it has
been an uncomfortable fortnight for
many men, forced either to reconsider
their own behaviour or confront what
was hiding in plain sight all along.
Half of women in a major survey
published by the TUC and campaign
group Everyday Sexism last year said
they had been sexually harassed at
work, rising to almost two-thirds
of women under 24 (although most
of them did not make formal complaints). More shockingly, research
from Girlguiding UK found nearly
two-thirds of girls aged over 13 had
been sexually harassed at school, with
behaviour ranging from taunts and
jokes to groping.
Even #metoo isn’t entirely new; the
hashtag was first popularised years ago
by the black American activist Tarana
Burke as a way of encouraging black
women who had experienced sexual
violence to share stories. (It is revealing on many levels that it only went
viral once it was attached to famous
Hollywood actresses.)
In short, most men will know
someone to whom this has happened
– which is why, as the TUC report’s
author Scarlet Harris puts it, “the most
shocking thing for a lot of women is
that anyone could be surprised” by
what’s now emerging.
But the speed with which the
floodgates have opened brings with it
dilemmas, particularly for employers
confronted with anonymous online
allegations against their staff. Could
malicious grievances be aired all too
easily alongside justifiable ones? Do
men publicly accused of sexual harassment still have the privilege of being
considered innocent until proven
guilty? Even the #metoo hashtag has
been criticised for blurring the line
between upsetting comments and
full-blown sexual violence, although
for many women the whole point is
they’re all part of one big spectrum of
disrespect, aggression and entitlement.
Uneasy questions remain, meanwhile, about whether clumsy but
essentially harmless flirtation can
ever genuinely be confused with
something sinister.
he law has been relatively clear
since 2005, when sexual harassment was first explicitly defined
in legislation; it’s behaviour which
“violates dignity” or creates an ‘“intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating
or offensive environment”. That covers
anything from jokes or inappropriate
comments – comprising about half of
the incidents reported by women in
the TUC survey – through to forcible
kissing or unwanted sexual touching,
which was more rare.
Discriminating against someone
at work after they spurn your sexual
advances, however politely made, is
also against the law. In other words, it’s
not an offence to ask a colleague out;
but don’t ask them out while making
clear their career is doomed if they
refuse, or unfairly criticise their work
or refuse them a pay rise when they
decline. The devil, however, is in the
definition of terms like “intimidating”
or “offensive”.
And there’s curiously little official
data on just how widespread it is.
Sexual harassment isn’t recorded in
crime statistics or the British Crime
Survey, and the government doesn’t
keep records that would show if it’s
rising or falling. “I don’t think that up
until this point enough men have been
prepared to admit that this is going on,
so this is not something that’s measured,” says Maria Miller, chair of the
Commons select committee on equalities, which recently investigated sexual
harassment in schools.
“What’s become really apparent
to me looking at schools is that it is
the start of a conveyor belt, where
unacceptable behaviour is ingrained
and unchallenged. Girls are having to
endure things that are unacceptable,
but boys, too, are not being taught that
respect is part of a healthy relationship.” And if such behaviour isn’t challenged young, “it’s seen as normalised”.
Meanwhile, adult women often keep
quiet about harassment either through
shame, or fear that complaining will
damage their careers.
“There are valid reasons for not
reporting, whether you’re Angelina
Model and
activist Cameron
Russell: “I’ve been
called a feminist
for reporting
groping, spanking,
pinching, pressure
for dates, phone
calls and texts of a
sexual nature, lack
of appropriate
changing areas,
etc.” Russell
has encouraged
others to share
their stories on
Instagram using
the hashtag
Special report | NEWS | 17
McKayla Maroney,
Olympic gold
medalist, says she
was abused by her
US gymnastics
doctor from the
age of 13. “I had
flown all day and
night with the
team to get to
Tokyo,” she says.
“He’d given me a
sleeping pill for
the flight, and the
next thing I know,
I was all alone with
him in his hotel
room getting
a ‘treatment.’ I
thought I was
going to die that
Rajini Vaidyanathan, a BBC
based in Washington DC: “I was
horrified but at
first I thought
I needed to be
polite, as there
was a chance
we’d work
together again.
But his messages
continued and
became more
creepy. He said
he’d fantasised
about sex with
powerful women.
I told him to talk
to someone else,
not me, and to get
help. I didn’t tell
anyone at first. I
felt disgusted but
kept it to myself.”
Maria Miller, the
Conservative MP
and former culture
secretary, said
she had experienced sexual
“Of course, we
all have ... it’s
something that,
particularly in very
industries, women
are still experiencing. We should
not talk about it in
the past tense.”
Getty, AP, BBC,
Jolie or working in Tesco’s,” says
Harris. “If you’re feeling degraded and
humiliated by something in a professional setting, the fact that it happened
is objectifying – you almost don’t
want people to think of you in that
way. Some of the response to Harvey
Weinstein, too, has been shocking – not
believing women, questioning, ‘Oh
what did you think would happen if
you went to the hotel room?”’
Her research also suggests black
women face extra challenges, including treatment where “you’d be hard
pressed to work out if it was racist or
sexist or both”. Interestingly, racial
harassment barely got a mention amid
the global outpouring of stories about
sexual harassment, even though this
week also saw a barrister-led inquiry
conclude that the former England
women’s football coach Mark Sampson
had made racially discriminatory
comments to two players. (Drew
Spence, who is mixed race, was asked
how many times she’d been arrested;
‘Some of the response
to Weinstein has been
shocking, asking
what women in a
hotel room expected’
Scarlet Harris, TUC
is under police
investigation in
two countries.
Eni Aluko was told to make sure her
Nigerian family didn’t bring the Ebola
virus to Wembley).
The two issues are, shadow equalities secretary Dawn Butler argues,
“two sides of a similar coin” and yet
one seems to command more attention than the other: “I remember
when I first complained about racial
harassment I was told ‘well, at least
he didn’t touch your tits’. This
perplexed me. It was like pitting
one form of discrimination against
another, with one carrying more
weight and seriousness – this is
part of the disease which allows
this type of discrimination to flourish.”
And, crucially, it’s the
women with least job
security to start with –
freelancers reliant for
their next gig on not
seeming “difficult”,
young women in
casual or zero hours
jobs with minimal employment rights
– who may be most vulnerable. “Think
about a young woman doing bar work,
or working in hotels; all those kind
of jobs where you can be replaced overnight if you don’t play along, and the
customer’s always right,” says Harris.
“The law is only as good as your ability
to use it.”
Her TUC report recommended
tightening up on zero hours contracts, reinstating the scrapped duty
on employers to protect staff from
harassment by customers or clients
as well as colleagues, and reviving the
power for employment tribunals to
make companywide recommendations
where an individual sex discrimination case reveals bigger issues. But it’s
employers, she argues, who can really
change the culture, and that’s where
things get complicated.
Some men clearly do fear what
the director Woody Allen – whose
son Ronan Farrow broke some of the
allegations against Weinstein – calls
a “witch-hunt”. Others worry about
being caught out by changing norms
they don’t understand, fearing that one
“ill-judged attempt at humour” – as a
barrister said of Sampson – might get
them fired, or as the Times columnist
Giles Coren wailed, “one misfired flirt
and I could be out of a job, publicly
shunned, end up in prison”. To which
many women might respond: only if
you are extraordinarily bad at flirting.
Not every misunderstanding is a
sackable offence, and HR departments
are advised to deal with complaints on
a sliding scale. “If it’s something minor
that made the person feel uncomfortable, there’s a conversation that says ‘did
you realise that this was making someone feel uncomfortable; can you stop,
or think about it?’” says Brad Taylor of
the Chartered Institute for Personnel
Development. “That goes all the way
through to ‘that was unacceptable and
you know it was, when you need to take
steps to ensure that doesn’t happen to
anyone else.”
There will always be cases, he
admits, where men genuinely do not
realise that they are causing offence,
but good managers can differentiate
between that and abuse: “There will
be instances where people just need
things pointed out to them, and when
you help them to see the impact of
their behaviour, that’s a good thing.
But for situations where people feel
‘my position and power entitles me
to overstep the line in a way others
can’t’, that has to be dealt with as
quickly as possible.”
As for dubious conduct outside the
workplace, employees have a right
to a private life, but “if you’re doing
things that bring your employer into
disrepute, then the employer is entitled
to respond”.
Yet the speed with which allegations
have snowballed since Weinstein was
first exposed clearly poses challenges
for employers. History is littered
with sex scandals, but this one seems
uniquely viral, thanks perhaps to the
unprecedented opportunities social
media now provide for victims to
publish their stories anonymously and
instantly to millions.
Swapping names via WhatsApp,
meanwhile, is an infinitely faster, bigger version of the whispered conversations women have always had in the
office loos. All this comes instinctively
to millennials used to sharing their
lives online, creating the comforting
feeling of what Scarlet Harris calls a
“collective response” to what was once
an individual’s lonely problem.
But unlike face-to-face conversations, electronic ones leave a record
that can be leaked. Even more secure
databases like LabourToo, understood
to have been set up by a group of party
members with longstanding concerns,
rely on the honesty and goodwill of
contributors not to post maliciously.
Champion, who has publicly supported LabourToo, insists it’s not about
gathering evidence on individuals but
mapping out the problem. Collating
information in confidence about when,
where and how harassment happens
will, she argues, help the party tackle
it better: “This isn’t a witch hunt.
It’s not looking to name and shame
people. It’s looking to see where sexual
harassment happens and, therefore,
as a party the measures we can put in
place to stop it.” However, she says, any
evidence of criminal behaviour that
could endanger others will be referred
to police.
Champion admits there is a risk
some could exploit the site but adds:
“This isn’t people making formal
allegations, this is sharing their
personal experience.
“It’s done deliberately on a trust
basis. One of the things I have found
with all the victims and survivors I’ve
been working with is that while there
may be one or two that do that, it’s very
rare for people to take the time out
to make an anonymous allegation if
there’s not some truth to it.”
The hope is that sheer weight of
evidence may succeed where individual scandals have failed in changing
political culture for good.
hat few understand about
sexual harassment, says
Bridget Harris, is how “deeply
crushing” it is. “You’re ambitious, you work hard, you’re networking, sitting opposite someone more
important than you …and then they
turn around and proposition you,” she
says. “You’re worth nothing in that
person’s eyes. They’re just interested
in the prospect that you’ll sleep with
them, and that strips away any sense of
self-worth you have.”
In 2014, she was one of four women
who accused Liberal Democrat peer
Lord Rennard of touching them inappropriately. She was a special adviser
to party leader Nick Clegg, then
deputy prime minister, and having a
coffee with Rennard at party conference when, she alleged, he repeatedly
touched her legs and asked her to his
hotel room. Similar complaints, it
emerged, had been washing around
the party for years. Surely, women at
Westminster told each other, this was
a watershed moment.
An inquiry concluded the women’s
testimony was “broadly credible” but
found that there was not sufficient
evidence to bring any disciplinary
charges. Rennard apologised for
“anything which made them uncomfortable” but insisted any intrusion
was inadvertent and denied sexually
inappropriate behaviour. He still takes
the party whip in the Lords, his case
illustrating both the difficulty of proving or disproving something that by
its nature rarely happens in front of
witnesses and the frustration that can
easily result. Party whips are arguably
less tolerant of predatory behaviour
than they were (when the Spectator
journalist Isabel Hardman complained
of being addressed as “the totty” by a
Tory MP, she got a swift apology and
he a lecture on appropriate behaviour). But asked if she is confident
that a young researcher would be
safe from harassment in parliament
today, Miller pauses before answering: “No. Researchers are often very
young, vulnerable, just starting out on
their careers and I think the House of
Commons and the way it’s run doesn’t
give me full confidence.” It’s not just
women, she adds, but gay men who
are vulnerable; it’s difficult for young
male aides who are not “out” at work to
report pestering from older men.
But if the Rennard affair wasn’t
quite the tipping point some imagined,
there is one silver lining to the story.
Since leaving politics Harris built and
ran a successful software company
with her husband; as an employer, she
prides herself on fostering a culture of
respect for women and sees that as the
ultimate way forward.
One male employee told her
recently, that “in his 20s he’d been in a
company where in a meeting he’d see a
woman being belittled, or some kind of
aggression, and he knew it was wrong
but didn’t know what to do. He just
basically froze. He said ‘now I never
would do that’. And that’s the key,
working out how you get good men
and women to speak up.” Even in tech,
once a byword for testosterone-fuelled
behaviour, she believes recent scandals
have prompted a realisation that sexism is bad for business.
Four years on, Harris doesn’t regret
speaking up, and says she would have
done it earlier had she realised she
wasn’t alone. “Older women, who did
put up with [something similar], came
up to me saying ‘it was really good to
hear you talk, that happened to me in
the 1950s and I could never talk about
it’. People who are further ahead in
their careers, we have to say something
because our 20-year-old sisters starting out need to hear from us that it’s
not acceptable.”
Those ripples may still have quite a
way to go.
Actresses must inspire others to speak
out over harassment
The big issue, Letters, page 36
18 | NEWS
Not so nasty:
how dinosaurs
liked to snuggle
up and socialise
Fossil discovered after 70 million years shows
Jurassic group sleeping peacefully together
by Robin McKie
Science Editor
The three young dinosaurs had snuggled together to sleep when disaster
struck. A thick layer of ash or soil, probably from a volcanic eruption or sand
storm, poured over them and the animals, each the size of a large dog,
died within minutes.
For 70 million years they lay
entombed, cradled beside each
other within a slab of rock,
until US scientists uncovered
their remains this year. Subsequent
analysis of the fossilised bones –
which come from the Gobi desert
– reveal the first known example
of roosting among dinosaurs.
The discovery, outlined at
the recent Society of Vertebrate
Palaeontology meeting in Calgary,
has caused excitement among scientists because communal roosting
– sleeping in groups – is exhibited by
The fossilised dinosaurs are thought
to have resembled a cassowary.
many modern species, including crows
and bats.
Yet in the middle of the Jurassic
Period dinosaurs were already exhibiting such social interactions. Far from
being solo, lumbering beasts, as depicted
in the past, evidence now indicatesthey
acted in surprisingly sophisticated ways.
This is stressed by Alberta University’s Greg Funston, who led the team that
analysed the three fossilised dinosaurs.
“The trio had quite a close bond,” he said
in the journal Nature. “They were living
together at the time of death.”
The dinosaurs in the rock have
not yet been named but are
described as having domed
crests on their heads. They
walked on two legs and
looked like a cassowary, the
giant flightless bird found
today in northern Australia
and New Guinea.
“This is a spectacular discovery for it shows these were
animals that were living together
in flocks like birds do today,” said
Stephen Brusatte of Edinburgh
University. “They probably had
Sam Neill faces three velociraptors in Jurassic Park. The social carnivores are believed to have worked together in packs. AP
feathers, although they could not fly.
However, they were undoubtedly social.”
Scientists have now established that
birds evolved from a group of dinosaurs
that include velociraptors, the deadly
socialised killers of Jurassic Park fame.
“In addition, it has been shown dinosaurs were warm-blooded unlike other
reptiles,” said Professor Mike Benton of
Bristol University. “They also had feathers, not to help them fly but to keep them
warm and help them display at each
other, the equivalent of the male peacock
tail – a crucial ability for a social animal.
It was only later in Earth’s history that
feathers were used as aids that could
help birds become airborne.”
New research has also revealed that
some dinosaurs’ feathered coats had
stripes, others had patches and some
had crests. These elaborate plumage
patterns almost certainly played roles in
earmarking territory, warning off rivals
and attracting mates. Thus the crested
species uncovered by Funston and his
team very likely browsed for food in
groups while males displayed their
crests at mates or rivals.
“In groups, they would have benefitted from increased foraging efficiency,
decreased threats from predators, and
increased chance of mating,” Funston
told the Observer.
Some researchers say the bones could
have been compressed by a flood or subsidence long after the animals’ deaths.
But Funston’s analysis shows that two of
the animals were crouched belly down
with their necks curled back towards
their bodies, while their forelimbs cra-
dled their heads: a pose similar to those
of sleeping ostriches and emus.
It is also likely the three animals were
siblings, a point put forward by David
Varricchio of Montana State University. “Juvenile ravens and seagulls stick
together when they leave their parents
and this could well have been a similar
group of siblings who were huddling
together when they were struck down.”
Funston’s discovery might not have
been made but for the alertness of Mongolian customs agents who seized the
stone as it was being illegally exported in
2006. “Despite having an incredible fossil, we have lost much of the information
about the circumstances of their death
and preservation because the fossils were
poached,” said Funston. “That is what
happens with fossil-poaching.”
20 | NEWS
New rugby warm-up regime
can halve number of injuries
Programme could be
rolled out nationwide to
cut soaring risk to players
by Jamie Doward
A series of exercises performed before
rugby matches can dramatically reduce
injury, according to a benchmark study
that the game’s coaches hope will rebut
the charge that they do not take the issue
of concussion seriously.
The programme, known as Activate, is
the result of a project by health researchers at the University of Bath and England
Rugby. The results, published today in
the British Journal of Sports Medicine,
suggest that the exercises can significantly reduce concussion and lower limb
Researchers followed the progress of
81 men’s community rugby club teams
and nearly 2,000 players over the course
of a season, during which players performed the programme. Incidence of
concussion was reduced by up to 60%,
with lower-limb injuries down by as
much as 40%. The closer the programme
was observed by players, the greater the
effect. The best results occurred when
teams practised the warm-up at least
twice a week.
The regime focuses on balance,
strength and agility in order to prepare
players better for the physical challenges they face in matches. Split into
four stages, it takes roughly 20 minutes
to complete. The exercises are targeted
to improve functional and core strength,
particularly lower-limb balance and
neck strength, all of which assist a player
in dealing with the physical demands
Concern over injuries has led to calls for
rugby to be made non-contact in schools.
of the game. “By replacing stretching
exercises that players typically do before
training and matches with exercises that
focus on better control of movement, we
have seen a dramatic reduction in injuries in this study,” said one of its authors,
Dr Simon Roberts from the University
of Bath’s department for health. “This
new programme is markedly different
from the kind of warm-up players might
typically take part in during training or
pre-match, with a much greater focus on
movement control.
“Combining the impressive results on
injury reduction with the national rollout of this programme with England
Rugby, we are particularly excited by
the potential for this work in making a
long-term impact on the game.”
Professor Keith Stokes, who led the
study, said: “The injury that has received
the greatest focus in recent years has
been concussion. At present, we are not
clear about the precise mechanisms by
which the programme reduces concussion incidence, but this is a particularly
interesting finding.”
Concerns about serious rugby injuries
are growing and could tarnish the sport’s
image. Last month, Professor Allyson
Pollock, from Newcastle University, suggested that physical contact should be
removed from all school rugby matches,
which alarmed those who run the game.
An increasing number of professional
players are having to leave the sport prematurely due to serious injury. World
Rugby has introduced heavier sanctions
for high tackles. But the efficacy of this
policy has been questioned. A recent
study of Premiership rugby in England
concluded that rates of concussion have
gone from 6.7 per 1,000 player hours in
2012-13 to 15.8 in 2015-16 – or one brain
injury every couple of matches. Concussion now accounts for 25% of all injuries.
The concerns may also be linked to
the decline in the number of adults now
playing the amateur game just as the
sport’s executives want more people,
especially women, to play rugby. The
Activate programme builds on a similar
initiative earlier in the year that focused
on schoolboy rugby.
Brothels in
Airbnbs: MPs
launch inquiry
by Dulcie Lee
The growth of “pop-up brothels” in
Airbnb and other short-term properties is to be investigated by MPs. The
all-party parliamentary group on
prostitution will launch an inquiry
tomorrow after reports of temporary
brothels springing up across the country, including in holiday resorts and the
Lake District, for periods of between a
couple of days to several weeks.
Sex workers say the rise in temporary brothels is due to police forcing
them from long-term accommodation.
Police say temporary brothels make
it harder to track vulnerable women
and could be used for trafficking and
exploitation. While prostitution is
legal in England and Wales, owning or
managing brothels is a crime.
The internet has changed the shape
and operation of the off-street sex
trade, allowing customers to contact
hundreds of workers more easily.
Those running temporary brothels are
then able to advertise for customers in
advance through adult websites.
MPs want to investigate the scale of
the trade, the prevalence of trafficking
and whether vulnerable people are
being exploited. The Labour MP Gavin
Shuker, who is chairing the inquiry,
said: “A lack of enforcement action
and a lack of interest from politicians
means we normally only see the tip of
the iceberg. What we’re hoping to do is
flush out the true scale of what brothelkeeping looks like.”
Laura Watson from the English
Collective of Prostitutes, which
campaigns for sex workers’ rights and
safety, said that the ECP was in touch
with many workers who were being
forced into temporary premises after
being asked to move from long-term
workplaces. “Closure orders are being
widely used and every closure makes
it harder for sex workers to insist on
decent working conditions,” she said.
“Some have been forced to move multiple times in a few months. They can’t
invest in security measures like CCTV,
or employ anyone to help keep them
safe, and they have less chance to refuse
clients – a key marker of exploitation.”
Airbnb has said in the past it
has “zero tolerance for this type of
behaviour” when premises are used as
| 21
Catalan separatists preparing for a
war of attrition against Madrid rule
Spain’s government
will not give way on
Catalonia. The next
step, Giles Tremlett
writes, may ruin
the province
or boost the
rebel cause
For years there were warnings of the
impending “train crash” in Catalonia,
but nothing was done to prevent it. As
a result, horrified Spaniards have now
spent three weeks watching a slowmotion collision that became dramatically worse with the decision to impose
direct rule from Madrid.
While leaders on both sides blame
each other, there is growing anger at the
inability of either to swallow their pride
and take a step back. “Now that we are
at the cliff edge, it seems that there is
no option but to step over it,” Fernando
Garea, a veteran commentator at El Confidencial online newspaper, wrote. “We
can then continue arguing from the bottom of the gorge.”
With politics having failed, civil disobedience is pitted against the law of
Madrid. Separatist leaders think they
will win the confrontation because each
clash between popular power and the
state creates converts to their cause –
which polls show had only 41% backing
before a chaotic referendum and police
violence on 1 October.
Yet a poll run by Barcelona’s El Periódico newspaper last week shows that,
despite the outrage and sympathy provoked by the police charges, separatists
have a long way to go before they can
properly claim to represent the will of
the Catalan people.
According to that poll, 55% of Catalans do not think the referendum –
where only 43% of people cast countable
votes – is a valid basis for declaring independence. Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president, has, nevertheless, threatened to ask the regional parliament to do
exactly that in response to direct rule.
Since separatists have a majority
there, which they used to pass the referendum law that was then struck down by
the constitutional court, any vote would
probably succeed. All the deputies who
vote in favour – about 70 of them – could
be hauled before Spanish courts. It is
now clear that the conservative govern-
The government of Mariano Rajoy will be implacable in its attempt to enforce the law and govern Catalonia directly. Getty
ment of Mariano Rajoy, having won the
support of EU leaders, will be implacable in its attempt to enforce the law and
govern directly.
It is impossible, however, to measure
the appetite for further confrontation
among the separatists.
Rajoy has the law on his side and the
power of the state in his hands. If the
separatists decide to fight, they are likely
to lose many battles. That may help win
sympathy as they try to argue that they
are an oppressed people, but it is a tiring option for their supporters – and
one which requires volunteers willing
to become martyrs, facing court cases,
fines, bans from public office and, possibly, prison time.
When a judge ramped up the tension
further last Monday by arresting Jordi
Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, the leaders
of the two principal separatist pressure
groups, on sedition charges, 200,000
people protested in Barcelona’s Diagonal boulevarde. It took an entire day to
‘Does the Catalan
government think
investors will come to
a place where locals
are leaving en masse?’
La Vanguardia
scrape the wax from their burning candles off the tarmac.
But when the two separatist organisations called on people to remove money
from certain “unpatriotic” banks on Friday, the response appears to have been
Boycotting banks could backfire. The
two biggest in Catalonia, La Caixa and
Sabadell, have already moved their head
offices out of the region in response to
Puigdemont’s threats to declare unilateral independence. A tit-for-tat boycott
of Catalan goods by consumers in the
rest of Spain could provoke even more
companies to leave.
Key to the separatist narrative that
has been so successfully built over the
past half dozen years is the idea that
Catalonia, and Catalans, are victims.
That was boosted on 1 October and separatists will hope that direct rule – which
polls show that two-thirds of Catalans
oppose – increases that feeling.
Either way, they are now plotting
to turn direct rule into an unworkable
disaster. Reportedly regional ministers
may refuse to budge from their offices,
requiring police to remove them – with
peaceful crowds in place to prevent
that from happening. Police units sent
to carry out the task would then have to
decide whether force must be used to
clear the way. That could produce some
uneasy standoffs.
Local government officials, including
parts of the Catalan police force, may
refuse to collaborate or deliberately
disobey orders from Madrid – but they,
too, would face legal actions and fines.
Rajoy, who is notoriously cold-blooded,
is likely to sit out any public service
strikes and simply hope that these turn
Catalan voters against independence.
The separatists have a glaring weakness: their threats to declare independence unilaterally are scaring businesses
away, with more than 1,200 companies
having moved their registered headquarters out of Catalonia over the past
two weeks. Some fear that this will
provoke a definitive shift in the relative economic power of Barcelona and
“Despite the dramatic implications
of this phenomenon, nobody from the
Generalitat [the Catalan regional government] has bothered to explain what
is happening to those who look on with
concern, and sometimes anguish, at
this decapitalisation of the Catalan
economy,” Barcelona’s influential La
Vanguardia newspaper wrote in a lacerating editorial yesterday.
It pointed the finger at Oriol Junqueras, Puigdemont’s No 2 and leader
of the Catalan Republican Left party,
accusing him of refusing to face reality. “For a long time he claimed that the
markets would welcome the creation of
a new state with open arms,” La Vanguardia reminded him, saying that “fear
of the cliff and of legal insecurity” was
driving companies away.
“Does the Catalan government think
that international investors are going
to come to a place where the locals are
leaving en masse?”
Rajoy’s critics were quick to respond
to yesterday’s move. His party has long
wanted to limit the devolution of powers in Spain, and some will see this as an
underhand way of managing that.
The Podemos leader, Pablo Iglesias,
meanwhile, saw a plot by “monarchist”
parties, including the socialists. “This
just shows their inability to come up
with solutions and pushes Catalonia
further from Spain,” he said.
But perhaps the bitterest blow to
separatists has been the support shown
to Rajoy by Angela Merkel, Emmanuel
Macron and other European leaders.
Where the more diehard supporters of independence see repression, an
authoritarian state and political prisoners, Europe’s leaders see an internal
Spanish problem that must be solved
within the confines of existing democratically approved law. Given that very
few separatists are interested in leaving
the EU, that is a devastating blow.
Mariano Rajoy: Spain’s ‘safe pair of hands’
risking it all on Catalonia
The Observer profile, 30
Spanish prime minister to strip Catalonia of its powers and rule from Madrid
Continued from page 1
his government attended the rally
amid fears that the hitherto peaceful
movement could turn violent. Direct
rule is a recipe for civil disobedience
and increases the scope for conflict.
The thousands of Spanish civil guards
and national police drafted in for the
referendum are still stationed around
The deadline for Puigdemont to
clarify whether or not he had declared
independence passed last Thursday.
The Catalan president declined to
answer yes or no and threatened to
issue a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) if the government
invoked Article 155.
Spain’s attorney-general said that if
Puigdemont declared UDI he would be
charged with “rebellion”, a charge that
carries a maximum 30-year sentence.
Puigdemont claims that Catalonia
has earned the moral right to declare
UDI after some 90% voted yes to independence in the unofficial referendum.
However, only 43% of voters turned
out, roughly equivalent to the percentage of Catalans who favour independence, according to opinion polls.
There is still time for Puigdemont to
call an election, in which case Article
155 would be suspended, so long as he
also disavows UDI. A poll published
in El Periódico newspaper yesterday
showed there is 68% support for fresh
However, his PdeCAT party has not
benefited from the independence push
and continues to slump in opinion
polls. Junqueras said: “We’re not here
Catalonia’s president, Carles Puigdemont,
(centre) leads protesters in Barcelona.
to hold elections again just so we can
have the same mandate we’ve already
Article 155 has never been invoked
and the decision could trigger the
unravelling of the 1978 constitution
that established the 17 autonomous
communities that make up Spain. The
constitution was devised to accommodate Basque and Catalan national
The other 15 communities – including some that have no historic identity
as such – were effectively invented
so as to avoid the impression that the
Catalans and Basques were getting
special treatment. Many now believe
that this federation of 17 regions,
nicknamed café para todos (coffee for
everyone), is obsolete and that the
constitution needs an overhaul.
The atmosphere within Catalonia
is also becoming fraught, with growing tension between supporters and
opponents of independence.
Like Brexit for Britain, the independence drive has begun to resemble
a collective act of economic self-harm,
with major companies moving their
headquarters out of the region as instability puts the brake on investment and
business confidence.
Barely two weeks ago, tens of
thousands of secessionists gathered
outside the Catalan parliament to hear
Puigdemont declare independence,
only to suspend it seven seconds later.
By this time next week Catalans could
be living under both direct rule and a
unilateral declaration of independence,
with neither option supported by a
majority of the population.
Kurds displaced from Kirkuk by the conflict between Iraq and the Kurdistan region protest outside the US embassy in Erbil, complaining they were abandoned by the international community. Photograph by Elizabeth Fitt/Rex
Kurds cry treachery as their dreams of an
independent state turn to dust in Kirkuk
A referendum supposed to strengthen the
Kurds’ position ended in a retreat in
which Iranian influence was the key,
reports Martin Chulov in Erbil
When the guns fell silent on the KirkukErbil road, just after noon on Friday, a
fresh border had been scythed through
the oil-rich soil – and a new line of
influence carved across northern Iraq.
Their gun barrels still hot, vanquished p eshmerga forces began
another withdrawal a few miles closer
to the seat of government in the now
shrunken boundaries of Iraqi Kurdistan. A few miles south, closer to Kirkuk,
Iraqi forces were digging in, their conquest of the entire province complete,
and their five-day sweep through the
rest of the north having seized up to
14,000 sq km from the Kurds, with a
minimum of bother.
Baghdad has now reasserted its
authority over territory that the Kurds
occupied outside their mandated borders, most of which they had claimed
during the three-year fight against the
Islamic State (Isis) terrorist group.
The extraordinary capitulation –
which followed an indepedence referendum that was supposed to strengthen
their hand – has not only shattered
Kurdish ambitions for at least a generation; it has also laid bare an evolving
power struggle in Iraq, and a regional
dynamic that is fast taking shape in the
wake of the shattered so-called caliphate
declared by the Isis leader, Abu Bakr alBaghdadi, in mid-2014.
Lining up to claim the rout of the
Kurds were Iraq’s prime minister,
Haider al-Abadi, and Iran’s omnipresent
general, Qassem Suleimani, whose influence in the days before last weekend’s
attack was key to shaping the aftermath
even before a shot had been fired.
Iranian government officials, too,
were celebrating the win in Kirkuk,
which the Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, had in effect annexed by including
it within the boundaries in which the
referendum was held. “We were never
going to let a Zionist project like this
claim Kirkuk,” said a senior leader of
the Shia-led forces, known as the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs). “Kirkuk
is central to Iraq’s economy and it will
never belong to Barzani.”
Contested throughout history, Kirkuk
is home to Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen,
as well as oilfields, an airport, a strategic
military base – and at least 8,000 million
barrels of subterranean oil. It has powered the oil-dependent Kurdish economy for the past three years, with up to
600,000 barrels a day exported through
a pipeline it built to Turkey, much to
Baghdad’s chagrin.
The fall of Kirkuk has also unearthed
a faultline that lay at the heart of the
decision to hold the referendum, which
won 93% endorsement among those
Kurds who turned up to vote, but was
never wholeheartedly endorsed by the
Talabani clan, whose peshmerga forces
had been responsible for defending its
southern approaches.
“They could never get past it being led
by Barzani,” said an Iraq-based European diplomat. “Beyond that, it was
always going to put them in an impossible situation with Iran, who would
invade Iraq before losing it. And I think
deep down they probably saw this as not
something you could resolve through a
unilateral declaration.”
In Baghdad, the Iranian claims of
being central to the victory were repeatedly being disavowed. “The popular
myth is that a certain Iranian general
has a hand in everything in this country,
that he is a viceroy of some sorts,” said
a senior Iraqi minister. “That’s not true.
This is a country that has been through a
lot and is getting back on its feet through
the blood of its martyrs and the sacrifice
of its citizens.”
Asked why he declined to put his
name to his remarks, the MP cited
“the sensitivity of the situation”. He
then added: “It isn’t wise to upset [Iranian officials].”
While Iraq’s military indeed played
a prominent role in reclaiming Kirkuk,
so, too, did Shia groups who report to
Suleimani and the joint leaders of the
PMU forces, Hadi al-Amiri and Abu
Mahdi al-Muhandis. Days before the
referendum, it was al-Amiri who sent
an envoy to Barzani threatening “war” if
the poll went ahead. Suleimani also sat
opposite the de facto Kurdish president
to try to dissuade him, according to a senior Kurdish officials. When that did not
work, he requested – and was refused – a
second meeting. And, over the past two
months, he had been a regular visitor
to the rival political camp in the Kurdish north – the Talabani family, in the
region’s second city, Sulaymaniyah.
The US, which was vehemently
opposed to the ballot – especially the
decision to include Kirkuk – insisted
that despite the latest Iraqi move the
areas that the central government has
remain disputed.
Washington sat out the past week of
clashes, even as forces loyal to Suleimani
helped lead the assault.
The spectre of an ascendant Iran has
been central to the Trump administration’s rhetoric in the past week, as the
US president ponders tearing up the Iran
nuclear deal – the centrepiece of his predecessor’s detente with Tehran.
“You have to say that this defiance
[by Iraq] was at odds with what clearly
happened,” said a former US diplomat
in Iraq. “Yes, the Iraqis did fight and no,
they weren’t a distant second in influence. But the Iranian role here can’t
be denied. And nor can the fact that
this is a prime example of a bigger
struggle for the Iraqi street. This is
Najaf v Qom [Shia power bases in
Iraq and Iran] writ large.”
“The political and military campaigns around Kirkuk were organised
by Suleimani,” said an Iraqi minister. “Make no mistake about
it. Anyone who thinks he
defers to Abadi does not
understand how business is done in Iraq.”
On Saturday, 15
October, with Iraqi
and Shia forces
massed near Kirkuk,
Kurdish leader
Massoud Barzani, left,
and Iranian general
Qassem Suleimani.
100 m
‘The popular myth is
that a certain Iranian
general has a hand
in everything in
this country’
Senior Iraqi minister
the Kurdish factions – the KDP, which
is led by the Barzanis, and the PUK, a
fiefdom of the Talabanis – sat down to
talk in the lakeside town of Dukan. Barzani arrived with his son Masrour, and
other senior officials. On the PUK side,
Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, the widow of the
PUK father-figure Jalal Talabani, who
had died just over a week earlier, led
a delegation including her eldest son,
Bafel, and security tsar Lahur.
“Bafel said he had met with Abadi and
discussed allowing the golden division
(Baghdad’s counter-terrorism forces)
into Kirkuk. He said the Republican
Guard might take control of some of the
sites,” said a senior Kurdish official. “We
asked him if he had made an agreement,
and he said ‘no, they were just discussion points’. We said if he had agreed to
that, we would have to adjust our force
posture accordingly.
“They lied. It was a historical betrayal.
The deal was done while condolences
were received for Talabani, first in
Sulaimaniya, and then in Baghdad. The
second meeting is where Abadi was also
KDP officials also believe that Bafel
and Lahur held two previous meetings
with leaders of the PMUs – one of which
Suleimani attended – in Tuz Khurmatu,
37 miles south of Kirkuk.
Speaking on Friday, Bafel Talabani
described the decision to hold a referendum as “a colossal mistake. And even
in the fighting in Kirkuk, there was an
opportunity. Prime Minister Abadi, his
excellency, reached out to us and we
reached an honourable compromise,”
he said of the move to withdraw peshmerga forces.
As the defeated peshmerga forces
redrew their defences yesterday, the
new boundary north of Kirkuk – where
a de facto line marked out areas disputed between Kurds and Arabs
after the fall of Saddam Hussein – was busily being
fortified by Iraqi forces,
among them Shia groups.
“This has been the
most painful lesson they
have faced,” said a PMU
member further along
the road in Kirkuk.
“Let them reflect on
that, and on history.
Kirkuk will never be
In an Indian village blighted by alcoholic
fathers, a ‘young girls club’ takes control
Mark Townsend in
Tamil Nadu reports
on the teenagers
offering hope their
generation can
escape a life
of hardship
and abuse
100 miles
mate issues, such as shepherding peers
through adolescence. “I teach my friends
on life skills such as personal hygiene,
self-discipline and menstrual issues,”
said Rajendhiran Sridevi, a 16-year-old
Sathiya Babu, deputy project director of Scope India, which helps deliver
opportunities for the poor, said the gap
between the ambitions of the young and
the expectations of parents was widening. “The youngsters know that somebody has to do these things for the community. These girls are taking control of
running the village. They want change.”
There is another incentive for the
young women’s intervention. A sense
of hopelessness had taken hold among
Thennamadevi’s teenagers, prompting a
number to flee in search of a better life.
Sridevi and Sowmya have frequently discovered that friends have disappeared,
heading towards cities such as Chennai
and never heard of again. Local records
reveal that at least 150 children from the
area have attempted to run away.
Six kilometres from the village, via a
labyrinthine network of tracks, lies the
town of Villupuram and one of the most
crucial rail stations in southern India.
Built under the British, five major lines
converge at Villupuram junction, connecting the country’s southern tip with
Chennai and the east coast.
When Babu began investigating the
Thennamadevi runaways, one common
thread emerged: every one of them had
passed through Villupuram station. He
heard reports of other minors wandering platforms alone, their clothing torn
and grubby. Some were naked.
Scope’s international partner, the
charity Railway Children, began encouraging the station’s 40 cleaners to report
children travelling alone. Days before
the Observer visited, a malnourishd
eight-year-girl was found on platform six
wearing only a T-shirt. More than 1,000
unaccompanied minors were found at
the station in the two years to June 2017.
One such was Magelier Kural, a shy
16-year-old from Thennamadevi. Kural
had wanted to visit Pondicherry, 30km
away on the coast. When cleaners found
him on platform five, he was in tears and
calling for his family. “I wanted to have
new experiences and see some sights.”
Kannan Jeevanantham, 16, was spotted on platform one hoping to catch
the train north to Chennai to escape
his father’s drinking. “I had no plan, no
money. I needed to escape,” said Jeevanantham, who is now studying at a
technical institute and is among those
delighted that the “young girls’ club”
has assumed responsibility of his village.
Yet problems endure. Calls to Villupuram’s Childline in the year to this
May illustrate the perils facing Thennamadevi’s children. Of almost 4,000
reported incidents, 3,016 involved petty
crimes, 552 concerned children forced
to beg, and 193 described cases of forced
marriage, one documenting a 15-yearold being made to marry a man of 45. A
further 39 calls heard claims of sexual
abuse and 84 detailed children who had
disappeared without trace.
Despite the best efforts of Railway
Children, minors still vanish, sometimes
taken by traffickers who use India’s
vast rail network to move their human
cargo. Villupuram’s platform cleaners
are instructed to keep a particular lookout for groups of children led by one or
maybe two adults.
Navin Sellaraju, Railway Children’s
director for India, said: “These interventions are vital to protecting vulnerable children from trafficking and child
Speaking at the police station in
Villupuram, the town’s anti-human
trafficking officer, Chinnamariappan
Padmashree, sifts through updates on
criminals passing through the region.
“Lots of children are being kidnapped
and going missing,” she said. “We have
many cases of sexual crimes, forced
labour and kidnapping, crimes against
women and children.”
All the children rescued belong to a
lower caste, a factor that some believe
makes children vulnerable to traffickers. Interviews found 70% belonged to
the Sadhu caste, a fifth came from the
“most backward” caste and 10% from
the “backward” caste.
Yet the biggest blight remains alcoholism, with entire families fleeing to the
station. One such family is the Managattis
is harder
than it
sounds, as
the afflicted
tend to
topple over
by a
The battle
to beat
pages 17-19
The New
Each afternoon the men of Thennamadevi leave their village and head for the
surrounding fields, many carrying bottles of high-strength home-brewed alcohol. Hours later they stagger back home
through the paddy fields of the state of
Tamil Nadu in southern India.
Thennamadevi is racked by alcoholism. Most of its 150 male inhabitants
participate in ruinous daily drinking sessions. Around 90 women with families
in the village have been widowed. The
youngest husband to die was 21.
However, over the past six months
something remarkable has happened to
break the cycle of squalor and despair:
the teenage daughters of the drunken
men have taken over the running of the
place. And it’s working.
A self-titled “young girls’ club” has
fixed the street lights, completed a
health audit of the village and ensured
that mobile clinics visit Thennamadevi.
A library is being built where wellthumbed books promote the virtues of
learning and independence. The phenomenon of teenage female self-help has
made aid agencies and politicians across
the state sit up and take notice.
In the communal building, beneath
the glow of a single lightbulb, the girls
assembled earlier this month for a
debate on further improvements. A
petition urging better transport links –
no buses pass near the village – has been
drafted to be put to the local council.
Debate is earnest, each discussion
ending in a show of hands. Only when
consensus is reached does the committee move to the next issue. “We are trying
to transform our village by this process.
We are empowered to be leaders,” said
Says Sowmya, 16, president of the club.
Others are focused on more inti-
Amudha Managatti
lived for several
years on platform
one with her eight
daughters and son
after fleeing to
Villupuram railway
station to escape
her heavy-drinking
Photograph by
Mark Townsend for
the Observer
who lived beside platform 1 for years. It
was a fraught existence. Amudha Managatti describes struggling to keep her
son and eight daughters safe. Her eldest,
then aged 15, was targeted by abusers.
“They took advantage of her, many people in the town were involved,” said Babu.
A deserted home was renovated for
the family and the children given school
places. Her eldest daughter is now married with her own family, a journey that
proves that narratives can be amended.
For the teenagers running Thennamadevi it is the possibility of change
that inspires them. Senior club member
Gowsalya Radhakrishnan said: “By not
accepting our fate we will give others the
knowledge they can shape the future.”
* 22.10.17
In Focus
June 2014: An
Isis fighter in
Raqqa province
celebrates after
the group’s
capture of
territory in Iraq
leads it to declare
a worldwide
Islamic ‘caliphate’.
May 2010: Abu
Bakr al-Baghdadi
is chosen as new
leader of Islamic
Sate of Iraq, which
in 2013 merged
with the Syrian
Nusra Front, to
form Isis. He was
not seen in public
until this picture
of him at Mosul’s
great mosque
in 2014.
November 2015:
Police patrol
near the Bataclan
concert hall in
Paris after a wave
of fatal shootings
and suicide bomb
attacks in the city
organised by Isis
killed 130 people.
by Christian
The caliphate is smashed, but
There are plenty of good reasons to cheer the
destruction of the last stronghold of Islamic
State, in Raqqa. But, argues Jason Burke, the
world’s attention must now focus on what Isis,
or other Islamist groups, will plot to do next
or a group with such spectacular ambitions, Islamic State’s
last stand took place in surroundings of almost shocking
banality: a hospital and sports
stadium in Raqqa, the Syrian
town that was the political capital of
its self-styled caliphate. After weeks of
street battles and bombing, these final
strongholds fell to Kurdish fighters on
Tuesday. More than three years after
Isis surged to global infamy with a stunning campaign of conquest, the end
came with a whimper, not a bang.
“Once purported as fierce, now
pathetic and a lost cause,” Brett
McGurk, the US special presidential
envoy for coalition forces tweeted.
Such triumphant claims have become
familiar since the 9/11 attacks. I heard
them in Afghanistan in 2002, but US
troops are still engaged in the fight
against the Taliban. I heard them in
Iraq in 2003, 2004, and then year after
year until the US pulled out in 2011.
The scepticism with which any
talk of “victory” is greeted by analysts
and reporters is familiar, too. Many
expert observers counselled prudence
rather than celebration last week:
Raqqa may have fallen, but if Isis is
down, it is far from out.
Yet when we recall Isis at the height
of its powers, the scale of its decline
is impressive. By mid-2014 the group
controlled a taxable population of some
seven or eight million, oilfields and
refineries, vast grain stores, lucrative
smuggling routes and vast stockpiles of
arms and ammunition, as well as entire
parks of powerful modern military
hardware. Its economic capital was
Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Isis
was the most powerful, wealthiest,
best-equipped jihadi force ever seen.
Its success sent shockwaves
throughout the Islamic world. What
al-Qaida, founded by Osama bin Laden
in Pakistan in 1988, had talked about
doing decades or centuries in the
future, an upstart breakaway faction
had done in months. Its blitzkrieg
campaign and the refounding of an
Islamic caliphate – announced from
the pulpit of a 950-year-old mosque in
Mosul in a speech by its leader, Ibrahim
Awwad, the 46-year-old former
Islamic law student better known as
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – easily eclipsed
the 9/11 attacks as Islamist extremists’
most spectacular achievement.
In 2014 and 2015, I interviewed
young men, and some women, who
had found the call of Isis irresistible.
They came from Belgium and the
Maldives, both thousands of miles
from the Levant. A few returned to
their homelands to proselytise or, in
Europe, to carry out some of the most
infamous terrorist attacks ever. Isis
inspired others who had not travelled
to execute their own attacks, too. From
Bangladesh to Florida, hundreds died
in a new wave of terrorist acts. A dozen
or so Isis “provinces” were established,
from West Africa to eastern Asia.
Yet this vast and ambitious project
has been reduced to rubble. As many
as 60,000 Isis fighters have died since
2014, according to senior US military
officials. The leadership has shrunk
to a rump – although al-Baghdadi
survives. The administration is
no more. The training camps are
gone. The flow of propaganda so
instrumental in prompting attacks
such as those in the UK this year has
ceased. One recent analysis noted
that, after the fall of Mosul in July 2017,
the Isis distribution of governancerelated media, which long constituted
the bulk of its propaganda output,
dropped by two-thirds. In midSeptember it ended entirely.
If the defeat of Isis did not come
easily, three inherent weaknesses of
its project always made it likely in the
long term. First, Isis needed continual
conquest to succeed: victory was a
clear sign that the group was doing
God’s work. Expansion also meant new
recruits to replace combat casualties,
arms and ammunition to acquire,
archaeological treasures to sell,
property to loot, food to distribute and
new communities and resources, such
as oil wells and refineries, to exploit.
But once it had occupied its
Sunni-dominated heartlands, further
expansion was unlikely. If it was easy
to sweep aside a border of a shattered
state such as Syria, the frontiers of
stronger states such as Turkey, Israel
and Jordan proved resistant. There
was no way even Isis, a Sunni Arab
Muslim force, was going to fight its
way deep into Shia-dominated central
and southern Iraq.
Second, the violent intolerance of
dissent and brutality by Isis towards
the communities under its authority
sapped support. One reason for the
rapid expansion of Isis was that Sunni
tribal leaders and other power brokers
in Iraq and Syria could see significant
advantages in accepting the group’s
authority. Its rule brought relative
security, a rude form of justice, and
defence against perceived Shia and
regime oppression. And assent to Isis
takeover also ensured, or at least made
more likely, their own survival.
In 2015, with a weakened Isis unable
to offer anything other than violence,
the defections started and rapidly
snowballed. A collective yearning
to restore the military, political and
technological superiority over the
west enjoyed by Islamic powers a
millennium ago – or the conviction
that the end times are near – proved
insufficient to convince communities
to fight and die for the Isis cause. At
the very end, the hospital and stadium
in Raqqa were defended by foreign
Isis fighters. Any remaining Syrian
militants had surrendered days before.
Third, Isis took on the west. This
was a conscious decision, hard-wired
into the movement, and not taken in
self-defence as some have suggested.
The first terrorist attackers were
dispatched by Isis to Europe in early
2014, before the US-led coalition began
airstrikes. The combination of western
firepower and funding for local forces
has repeatedly proved a potent one
in Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia, Libya,
| 25
The enduring appeal
of Chris Morris and
Brass Eye, page 27
February 2015:
nicknamed Jihadi
John, a British
graduate, is
identified as the
militant in Isis
videos claiming
for beheadings
of US, British and
other hostages.
October 2017:
Syrian Democratic
Forces fighters
stand guard
in Raqqa after
retaking the
city from Isis.
Photograph by
Bulent Kilic/AFP/
Getty Images
June 2014: Isis
militants corral
captured Iraqi
troops after
seizing a base
near Tikrit, north
of Baghdad. Many
of the prisoners
were later killed.
AP Photo via
militant website
its ruins may hold new threats
Mali and elsewhere. Outright victory
against jihadis is difficult to achieve,
but militant organisations targeted
by the west are usually forced at the
very least to abandon territorial gains,
particularly urban centres.
It is clear that any victory over Isis
is partial. The recent military offensive
has not been accompanied by a parallel
political effort. There are still deep
wells of resentment and fear among
Iraqi Sunnis, and the Syrian civil war
grinds on. Isis will now return to the
vicious and effective insurgency it ran
before the spectacular campaigns of
2014. The project of constructing an
Islamic state has been defeated, but the
organisation has not.
Yet there is still cause for optimism.
The three key challenges that
undermined the Isis state-building
project also face every other militant
group, and always will. Neither
veteran jihadis such as Ayman
al-Zawahiri, who leads al-Qaida, nor
younger hotheads have found a way
to overcome them. Al-Zawahiri now
advises a “softly, softly” approach to
win hearts and minds locally, which
appears to have paid dividends in Syria,
and encourages tactical withdrawal
from territory such as that seized in
Yemen by his group’s affiliate there,
rather than bloody final battles.
But if al-Qaida or any other group
seized a swath of the Middle East
and attempted to govern it as Isis
did, it would face the same outcome:
bloody and expensive failure. If they
don’t seize territory, they must rely
on spectacular terrorism to mobilise
and radicalise the world’s Muslims, a
long-term strategy which has had some
results, but is of patchy efficacy.
Isis can still do very great harm to
Iraq, Syria and the broader region. But
can it do similar harm to the west?
The group poses a threat to people
in the UK, US, Europe and elsewhere
through affiliated groups, the fighters
it dispatches to wreak havoc, and those
it inspires. The threat from all of these
will change dramatically now that the
caliphate is no more.
The effect on the “provinces”
established over the past three years
will vary. Some affiliated groups have
long been more influenced by what
is happening in their immediate
environment than thousands of miles
away. Their active commitment to
“global jihad”, and thus attacks on
western targets, will now diminish still
further. This is heartening.
Nor is there much chance that
an Isis “province” could become a
substitute base for the caliphate. Iraq
and Syria have unique historic and
religious significance that cannot be
replicated elsewhere. The suggestion
that the Philippines could be the
seat of the caliphate is risible. Then
there are the foreign fighters. History
suggests that those from across
Extent of Isis support
zones, January 2015
Isis control areas
Deir ez-Zor
As of January 2015
27 September 17 October 2017
100 miles
the Islamic world will have a very
powerful impact. But so far the much
feared wave of violence perpetrated
by Isis veterans returning from the
Middle East has not occurred. The UK
has suffered several attacks in rapid
succession, but these did not involve
men who had been to Syria or Iraq.
Andrew Parker, director general of
MI5, warned last week of a “dramatic
upshift” in Islamist terrorism in part
because of the potential return of
850 Britons who had travelled to Isis
territory and had not been killed. But
he admitted that a large influx had not
yet materialised.
This leaves the possibility that Isis
can inspire people in coming years
to commit atrocities in the way it has
done in the recent past.
The UK law-enforcement and
security community has been
debating this question for a year or
more. Some believe that Isis can exist
as a “virtual caliphate”, sustained
by online propaganda, which would
exert the same pull on recruits in
the west as before. But this is to
misunderstand the appeal of the
group in London, Birmingham, Paris,
Antwerp or Berlin. Many recruits
from the UK, Belgium or France were
young men of immigrant background
with records for petty, and sometimes
serious, crime and a superficial
knowledge of the faith they professed
to follow. Isis offered everything a
street gang does – adventure, status,
even financial and sexual opportunity
– but with the bonus of redemption
from past sins and resolution of a
complex identity crisis. A weakened
Isis, stripped of its territories, is no
longer “the biggest … baddest gang
around”, as one former Belgian Isis
recruit described the group to me two
years ago, and so the attraction is no
longer there.
There have been four big waves of
Islamist militancy over the past 50
years. The first two – in the late 1970s
and early 80s, and then in the early
90s – remained largely limited to the
Muslim world. The third and the
fourth – from the mid-90s through to
2010, and from then until now – have
combined great violence in Muslimmajority countries with a series of
spectacular attacks in the west.
All four have followed a similar
trajectory: a slow, unnoticed period of
growth, a spectacular event bringing
the new threat to public attention, a
phase of brutal struggle, then retreat.
One reason we often miss the first
phase of a growing threat is that we are
focused on the last phase of a threat
that is declining. We should bear this in
mind as we contemplate the smoking
ruins of Raqqa’s hospital and sports
stadium. But a victory is a victory, and
there are few reasons for cheer these
days. So let us celebrate the defeat of
Islamic State and its hateful so-called
caliphate – and keep a wary eye out for
the next fight.
Jason Burke is the author of The New
Threat: the past, present and future of
Islamic Militancy
One of the
taken by
Minzayar Oo of
the plight of the
refugees for
German magazine Geo – he
was arrested
then imprisoned
in Dhaka for 10
days shortly
after the shoot.
He captured a fresh start for Myanmar
… and then its descent into tragedy
Minzayar Oo tells
Tim Lewis how a shot
of Aung Sang Suu Kyi
changed his life and
led to him winning
a unique award
he first of April 2012 was
a historic, emotional and
profoundly hopeful day in
Myanmar’s history. Aung San
Suu Kyi, for decades an exile
from the country and then a
political prisoner under house arrest
for 15 years, finally won a byelection
vote for a seat in parliament. The following morning many citizens and the
world’s media gathered in Yangon at
the offices of her party, the National
League for Democracy, to hear from
or catch a glimpse of the new leader of
the opposition.
Many renowned photojournalists
were in attendance. Among the throng
was a 23-year-old medical student
called Minzayar Oo. A hobbyist with a
camera – after six years of university,
Minzayar Oo was just about to qualify
as a doctor – but the news agency
Reuters had said it would look at
any pictures he took. In the event,
he struggled to get close to Aung San
Suu Kyi, jostled to the fringes by more
experienced practitioners. He took a
few snaps, some above his head, using a
slow exposure.
“I’d just started as a stringer for
Reuters and I was not doing very well,”
he laughs. “That day I didn’t know
what I was getting, but I was trying
to be as focused as I can and just get
a shot of her. Later on my colleague,
who was the chief photographer for
Reuters, was editing my pictures and
he said there were some good ones.
The next day one of them was on
the front page of the International
Herald Tribune.”
That set – which shows Aung San
Suu Kyi poised and unflustered amid
the chaotic melee – would launch a
new career for Minzayar Oo, now 29.
Since then, his work has chronicled,
powerfully and with considerable
humanity, the sometimes fraught
political and social transition of
Myanmar. His photographs are in
demand in newspapers and magazines
around the world, and tomorrow
night at Sadler’s Wells in London
at the Rory Peck awards he will
receive the 2017 Martin Adler prize,
given to a local freelancer for their
contribution to news reporting, He is
the first photographer to be honoured
in this category.
It seems then that Minzayar Oo
made the right choice in swapping
medicine for photography. “Still today,
I never regret it,” he says. “It was a
big decision and my parents were not
very happy, but, given the nature of the
country’s reforms, it was a very crucial
time for Myanmar. I remember talking
to a friend and we were thinking:
‘This is going to be something we will
always remember, so I think we should
just pick up the camera …’ And that’s
what I did.”
For Minzayar Oo, like many
in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi
represented the promise of a fresh start
for an often beleaguered country. “I
grew up hearing about her but never
seeing much of her, because we had
no internet, the country was shut,” he
recalls. “People like my parents would
carry a picture of her in their wallets,
even though that was very dangerous.”
In 2015, the National League for
Democracy won a landslide victory in
elections; Aung San Suu Kyi cannot be
called president, because of a clause
in the country’s constitution, but
her party entered a power-sharing
agreement with Myanmar’s army in
2016 and she is the de facto leader. The
new government, however, has not
been the radical driver of change that
many hoped. Most notably, Aung San
Suu Kyi has presided over – or at least
not condemned – what the UN regards
as “a textbook example of ethnic
cleansing” carried out by the military
and police against the Rohingya, a
long-persecuted Muslim minority who
live in the west of the country, near the
Bangladesh border.
Since September more than 400,000
Rohingya have fled the country for
Bangladesh. Last week the New
York Times ran an article headed,
“Myanmar, once a hope for democracy,
is now a study in how it fails”. The
New Yorker called Aung San Suu
Kyi, a Nobel peace prizewinner, “the
Ignoble Laureate”.
Minzayar Oo has been documenting
the crackdown on the Rohingya people
for many years, spending weeks in
refugee camps. In one poignant series,
he stationed himself in a makeshift
internet hut and captured portraits
and snatches of dialogue as individuals
and families contacted loved ones
who had fled Myanmar for Malaysia
and Thailand.
Through the captions it was revealed
that it was commonplace for traffickers
to kidnap relatives and demand
of Aung San
Suu Kyi in 2012
changed the
course of
Minzayar Oo’s
career. The
images were
picked up
by Reuters
and used in
around the
Minzayar Oo will be
awarded the Martin
Adler prize at the
Rory Peck awards
in London tomorrow. He originally
trained as a doctor.
exorbitant ransoms. These could be as
high as $1,500 and would be paid to a
middleman in a nearby village.
On a recent trip to the Bangladesh
border, Minzayar Oo became
embroiled in the Rohingya dispute
personally. He arrived on 6 September
with an assistant, took some
photographs for the German magazine
Geo, and the next day was arrested. He
was then interrogated for seven days
and spent 10 days in prison in Dhaka.
When we speak, Minzayar Oo has
not long been allowed home, but he
is remarkably sanguine about his
experiences. “I wasn’t badly treated,”
he says. “I didn’t know what was
going to happen, I didn’t know if I’d be
allowed to go back, or if I was going to
be charged, but I was feeling hopeful,
because I went to Bangladesh very
neutral, just to do my job, and I was
being honest with everybody.”
Mostly now, he feels gratitude
towards the people who lobbied to
have him and his assistant Hkun
Lat freed. “I only realised when
I got released on bail that many
organisations from our community –
the media and journalism community
– have stood up for us,” he continues.
“It was so amazing how the community
came together very quickly for us.”
In Minzayar Oo’s photographs,
Myanmar can come across as a
troubled, dysfunctional place. One
subject he has returned to over the
years are the jadeite mines in Kachin
state, in the north of the country. The
area is home to the world’s largest
deposits of the mineral: nearly 70% of
the global haul comes from Myanmar.
The industry is worth $31bn each
year, but little of this trickles down
beyond military leaders and the
mainly Chinese firms that do the
extraction. Meanwhile, around a
quarter of Myanmar’s citizens live in
extreme poverty.
Minzayar Oo mostly concentrates
on the prospectors, who come from
around the country to seek their
fortunes. They tend to be on a futile
mission as they can only search the
waste that the mining companies
have dumped. So-called “shooting
galleries” – where shots of heroin
are sold for $2 each – have become
ubiquitous around the fringes to
service the exhausted miners. HIV is
“All these miners came with an
ambition and a dream to find a stone
that would change life for them and
for their family and then sooner or
later they get trapped with heroin
addiction,” Minzayar Oo says. “And
there’s a lot of landslides, killing
hundreds of people at a time.”
In the east of the country,
meanwhile, Minzayar Oo has reported
from Mong La, Myanmar’s “little
Vegas”. Situated on the Chinese border,
the town has special dispensation
that means almost anything goes:
prostitution, round-the-clock gambling
and a macabre trade in exotic animals,
dead and alive. The local tipple is tiger
wine, a potent alcoholic brew made by
infusing tiger bones and Chinese herbs
in rice wine for up to eight years.
“I didn’t try tiger wine, but I saw
many people enjoying it in Mong La,”
he says. “It’s a very strange place,
very sad.”
Is Minzayar Oo ever concerned that
he’s not portraying his homeland in a
more positive light? “Sometimes I get
nervous,” he admits, “but as Myanmar
transitions, I think it’s very important
for us local journalists to try to push
the boundaries. Of course, also living
in Myanmar I would like the things to
be positive, but still there are many that
are not working well. They are very
important and yet forgotten.”
Recognition at the Rory Peck awards
gives Minzayar Oo courage that his
instincts are right. “There are many
journalists like me in the world, who
are trying to highlight, document and
expose these important issues,” he
says. “And it can be sometimes very
difficult for journalists from other
countries to do. So the Martin Adler
prize, I’m really honoured.”
20 years on ...
how comedy
genius Chris
Morris invented
‘fake news’
The lampooning
of tabloid
left, was
merciless. The
then chief
executive of
Channel 4,
Michael Grade,
intervened to
demand cuts.
Out-takes from Brass Eye have
been made into a film to mark its
birthday – but fans of the cult show
can only view it at rare live cinema
screenings, writes Vanessa Thorpe
or a band of ardent fans, the
television and radio satirist
Chris Morris has been elevated
to the status of an oracle. The
brand of surreal satire he
trademarked on his controversial Channel 4 show Brass Eye,
involving pastiche news stories which
hysterically chronicled, for example,
the pseudo-discovery of heavy electricity plaguing Sri Lanka like “a ton of
invisible lead soup” now seems to have
preempted fake news 20 years ahead of
its time.
This week many of his followers will
be meeting up in a spirit of celebration.
Proud, and filled with subversive glee,
they will line up on Thursday evening
for the latest of a series of secretive
20th anniversary events, some no
doubt muttering about “Shatner’s
In honour of the Brass Eye birthday
there have been tributes published and
repeats scheduled, but the surprise
popularity of an almost unpublicised
touring event, called Oxide Ghosts: The
Brass Eye Tapes, perhaps says even
more about the enduring influence of
the show. Billed as “part documentary,
part artwork”, Oxide Ghosts has been
quietly selling out in independent
cinemas across the land.
“It really shows the power of a niche
enthusiasm,” said the playwright
Jonathan Maitland, who has chaired
the discussions at two of these events.
“All the shows so far were sold out. It
is almost a cult. It reminds me of the
way fans of Morrissey keep on carrying
the flame.”
The evening takes the form of
previously unseen out-takes from the
original television show, put together
carefully by Brass Eye’s director
Michael Cumming, followed by a
question-and-answer session.
“The audience absolutely love it,”
said Maitland. “As far as I could see,
there were a lot of bearded men in their
middle age there, many asking very
detailed questions about their favourite
episodes. They were a very medialiterate crowd.”
Although Morris has given the
event his full approval at a distance,
he was not actively involved in its
creation. The satirist, who is known
to be publicity-shy, described Oxide
Ghosts to the Observer as Cumming’s
“impressionistic account of his
experience”. And even Cumming
himself is reticent about saying
anything to promote the screenings.
The live event, he told the Observer,
explains everything he wants to say.
Such self-effacement creates a
sense of mystery which is, of course,
savoured by the fans. Those who can
recite each word of, say, the spoof
report about an epidemic addiction to a
made-up drug called Cake, also revel in
the recondite nature of the knowledge
they share.
The first Oxide Ghosts event took
place this May in Manchester, and
the show has since gone on to play at
venues in Bristol and Liverpool. An
extra show at the Curzon in London
has just been added following public
demand, and its nationwide tour
continues until the end of November.
For those who did not watch Brass
Eye, the episodes each revolved around
a themed series of stunts and fake news
stories. It was the kind of comic fare
more familiar to viewers now, but it
has rarely benefited from such pokerfaced delivery, or such acid intent.
Morris’s target was often the news
media, or at least the sensationalist,
macho ticks of news coverage, whether
from the lips of one of his ludicrous
fictional reporters Ted Maul or Austen
Tasseltine, or from a series of grave
presenters, variously titled David Jatt
or David Unesco.
Celebrities and politicians were
ridiculed for the alacrity with which
they jumped on a media bandwagon.
Want to speak out against the appalling
abuse of an elephant in a German zoo
who has been left with its trunk stuck
in its fundament? Step up Paul Daniels
and Britt Ekland. (Cumming revealed
in one Oxide Ghosts Q&A session that
Toyah Wilcox was the only celebrity
approached by the Brass Eye team who
actually turned down the chance to
denounce this unlikely outrage.)
As Maitland admits, viewed today,
some of the pranking does look
unnecessarily cruel. A few of Morris’s
celebrity “marks”, such as the DJ Bruno
Brooks or the late agony aunt and
health campaigner Claire Rayner, seem
innocuous now. On the other hand,
Rolf Harris and Donald Trump
also made fleeting appearances.
And gratuitous cruelty was
always part of the point. Let’s not
be moderate, Morris seemed to
His attitude came with a track
record. Channel 4 must have had
a clue who it had hired. Morris
had “previous” long before his
relatively mild BBC2 spoof news
show The Day Today introduced
the self-regarding sports reporter
Alan Partridge to the British
public. As a DJ on BBC Radio
Bristol in 1990, he had been fired
for filling a newsroom with helium
during a broadcast.
The reaction of tabloid newspapers
to Brass Eye was pyrotechnic. They
feasted on a succession of the show’s
affronts to decency and, eventually,
the then Channel 4 chief executive
Michael Grade intervened to demand
cuts. In the last show, Morris retaliated
with a very rude subliminal message.
Understandably then, a key element
of the appeal of the show for its veteran
fans is the suspicion that a programme
like this could no longer be made.
Heightened regulatory restraints
would now stop many of the naughtier
Brass Eye expeditions in their tracks.
Even back in 1997, it was a bit
touch and go. Writing this summer,
Cumming said: “Brass Eye very nearly
never went to air at all. It was deemed
unbroadcastable on more than several
occasions. Material was cut for
numerous reasons, some legal, some
editorial and some simply because we
The series
parodied the
type of
and graphics
used in real
news shows, for
example this
chart in the
Crime episode,
making the
‘facts’ it
reported look
more believable.
This episode
introduced the
infamous ‘Cake,
a made-up
drug’, to gullible
celebrities who
were happy to
share their
disgust over its
sale and use
with the public
– the Tory MP
David Amess
went as far as to
ask a question
about it in
Brass Eye, particularly its episode on child
abuse, met with pyrotechnic reactions in
tabloid headlines.
‘To find an audience
who remember the
show so fondly is
gratifying but not
totally unexpected’
Michael Cumming, director
didn’t have room to fit it all in.”
All this meant there were plenty
of offcuts to choose from when
Cumming came to compile Oxide
Ghosts. Wading through hours
of unseen material in a personal
archive of VHS “rush tapes” built
up over two years of directing
the pilot shows and the series, he
selected the best unseen material.
These include a scene in which a
giggling Morris has his own “John
Noakes moment” with an elephant,
although characteristically Morris’s
encounter is far more extreme.
Cumming, a graduate of the Royal
College of Art Film School with a
back catalogue of acclaimed television
comedy behind him, is now best
known for making Matt Berry’s show
Toast of London. Earlier this summer,
he explained why he has always
turned down interviews about Brass
Eye. “The shows were surrounded by
secrecy and I saw no reason to shatter
any myths,” he wrote.
Yet, when the 20th anniversary
loomed, he made a first cut of Oxide
Ghosts and “nervously” showed it
to Morris. “There was a fairly good
chance he might not want the material
to be seen or, at best, have a very
long list of cuts he wanted made.
As it turned out, he was brilliantly
supportive and was happy for it to be
seen exactly as it was.”
The duo agreed the new film
should not be available online or
shown on television. “We loved the
idea that in this world of instant
gratification, where everything is
available at a click, you would have
to actually go to a screening to see it,”
Cumming wrote.
When the original series ended,
the novelist Will Self declared in the
Observer that Morris “might possibly
be God”. Such a thing would explain,
Self said, why the world is so absurd
and so unfair.
For Maitland, the series remains
testament to the power of stepping out
of the entertainment comfort zone. “It
was comedy, Jim, but not as we know
it, because there was a strong moral
force behind it,” he said. “Morris could
have been an incredible journalist, but
he saw that television news had been
begging to be parodied. Brass Eye has
been copied, but it can never be the
same, because Morris is not really a
comedian in the usual sense.”
When the Oxide Ghost audiences
line up, Cumming has admitted taking
satisfaction from the evidence that
some television shows “last a bit longer
than the week of transmission”.
“To celebrate the 20th anniversary
of Brass Eye and find that there is
still an audience who remember it
so fondly, is gratifying but not totally
unexpected,” he said.
The destroyer
HMS Petard, commanded by Mark
Thornton, which was
among the ships that
forced U-559 to the
surface. Her boarding
party climbed down
the U-boat’s conning
tower to seize vital
U-110 after her capture
in 1941 with Enigma
machine and codebooks. But changes to
the Enigma machine
meant another German
vessel had to be taken
to break the code..
Tommy Brown, the
16-year-old canteen
assistant who was
among three sailors to
board U-559. He was
the only one who lived
to tell the tale.
How a heroic Navy raid on a U-boat
was key to cracking the Enigma code
Only one man survived the daring act that helped to provide
Bletchley Park’s codebreakers with a breakthrough,
says Hugh Sebag-Montefiore as new details come to
light on the 75th anniversary of U-559’s sinking
he top-secret breaking of
the German Enigma code by
Alan Turing, and the codebreakers working with him
at Bletchley Park, was one of
the greatest British coups of
the second world war. It helped ships
delivering vital supplies to the UK during the darkest days of the war to evade
the packs of German U-boats trying to
hunt them down, and enabled Britain
to rebuild its strength and re-equip
its armies in preparation for its bid to
expel the Nazi armies from Europe.
Now extraordinary fresh details can
be told of how the Royal Navy seized
vital cipher information from captured
German boats to make the work of the
codebreakers possible.
The Enigma machine did not actually send the messages. It was used to
transform normal German into gibberish which was then transmitted using
morse code over the airwaves. British
intercept stations could listen in to
these signals, but because they were
encoded, they could not understand
what was being said.
The British capture of a string of
German vessels – and their Enigma
machines and codebooks – during the
first seven months of 1941 changed
all that. Using the items seized, Alan
Turing and his fellow codebreakers
were at long last able to work out how
to read Germany’s naval Enigma messages. But there was a glitch. Every
now and then the Germans, suspecting that their code might have been
compromised, altered it, blacking out
the codebreaking effort. The longest blackout occurred following the
German order that U-boats operating
in the Atlantic and Mediterranean after
1 February 1942 should insert a fourth
rotor into their machines. Previously
they had only used three.
This had disastrous consequences for
Britain and her allies. While the naval
Enigma messages were being read, convoys could be routed clear of the Nazi
wolf packs lying in wait in the Atlantic.
At a stroke this safety net had disappeared. From February to October 1942
hundreds of thousands of tons of allied
shipping was sunk each month. There
was a growing fear that Britain might
eventually be starved into submission.
The gloom was only lifted after the
seizing of a U-boat, U-559, with her
codebooks on 30 October 1942, 75 years
ago, enabled Bletchley Park to break the
code once again. It is this game-changing capture whose anniversary will be
celebrated at the end of this month.
When I did the original research for my
Enigma book, the available evidence
suggested that the seizing of the codebooks was all down to a lucky break.
Documents declassified more recently
reveal that in fact a conscious effort
was made to train British destroyer
commanders so that they could extract
as much cipher material as possible
from captured vessels.
The only luck involved on the
British side when a U-boat was finally
cornered was the identity of the commander of the destroyer on the spot. It
was Mark Thornton, a 35-year-old lieutenant commander, who had become
obsessed not only with making his
ship, HMS Petard, one of the best run
in the Navy, but also with the desire to
capture a U-boat and its codebooks.
A thickset, stocky man with a huge
head set on powerful shoulders and
the features of a boxer, the seeds of
his fearsome reputation were sown on
his very first day as the commander
on the Petard. He told his assembled
crew that his war experience to date
had proved that his methods made him
indestructible, and that while he was
their leader they must adopt them too.
He backed up his promise to protect
them by introducing training methods
which, while effective, might have
been described today as abusive. It was
perfectly reasonable for him to insist
that his crew should always be on the
lookout for submarines. However, to
ensure they complied, he would climb
up into the ship’s crow’s nest and pelt
those he saw slacking on the deck
below with pebbles, pieces of chalk and
sometimes even with teacups.
On one occasion he let off a firecracker in the men’s sleeping quarters and then had a fire hose trained
on them as they rushed from their
hammocks to their action stations.
On another occasion he ordered his
officers to climb out of a wardroom
porthole during a gale so that they
could swim around the stern of the
ship and climb in through a porthole
on the other side of the room. His order
was only countermanded after a senior
officer refused to obey his instructions
on the ground that compliance would
be tantamount to committing suicide.
The wardroom chef collapsed and
died during one simulated exercise.
His corpse was thrown into the sea.
It was a miracle other men were not
washed overboard whenever Petard
left harbour. Thornton would turn the
ship into the waves with such ferocity
that they would completely cover the
men dealing with securing the anchor,
who had to hang on for dear life.
Such behaviour led some to wonder
whether Thornton was mad, a view
which was strengthened by his habit
of getting up during meals and pummelling the bulkhead with his fists,
shouting: “I must have action with the
enemy now!” He was certainly eccentric. When he was seen firing a Lewis
gun at a flock of gannets, he yelled at
his men that he could not bear the sight
of the murderous birds who were robbing the sea of its fish.
It is no surprise to find that, drilled
as they were by such bullying tactics
within the suffocating confines of a
ship from which there was no escape,
the officers and crew would go to
almost any lengths to please him, or to
get him off their backs.
But Thornton’s striving for perfect
efficiency would not have been enough
on its own. There would have been no
dividend had it not been for systemic
German inefficiency on their U-boats.
According to Hermann Dethlefs, a
19-year-old trainee officer serving on
U-559, his German commander was not
paying attention shortly after midday
on 30 October 1942 when the U-boat,
which was searching for convoys in
the Mediterranean between Port Said,
Egypt and Haifa, Palestine, was spotted
near the surface from a British plane.
The U-boat commander gave the
order to dive, but from that moment
on, British planes and the five destroyers including Petard summoned to the
spot never lost touch with the German
submarine for long.
The many depth charges dropped
did not hit the U-boat, but the water
that as a result of the explosions leaked
in led to the stern of the U-boat sinking
lower than her bow.
In an attempt to rebalance the vessel, all those who could were ordered
to go to the front. “I went too,” Dethlefs
remembered. “We were all very scared.
Two of the youngest crew members
could not stop trembling. They were
crying. The older men tried to calm
them down, but it is hard to reassure
someone when everybody realises that
the next bomb might blow up the boat.”
Eventually, at around 10pm, the
leading engineer said he could no
longer balance the U-boat, and the
captain ordered that it should go up to
the surface. Then, as the surrounding
destroyers fired at them, everyone was
told to evacuate.
Google’s seductive plan to
revolutionise city living is
the ultimate property play
A naval Enigma
machine similar to
the one on U-559,
except there were
three rotors instead
of four. Messages
could be coded
to report back on
sightings of Allied
genius Alan Turing,
the Cambridge
mathematician and
computer pioneer.
He designed the
machine that helped
to read the Enigma
messages such as
those transmitted to
and from U-559..
Bletchley Park, the
hush-hush country
house where a team
of mathematicians
and crossword
enthusiasts mined
messages encoded
on an Enigma
machine to extract
crucial intelligence..
Last out were the engineer and his
assistants. Dethlefs only found out
later that they had botched the sinking
of the U-boat. They had damaged the
levers that would have flooded the ballast tanks by snatching at them before
the pins holding them in place were
removed. No one had thought to have
a bucket of water handy in which the
codebooks, whose text was printed
in water soluble ink, could have been
immersed, thereby causing them to
become unreadable.
Thornton barked out the order that
the U-boat was to be boarded, and
his men, by now “brainwashed” into
obeying his every command whatever
the risks, complied. There is a dispute
over how Tony Fasson, his 29-year-old
1st lieutenant, and 22-year-old Able
Seaman Colin Grazier made it to the
abandoned U-boat. Romantics say that
they, followed by the 16-year-old canteen assistant Tommy Brown, stripped
off their clothes and swam over to her.
Thornton’s official report states more
prosaically that they “jumped over
from the bows” as Petard’s bow floated
alongside the U-boat’s stern.
What is certain is that all three
climbed down into the conning tower
to retrieve the codebooks. According
to Brown: “The lights were out. The
1st lieutenant had a torch. The water
was not very high, but rising gradually.
1st lieutenant was down there with a
machine gun which he was using to
smash open cabinets in the commanding officer’s cabin. He then tried some
keys that were hanging behind the door
and opened a drawer, taking out some
confidential books which he gave me. I
placed them at the bottom of the hatch.
After finding more books in cabinets
and drawers I took another lot up.”
When he went down again, as he
testified: “the water was getting deeper
and I told 1st lieutenant that they
were all shouting on deck”. Fasson’s
response was to hand him more books
to take up the conning tower.
The books were placed in one of the
destroyer’s rowing boats, just a short
distance in front of Dethlefs, who along
with a wounded comrade had been
rescued from the sea. He remembers
thinking: “I am an honourable ‘soldier’.
I would do anything to help Germany.
I was tempted to reach out and grab
the captured papers so I could throw
them into the sea. But because I was
holding my wounded comrade and
because there was a British sailor in
front of me holding a gun, I quickly
realised that was impossible. I couldn’t
do anything.”
Brown’s testimony records what
happened on his return to the conning
tower: “I shouted, ‘You better come
up!’ twice, and they had just started up
when the submarine started to sink very
quickly.” U559 sank beneath the waves.
Another witness reported: “We
yelled and called the names of our
shipmates. Only Tommy responded,
his head bobbing up almost alongside
the sea-boat.”
When he was asked whether there
was any possibility of finding the others, he replied: “No chance. They were
still down below when I dived off.” It
was a tragic end to a heroic action.
But the codebooks recovered from
the U-boat, which included the short
weather report codebook – used to
abbreviate U-boats’ weather reports
before the abbreviated version was
encoded on the Enigma – were to be
instrumental in a dramatic improvement in the codebreakers’ fortunes at
Bletchley Park.
Although there was another crisis
during the spring of 1943, after the
Germans altered the code yet again,
it was quickly resolved, this time by
using the short signal codebook which
had also been retrieved from U-559
by Fasson and Grazier. On 19 March
1943 Churchill was informed by the
head of the Secret Intelligence Service.
He responded: “Congratulate your
splendid hens.” (He liked to refer to
the codebreakers as “the hens who laid
golden eggs and never cackled”.) From
that moment the naval Enigma code
used by the U-boats in the Atlantic was
broken more or less every day during
the rest of the war.
Sadly Tommy Brown, the sole survivor of the U-559 raid, was destined
never to find out what his, and his
shipmates’, heroism had achieved.
Shortly before the end of the war he
failed to extinguish his cigarette when
he returned home following a night
out drinking while on leave, and the
resulting fire killed both him and his
four-year-old sister Maureen.
All photographs
Courtesy of Hugh
The updated
paperback edition
of Hugh SebagMontefiore’s
Enigma: The
Battle for the Code
is out now, published by Orion’s
Weidenfeld &
Nicolson. The
paperback of his
book on the Battle
of the Somme will
be published on
2 November
ast June an important design magazine,
Volume, published an article on the Google
Urbanism project, which charts a future
based on cities acting as key sites for “data
extractivism” – the conversion of data harvested
from individuals into artificial intelligence
technologies, allowing companies like Alphabet,
Google’s parent, to provide comprehensive services. Cities would share revenue from the data.
Cities surely wouldn’t mind, but what about
Alphabet? The company does take cities seriously.
It has floated the idea of taking a struggling city
and reinventing it around Alphabet services: city
maps, real-time traffic information, free wifi, selfdriving cars, and more.
In 2015, Alphabet launched a city unit,
Sidewalk Labs, run by Daniel Doctoroff, former
deputy mayor of New York and a Wall Street
veteran. His background hints at what actually
existing Google Urbanism portends: using
Alphabet’s data prowess to build profitable
alliances with other powerful forces behind
contemporary cities, from property developers to
big investors.
Google Urbanism is anything but revolutionary.
Yes, it thrives on data and sensors, but they
play a secondary role in determining what gets
built, why, and at what cost. One might call it
Blackstone Urbanism in homage to a key player in
the property market.
Since Toronto has now chosen Alphabet to
turn Quayside, a 12-acre area on its waterfront,
into a digital marvel, it won’t take long to discover
whether Google Urbanism will transcend or
accommodate the mainly financial forces shaping
Sidewalk has committed $50m. Its 220-page
winning bid provides insights into its thinking
and methodology. “High housing costs, commute
times, social inequality, climate change, even cold
weather keeping people indoors” – such is the
battlefield that Doctoroff has described.
Alphabet’s weapons are impressive. Modular
buildings assembled quickly; sensors monitoring
air quality; traffic lights prioritising pedestrians
and cyclists; parking systems directing cars to
available slots; delivery robots; advanced energy
grids; automated waste sorting; and self-driving
Cities, says Alphabet, have always been
platforms; now those are simply going digital.
“Great cities are hubs of growth and innovation
because they leveraged platforms put in place by
visionary leaders. Rome had aqueducts, London
the Underground, Manhattan the street grid.”
Toronto gets Alphabet.
One could easily forget that the street grid does
not typically belong to a private entity, able to
exclude some and indulge others. Why, then, sell
its digital equivalent to Alphabet?
In reality, there’s no “digital grid”, just
individual Alphabet products. Its bet is to furnish
cool digital services to establish monopoly over
data extractivism within a city. Here, what passes
for efforts to build the “digital grid” might be an
attempt to privatise services – a staple feature of
Blackstone Urbanism, not a radical departure.
Alphabet’s goal is to remove barriers to the
accumulation of capital in cities – mostly by
replacing formal rules with softer, feedbackbased floating targets. Thus, it claims that in the
past “prescriptive measures were necessary to
protect human health, ensure safe buildings, and
manage negative externalities”. Today, however,
everything changed and “cities can achieve those
same goals without the inefficiency that comes
with inflexible zoning and static building codes”.
This is a remarkable statement. Even neoliberal
luminaries like Friedrich Hayek allowed for some
non-market forms of social organisation in the
urban domain. They saw planning as a necessity
imposed by the physical limitations of urban
spaces: there was no other cheap way of operating
infrastructure, building streets, avoiding
congestion. For Alphabet, these constraints are
no more: continuous data flows can replace
government rules with market signals.
Google Urbanism means the end of politics,
as it assumes the impossibility of wider systemic
transformations, such as limits on capital
mobility and foreign ownership of land and
housing. Instead, it wants to mobilise the power
of technology to help residents “adjust” to the
seemingly immutable global trends, such as rising
Normally these trends mean that, for most
of us, things will get worse. Alphabet’s pitch,
though, is that new technologies can help us
survive, if not prosper – by using self-tracking
to magically find time in the busy schedules of
overworked parents; making car debt obsolete as
car ownership becomes unnecessary; deploying
AI to lower energy costs.
Google Urbanism shares the key assumption
of Blackstone Urbanism: our highly financialised
economy– marked by stagnating wages,
liberalised housing markets that drive up prices
due to strong global demand, infrastructure
built on opaque but lucrative public-private
partnership models – is here to stay. The good
news is that Alphabet has the sensors, networks
and algorithms to maintain our earlier standard
of living.
The Toronto proposal is vague on who will
pay for this utopia. It says that “some of [the
project’s] most impactful innovations are major
capital projects that will require large volumes of
reliable offtake to be financeable.” Short of that, it
might become the equivalent of Tesla: a venture
propelled by infinite promises and subsidies.
Alphabet’s appeal to investors lies in the
plasticity of its spaces; there is no function
permanently assigned to any of their parts.
Everything can be rearranged, with boutiques
turning into galleries only to end up as gastropubs
– as long as such metamorphosis yields a higher
Quayside’s central element will thus feature
a skeleton structure that “will remain flexible
over its lifecycle, accommodating a radical mix
of uses (such as residential, retail, making, office,
hospitality, and parking) that responds quickly to
market demand.”
Here lies the populist promise of Google
Urbanism: Alphabet can democratise space by
customising it through data flows and cheap,
prefabricated materials.
The problem is that Alphabet’s
democratisation of function will not be matched
by the democratisation of control and ownership
of urban resources. That’s why the main “input”
into Alphabet’s algorithmic democracy is “market
demand” rather than communal decision-making.
Delivery robots are one of Alphabet’s weapons in its
battle to streamline city life with Google Urbanism.
Alphabet knows that
the real audience for
its ‘flexible’ and
‘democratised’ cities
is the global rich
In many cities, market demand leads to the
privatisation of public space. Decisions are
no longer taken in the political realm but are
delegated to asset managers, private equity
groups, and investment banks who flock to real
estate and infrastructure searching for stable
and decent returns. Google Urbanism would not
reverse this trend – it would accelerate it.
Alphabet understands the real audience for its
cities: the global rich. For them, the narratives
of data-driven sustainability and algorithmically
produced artisanal lifestyles are just another
way to justify rising values of their real-estate
Doctoroff was not equivocating when he said
that Alphabet’s Canadian venture “primarily is a
real-estate play”. Blackstone Urbanism will still
be shaping our cities, even if Alphabet takes over
their garbage disposal. “Google Urbanism” is a
nice way of camouflaging this truth.
Mariano Rajoy
Spain’s ‘safe pair of
hands’ risking it
all on Catalonia
The prime minister built his reputation on saving
his country from economic disaster, but one
region’s push for independence has forced him
into the gamble of his life. By Sam Jones in Madrid
s political credos go, the
Spanish phrase “Esperar
a que escampe” – “Wait
until the weather clears
up” – hardly ranks
alongside “Yes we can”,
“¡No pasarán!” – “They shall not pass”
– or even “Strong and stable”. But that
cautious, circumspect and rain-soaked
philosophy has served its principal
exponent remarkably well. At least until
now. Yesterday Mariano Rajoy took the
dramatic decision of moving to impose
direct rule over Catalonia.
Rajoy, a 62-year-old political
veteran from the equally rain-soaked
northwestern region of Galicia, has
been Spain’s prime minister for six long
and difficult years. In that time, Spain
has slowly retreated from the brink
of economic catastrophe, witnessed
the death of four decades of two-party
hegemony, squirmed over a whack-amole succession of corruption scandals
and spent 10 months deadlocked and
Through it all, Rajoy has remained
Rajoy: calm, patient, inscrutable
and slightly awkward. His greatest
challenge, however, is bearing down
on him in the form of the Catalan
independence crisis. Spain’s national
unity has not faced a threat of this
magnitude since it returned to
democracy following Franco’s death
and what happens over the next few
months will determine not only Rajoy’s
political future but also his legacy.
He has become the first Spanish
prime minister to reach for the so-called
nuclear option of the country’s 1978
constitution, which permits the central
government to take control of an
autonomous region if it “does not fulfil
the obligations imposed upon it by the
constitution or other laws or acts in a
way that is seriously prejudicial to the
general interest of Spain”.
Fed up with the secessionist
manoeuvres of the Catalan president,
Carles Puigdemont, and bolstered by
Spain’s constitution and the rulings of
its constitutional court, Rajoy has taken
Spain into dangerous and uncharted
territory. Until now, the risk-averse
prime minister has relied on the
familiar strategy that saw him re-enter
the Moncloa Palace last October,
after months of serenely watching his
opponents squabble and squander
opportunities to take power.
“Rajoy uses time as a tool and letting
time do its job is certainly the approach
that he’s applied to the Catalan issue,”
says Antonio Barroso, an analyst at
the political risk advisory firm Teneo
Intelligence. “He probably believes
that allowing time to do its work and
applying continued pressure to the
independence movement [through
article 155] will see it implode. That’s
worked well for him so far. The question
is whether it’s an approach that solves
the issue at hand in the long term.”
The problem is that the Catalan
crisis is, at least in part, one of his
own making. Although support for
independence has grown over the
past few years, as Spain has suffered
a painful and protracted economic
emergency, many Catalans are still
furious at the role Rajoy’s conservative
People’s party (PP) played in
torpedoing the 2006 Catalan statute of
autonomy, which would have afforded
the region greater independence.
In 2010, the PP successfully urged
the constitutional court to annul
or reinterpret parts of the statute,
ensuring that Catalonia was not
recognised as a nation within Spain
and that the Catalan language was not
given precedence over Castilian. That,
and many other, age-old grievances,
not to mention the Spanish police’s
recent, heavy-handed attempts to shut
down the unilateral referendum on 1
October, have led to the standoff.
They have also raised questions over
the efficacy of Rajoy’s default position.
“Those abilities have served him
very well in some situations but not
in all of them,” says Pablo Simón, a
political scientist at Madrid’s Carlos
III University. “By doing nothing, he
helped bring the situation in Catalonia
to where it is now – to a constitutional
crisis. And that’s forced Rajoy out of his
comfort zone and into taking drastic
The prime minister is not a man
used to taking such bold action. He
lacks the telegenic confidence of the
‘By doing nothing, he
helped bring the
situation in Catalonia
to where it is now – to
a constitutional crisis’
Socialist leader, Pedro Sánchez, the
revolutionary fervour of Podemos’s
Pablo Iglesias and the clean-cut
certainty of his centrist ally, Albert
Rivera, of Ciudadanos. What he does
have though, is decades of political
experience as an MP, a minister and
the leader of the opposition.
“If there’s one thing that everyone
can agree on it’s that he’s the definition
of a Spanish civil servant,” says Simón.
“He’s an administrator, he follows the
rules and he’s in no hurry to embark on
grand political reforms or changes.”
Simón recalls that some of his
friends who work in embassies used to
say that Rajoy and the former Italian
prime minister Matteo Renzi never got
on because they were such different
statesmen. “One is pure politics and
pure showmanship; the other is calm
and almost like something from the
19th century. But no one should look
down on his political talents.”
Emilio Sáenz-Francés, a professor of
history and international relations at
Madrid’s Comillas Pontifical University,
says that Rajoy’s quiet manner means
he is not naturally suited to the
extrovert world of European politics.
“Rajoy has a low profile in Europe;
he’s not what you’d call someone
with irresistible charisma. But he
did manage to pull Spain out of an
extraordinarily complex economic
situation.” Barroso agrees that Rajoy
deserves credit for hauling Spain
back from the brink of economic ruin,
particularly because, as he puts it, “he
arrived in the middle of the hurricane”.
It could also be argued, cynically
perhaps, that he has done a wonderful
job of keeping the PP in power despite
the proliferation of corruption scandals
it has faced and continues to face.
he last few years have seen its
former treasurer booted out
of the party and charged with
bribery, tax evasion and other
offences, the former PP head
of the Balearic Islands government handed a six-year jail sentence
for fraud and corruption and several
current and former party members
arrested in Valencia as part of ongoing
anti-corruption investigations. In July,
Rajoy attained the dubious distinction of
becoming the first serving Spanish premier to testify in a criminal trial, when he
was called to give evidence in the Gürtel
case, in which 37 business and political
figures are accused of involvement in a
kickbacks-for-contracts scheme.
While he has never been accused of
any wrongdoing and has managed to
survive the kind of death by a thousand
sleazy cuts that might have finished off
many other European leaders, Rajoy
has done little to persuade the electorate that he is committed to tackling
corruption; opinion polls suggest it is
now Spaniards’ second biggest concern
after unemployment.
Simón argues that Rajoy’s biggest
failures to date have been his
reluctance to send a strong signal on
corruption and his refusal to tackle
inequality or do more to address the
country’s chronic unemployment.
Those issues go a long way to
explaining the rise of Podemos and
Born Mariano Rajoy Brey, 27 March 1955,
in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia. Law
degree from the University of Santiago de
Compostela. Married with two children.
Worst of times Testifying in court over
allegations that an illegal funding racket
operated within the People’s party during
his time as its vice secretary general.
Best of times His landslide election victory
in 2011; overseeing Spain’s recovery from
economic crisis, playing it cool and biding
his time to gain a second term in office.
What he says “We’re going to stop
[Catalan] independence happening. And
I can tell you with absolute sincerity that
it’s not going to happen.”
Interview with El País, 8 October
What others say “Today is a black day
for our democracy. For the first time, a
serving prime minister has had to sit down
in court and testify about corruption in
his party.” Pedro Sánchez, leader of the
Spanish socialist party.
Ciudadanos and the decline of the
older parties. Given his age – Rajoy is
unique among the leaders of the big
four parties in being old enough to
have voted in the 1977 election two
years after Franco’s death – the PP
leader appears ineluctably bound
up with the old order; the last prime
minister of the politics that lasted from
the transición to halfway through the
second decade of the 21st century.
Much is also made of Rajoy’s
stereotypically Galician demeanour –
reserved, hard to read – but those who
know him say his awkwardness belies
a certain charm. As one PP MP said
shortly before Rajoy entered office in
2011: “He will be a good prime minister.
But he is not a good candidate. He is
much better close up and we often say
that if he could just sit down for coffee
with every single Spaniard, then he
would win them all over.”
Sáenz-Francés argues that while
Rajoy is “not a person defined by their
charisma”, he has often shown a grim
and effective perseverance. “He’s
pretty determined when it comes to
solving problems even if some people
say he solves them by doing nothing
until they solve themselves.” But, he
adds, “it’s still effective”.
The question now is just how
effective Rajoy’s Catalan gamble will be
and whether its success or failure will
eclipse his economic achievements.
Speaking after his election six years
ago, the new prime minister pleaded
for time and patience as he set about
his unenviable task of tending Spain’s
sick economy. Today, his words seem
prophetic, if a little understated.
“It is no secret to anyone that we
are going to rule in the most delicate
circumstances Spain has faced in
30 years,” he said. “There will be no
miracles; we haven’t promised any.”
| 31
Let nation speak unto
nation in the arts
and in life Page 35
Oxbridge bashing is an empty ritual
if we ignore wider social inequities
David Lammy is right to attack the lack of diversity at elite bodies, but the problems are far more deep seated
he numbers are clearly unacceptable.
Several colleges in both Oxford and Cambridge frequently admit cohorts with no
black students in them at all. Roughly 1.5%
of total offers are made to black British applicants
and more than 80% of offers are made to the
children of the top two social classes. With offers
made overwhelmingly to those in London and
a handful of the home counties, both universities are consistently excluding entire ethnic and
regional demographics. They also continue to
admit a grotesquely disproportionate number
of privately schooled students. In effect, the two
ancients are running a generous quota scheme for
white students, independent schools and the offspring of affluent south-eastern English parents.
There is undoubtedly a great deal that both
institutions can and must do to remedy this. Our
admissions processes at Cambridge are not sufficiently responsive to the gravity of the situation.
Despite periodic panics in response to such media
“revelations” or staged political scolding, and notwithstanding the good intentions of many involved
in admissions, questions of diversity and inclusion
are not taken seriously enough in their own right.
The focus on educational achievement, itself
defined in purely numerical terms and worsened by internal league tables, means there is
little sense of meaningful diversity as an educational and community good in its own right.
Despite having contextual indicators that would
allow us to diversify our admissions, we balk at
non-traditional attainment profiles for fear that
the student will not be able to cope once here.
For any Oxbridge college to not have a single
black student at any given point in time, where
they would rightly not tolerate having low numbers of women, is not just about looking institutionally racist but also impoverishes the educational and social environment we provide. The
same holds true for regional and class exclusions.
When I first came to Cambridge in 2001, having taught at different institutions in the US, I
was struck by the relative whiteness and sheer
cultural homogeneity of this university. Even the
minimal improvements I’ve seen since then in
some years – more students from ethnic minority
backgrounds, more young women from northern
comprehensives – have made a huge difference
both to me as a teacher and, more importantly, to
what students are able to learn from each other.
Not all of them will get first-class marks, but
they both gain a lot from and have a great deal
to give to the educational environment here, not
least by expanding the definition of what counts
as achievement. We need more of them. (At
Cambridge, in recent years, a quantum of vocal
BME students as well as from northern comprehensives has demanded change, often to good
effect. There is some cause for hope.)
There is also undoubtedly a culture of denial
when it comes to matters of race and racism, which
students speak of both in class and privately and
which I have experienced when I’ve tried to draw
attention to them. And more than one student from
northern comprehensives has told me about being
discouraged by teachers from applying and feeling amazed to have received an offer only to feel
alienated by the stultifying class conformity of the
affluent south-east once they get here.
It is simply not good enough for Oxford and
Cambridge to say that they are welcoming of
diversity and in effect blame certain demographics for not applying despite their outreach programmes. It is Oxbridge that must change more
substantially to provide a better environment for
a diverse student body. The two ancients must be
held to account; homogeneity must fall.
But should they be the only ones held to
Illustration by Dominic McKenzie
Politicians who
criticise Oxbridge are
rarely willing
to grasp the nettle
of a two-tiered
education structure
account? In having a necessary conversation
about elitism and exclusion, are we forgetting – or
being encouraged – to not have a larger one about
wider deprivation and systemic inequality? It
is striking that some quarters only too happy to
periodically attack Oxbridge for its failings, from
rightwing tabloids to Tory ministers, are rarely
interested in the roots of inequality and lack of
opportunity of which Oxbridge exclusion is a
symptom but is hardly the origin.
e should be careful that a headlinefriendly focus on these two institutions alone does not become a lowcost and easy way to avoid even more
painful and challenging questions. It seems somewhat selective and inadequate to focus on what
David Lammy rightly calls “social apartheid” at
Oxbridge without discussing the widespread and
worsening economic apartheid in this country.
We know that access to university education in
general is sharply determined by school achievement that, in turn, is shaped by parental income
and education levels. In an economically stratified
society, it is inevitable that most young people
from economically deprived backgrounds have a
substantially lower chance of achieving the kind
of marks that enable access to higher education.
Hence it is incoherent to have a discussion
about access to higher education without having
one simultaneously about economic disadvantage,
which, in some cases, including British Caribbean
and Bangladeshi communities, has an added
ethnic minority dimension to it. In a context of
worsening economic fault lines, there’s a whiff of
something convenient about only attacking the
admissions failings of top universities.
The other obvious missing dimension to this
discussion is the existence and encouragement for
independent schools. It’s somewhat contradictory to encourage a market culture where money
can buy a deluxe education and then feel shocked
when the well-off get their money’s worth by easily meeting the requirements for offers from highstatus institutions. It’s worth saying that as long
as independent schools, hardly bastions of ethnic
diversity, exist, there will remain a fundamental
apartheid between two kinds of students.
Oxbridge, or even the Russell Group of universities more broadly, can only do so much to mitigate this state of affairs, which lifting the tuition
fee cap will only worsen. Lammy notes that more
offers are made to Eton than to students on free
school meals.
But why not also question the very existence
of Eton and the lamentable state of an economic
order that necessitates free school meals for
many? Add to this the parlous condition of state
education with its underfunding, large classroom
sizes, an undermining testing and target culture
and difficulties in recruiting and retaining good
The same politicians who rightly point to
Oxbridge’s demographic narrowness are rarely
willing to grasp the nettle of a two-tier educa-
tional structure in which some are destined to
do much better than others. Who, for instance,
would be willing to call for the abolition of private
schooling, subject as such a suggestion would
be to shrill denunciations about how individual
choice, personal aspiration and the workings of
the market are being interfered with?
here are other tough discussions that could
be had if the aim truly is to address and undo
inequalities in university demographics.
Would politicians and institutions be willing, for instance, to impose representational quotas
for both ethnic minorities and state-educated
students that reflect the national pie-chart?
Currently, the Office for Fair Access (Offa)
makes some toothless demands around “widening
participation”, a rather feeble phrase, which are
not accompanied by penalties for failure. Lammy,
whose suggestion that admissions be centralised
has some merit to it, not least towards undoing
the unhelpful internal collegiate caste system at
Oxbridge, has made also a comparison between
Oxbridge’s abysmal intake of black students and
Harvard’s healthy numbers.
Would the political and intellectual classes
be willing to have a discussion about something
like “affirmative action”, a process of “positive
discrimination” by which underrepresented
ethnic minorities and disadvantaged groups are
given special consideration? We must hope so.
For failing a wide-ranging discussion aimed at
radical measures, all the huffing and puffing about
Oxbridge is destined to remain a yearly ritual,
each controversial headline simply making way
for the same unsurprising headlines every year.
Priyamvada Gopal teaches in the Faculty of English
at Cambridge University
Established in 1791
Issue No 11,787
Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Telephone: 020 3353 2000 Fax: 020 3353 3189
Rationing care endangers the principles
of the NHS – and hits the poor hardest
ince June last year, Brexit has dominated the government’s agenda,
absorbed the bulk of ministers’ energy
and been the focus of civil servants in
Whitehall. This state of affairs will continue
for at least the next few years. Yet from the
welfare state, to prisons, to our schools and
hospitals, there is mounting evidence that a
state that first started to founder seven years
ago, is now running aground.
Last week, this was most visible in the
planned expansion of universal credit. For
months, MPs and charities have warned that
the minimum six-week delay before claimants
can receive their first payment will cause lowincome families to fall into debt – leading to
evictions, homelessness and destitution.
The government is still pushing ahead,
despite being so uncertain of quashing a
parliamentary motion calling for a pause that
it imposed a three-line whip on Conservative
MPs, instructing them to abstain.
But it’s not just the benefits system: it’s
every part of the state that is creaking at the
seams. Last week, the BBC released a new
NHS tracker that highlights just how much
hospitals are struggling to cope with rising
demand. Only one NHS trust in the country
has managed to consistently meet the national
targets for accident and emergency, cancer
and routine operation waiting times over
the last year. In England, the NHS hit these
monthly targets 86% of the time four years
ago; over the last year, none at all.
This is just the latest in a series of alarm
bells that the NHS, currently experiencing
the tightest financial settlement in its 69-year
history, is stretched to breaking point. The
last 12 months have been filled with stories of
missed targets, deteriorating care and growing
deficits. Given this constant drip of warnings,
it’s easy to become immune to the latest signal
that something is very amiss.
That would be a mistake. The NHS is slowly
but surely becoming less national, and less
universal. It was founded on the principle of
free care at the point of delivery to anyone in
need, regardless of circumstance. In truth,
its resources have never been infinite, and so
the rationing of care and postcode lotteries
have always, to some extent, been an everyday
reality. But as its funding is becoming more
and more stretched, we are seeing a financially driven, under-the-radar scaling back of
treatment that increasingly undermines that
founding principle that is so cherished.
For months, doctors have been warning
about increased rationing in the NHS by
arbitrary or inappropriate criteria. A year ago,
the Royal College of Surgeons found that more
than one in three NHS commissioning groups
were denying or delaying routine surgery
such as hip and knee replacements to the
overweight and smokers until they lost weight
or stopped smoking. Since then, more have
adopted these types of restrictions.
Last week, the Health Services Journal
revealed that health commissioners in Hertfordshire will deny non-urgent surgery to
smokers unless they pass a breathalyser test
to show they have not smoked for the last
eight weeks. Other areas are inappropriately
using pain threshold scales – not designed for
this purpose – to limit non-urgent surgery to
people experiencing only debilitating pain.
In February, health commissioners in West
Kent suspended all non-urgent surgery altogether until the start of the new financial year
in April.
For some patients, particularly the very
obese, there may be good clinical reasons to
delay surgery until they have lost weight. But
these restrictions are not being imposed on
clinical grounds, in the best interests of an
individual patient. They are often blanket
restrictions that contravene the official guidelines of Nice, the health regulator.
There is no evidence to suggest that denying surgery to those who smoke or who are
obese is an effective way to encourage them to
change their lifestyle. On the contrary, it can
leave people in greater pain and with greater
risks to their long-term health due to immobility. While NHS England has warned commissioners against restricting access to nonurgent procedures based on arbitrary criteria,
one of its senior directors, in a leaked letter
to commissioners in Rotherham, appeared to
back this approach.
These sorts of restrictions are not only cruel
and inhumane, leaving people in pain sometimes for months before they are operated on,
they end up costing the NHS more in the long
term. Leaving conditions to get worse before
treating them not only can carry health risks,
but also means patients need pain medication
and physiotherapy for longer.
hat makes so-called “lifestyle
rationing” particularly insidious is there is a pronounced
social gradient for both obesity
and smoking. The link between poverty and
childhood obesity has only got stronger over
the last decade; children living in the poorest
areas of the country are twice as likely to be
obese as those living in the most affluent. The
prevalence of smoking is similarly linked to
income and social class. Rationing treatment
to smokers and the overweight will inevitably
mean that it is those who are poorest who have
their access most impeded.
This is one of the serious consequences of
the NHS deficit, which stood at just under
£4bn in the last financial year in England, and
will be even higher next year. Everywhere you
look in the NHS, there are others. This Friday,
a report by the Care Quality Commission will
warn that children with mental health issues
are having to wait up to 18 months for treatment, putting their health at serious risk.
Ward staff are becoming increasingly
stretched due to a shortage of nurses, compromising the quality of care. The independent
health thinktank, the King’s Fund, has warned
that health trusts across the country are planning on cutting too many beds from hospitals
in their areas, further restricting capacity in
a system whose average bed occupancy was
92% between January and March this year –
far above the safe level of 85%.
The NHS is far from perfect: the terrible
quality of care once on offer at Mid Staffs is
testament to that. But it has been declared
one of the best health systems internationally,
despite spending much less per head than
many other wealthy countries. That is being
jeopardised by the government’s sustained
There are difficult choices the government
should be making in the forthcoming budget
to alleviate the pressure on public services
from hospitals, to prisons. At the very least, it
should abandon all further planned tax cuts,
and divert the savings to patching up some of
the damage that has already been done. But
the risk is that just as Brexit will continue to
dominate the political debate in the years to
come, so it will frame the economic decisions
that will shape the health of our public services over the next decade.
Things are bad, but the depressing truth is,
the worst could yet be to come.
Beyond Brexit, from Catalonia to the Czech Republic,
existential crises threaten the European dream
he unprecedented measures initiated
yesterday by Spain’s government, aimed at
thwarting Catalonia’s secession, are but the
latest expression of a developing, Europewide crisis of identity and political legitimacy.
Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, was reluctant
to resort to direct rule from Madrid, but faced by
the stubborn and, in his view, illegal defiance of the
Catalan leadership, he clearly felt he had no choice.
Rajoy’s intervention could defuse the situation or,
by triggering a formal declaration of independence,
render it even more unstable.
The drive for a separate Catalan state has causes
specific to that region’s history and culture. But it
has also been fuelled by the perceived failures of
national political leadership. Inconclusive elections
in 2015 and 2016 shattered the traditional dominance of the mainstream centre-left and centreright parties. Rajoy’s conservative Popular party
has been damaged by corruption scandals. The
Socialists registered their worst ever performance
last year amid record low turnout. Yet would-be
mould-breakers such as Podemos failed to achieve
a breakthrough.
This rejection of politics as usual, and the consequent fragmentation of the body politic, finds
powerful echoes across Europe. Everywhere, or
so it seems, newly minted or reviving political
forces, sometimes benign, more frequently not,
are attempting to fill the vacuum. This weekend’s
elections in the Czech Republic are a case in point.
Polls suggest the ruling, pro-EU Social Democrats
face defeat by the upstart populist, Eurosceptic,
anti-immigrant Action of Dissatisfied Citizens led
by a pro-Russia billionaire. In prospect is a coalition
with the rightwing Freedom and Direct Democracy
party, which wants to quit the EU.
Events in Prague recall last week’s Austrian
elections, which brought victory for the youthful
conservative People’s party leader, Sebastian Kurz,
whose cynical tactic was to ape the extremist, xenophobic outlook of the far-right Freedom party. Kurz
now looks set to form a governing alliance with a
party whose neo-Nazi origins and ideology led the
EU to boycott Austria in 2000, when the Freedom
party first entered government. It is a measure of
how Europe has become more accepting of, or
resigned to, far-right activism that no repeat boycott
is mooted. More than half the Austrian electorate
backed parties fiercely opposed to immigration,
integration and multiculturalism. Muslim and
Jewish citizens are understandably alarmed.
Now switch focus to northern Italy and, again,
anger over political failings at the centre can be
seen combining, negatively and corrosively, with
fears about personal and regional identity. This
weekend’s referendums on increased autonomy for
Lombardy and the Veneto have at their heart dis-
trust of the Rome government and resentment (and
there are echoes of Catalonia here) at the way the
poorer south is supposedly subsidised by wealthy,
industrialised Milan. But in its tribalism, micronationalism and sociocultural exclusivity, the biggest regional party, the Northern League, nurtures
many of the unsavoury prejudices displayed by
similar groups across the continent.
t would be easy, but facile, to dismiss these phenomena as little local difficulties without bearing
on the bigger picture. So what if fringe minorities
in the Basque country, Flanders, Transylvania,
Corsica or Bavaria are unhappy with their lot? All
situations are different. And Europe, in any case, is
ultimately an enriching patchwork of like-minded
peoples immutably linked by shared values and
beliefs. Or is it? As recent votes in France, Germany
and Britain show, the crisis of legitimacy and identity extends deep into the heartlands of Europe’s big
powers. Emmanuel Macron’s triumph in this year’s
French presidential election was taken, for example,
as proof that Europe’s nationalist, populist tide was
on the turn. It was nothing of the sort. The Front
National performed better than ever before. Marine
Le Pen stands poised to strike the killer blow next
time around, if Macron fails.
Who can save Europe from this fatal fragmen-
tation, this pernicious, creeping dissolution of
its ideological, democratic and territorial unity?
The threats to solidarity do not come solely from
within. Russia plays the stealthy provocateur along
the eastern flank. With EU funding for migration
controls running out fast, prospective new waves
of African and Middle Eastern refugees require an
effective, collective response that has been lacking hitherto. The return of Islamic State fighters
from Iraq and Syria is another pressing challenge.
Authoritarian Turkey is a growing problem. So, too,
is Donald Trump. Meanwhile, rightwing leaders in
Poland and Hungary are at odds with Brussels over
basic principles of law and civic rights.
There was a time when all eyes would have
turned for leadership and inspiration to Angela
Merkel, Germany’s iron chancellor. But last
month’s elections left her badly bent out of shape.
Her CDU party recorded its worst result ever. The
populist Alternative for Germany stormed into
the Bundestag. As of today, Merkel is still trying
to form a government. Yet this is the weakened,
buffeted leader on whom rest Theresa May’s hopes
of rescuing Brexit. Forgetful of its historical role
as European exemplar, arbiter and guarantor, a
diminished, inward-looking, self-obsessed Britain
just does not get it. Europe is slipping ever deeper
into an existential crisis all of its own. It is us who
should be helping them.
Nobody minds a gentle nudge,
except in the wrong direction
The past decade has demonstrated when behavioural politics can succeed and when it doesn’t work
e live in a time when government
seems to have the Sadim touch:
everything politicians lay their hands
on turns into the opposite of gold. So
it is a pleasant surprise when a significant piece of
policy affecting the futures of millions of people is
working as intended.
Many folk park pensions in that segment of
the brain where they keep things they know to be
important, but find boring. Many folk would prefer
to spend any surplus income today rather than save
it for tomorrow. As a result, Britain has a serious
problem. Its citizens are saving far too little for
their retirement. Five years ago, the government
did something to try to remedy this. It changed the
way in which workers make pension decisions by
introducing auto-enrolment. Where previously
employees had to take a series of steps to opt into
a company pension, now you are automatically
signed up unless you actively choose to opt out.
This subtle-sounding switch has had a rather
dramatic result. More than eight million people
have started saving for the first time, which means
they also receive a pension contribution from their
That still leaves many unwilling or unable to
save enough for their older age, but it is a substantial advance that we now have nearly 40 million
people, a record number, in workplace pensions.
Hurrah. A government policy that is working.
This policy success is in part a tribute to the influence of Professor Richard Thaler, the pioneer in
behavioural economics, whose work has just been
recognised with the Nobel prize. One of his many
insights is that people do not always behave in their
own best interests. Human beings are, well, human.
This might not be a complete shock to you or me,
but it was a challenge to classical economic theories
that assumed people were always rational actors.
From this observation, he developed an argument
that nuanced changes in the “choice architecture” of
society can trigger desirable shifts in behaviour.
His “nudge theory” was seized on by politicians, especially liberal ones in the west. They were
attracted to the idea that their citizens could be
induced to make wiser choices without clubbing
them over the head with coercive, nannying and
opposition-arousing legislation. Barack Obama’s
White House got extremely excited about nudge
theory. David Cameron set up a behavioural
insights team at the Cabinet Office, which was
nicknamed the “nudge unit”. The timing was
important. Nudge, the bestseller written by Thaler
and Cass Sunstein, was published in 2008, the year
of the Great Crash.
It is almost certainly not a coincidence that the
theory became popular with politicians and other
decision-makers when their countries were being
crunched by recessions and money was tight. This
created a big appetite for low-cost solutions to
public policy challenges. Nudging appeared to offer
easy ways of reforming society without committing
to large spending programmes. Nudge units were
put to work in countries as diverse as Australia,
Germany and Japan. The concept was also
embraced by international bodies such as the UN
and the World Bank. Nudge became one of the most
globally influential ideas among policymakers.
Nudge has also gone rampant in the market
place. The Fitbit on your wrist is a nudge device.
The calorie count on food packaging is there to tilt
you to healthier eating options. It was once a novelty to find a notice in a hotel bathroom asking you,
“dear guest”, to consider whether you could reuse
the towel. It is now unusual if you are not greeted
with a winsome plea to think about the planet. The
hotel is doing a little bit for the environment and,
of course, saving on its laundry bill. You know you
are being nudged, you know why and you probably don’t mind. I don’t. I did mind going through
Gatwick the other day where the only route from
security to the gate was a long and snaking forced
march through miles of “duty-free”. Well, it felt like
miles. This did not make me want to fill my boots
with the ciggies, spirits, choccies and fragrances. It
made me want to walk faster.
The application of nudge theory in politics has
been a similarly mixed blessing. When it works
effectively, it does so because it exploits human
weaknesses for human benefit. It is a frailty of
many of our species to procrastinate. Turning
pension contributions into an opt-out rather than
an opt-in uses inertia to achieve a desirable end.
Another winning example is organ donation. In
countries where there is a presumption of consent
unless the deceased has declared against donation,
organ availability has shot up. No one has been
deprived of a freedom. You can still decide that you
prefer to take all your bits with you to the grave.
But you have been influenced to make a different
choice that is more beneficial to society.
In truth, nudging was being practised by artful
governments long before it was given a name. The
pre-eminent example of that is smoking policy.
The tobacco habit is highly addictive and deadly,
so government could decide to make it illegal.
Which would be a terrible idea, because a blanket
ban would criminalise millions of otherwise lawabiding citizens and provide a massive opportunity
for organised crime to create an underground
market. So instead, successive governments have
used the nudge. First, TV advertising of cigarettes
was prohibited. Then, all advertising was banned.
This was followed by a stop on the open display of
cigarettes in shops. Now fags have to be wrapped
in packaging plastered with pictures of horrible
diseases. One of the best and cheapest contributors to the improvement of our nation’s health is
You are part of small and
eccentric minority if you
still think it was a bad
idea to end smoking in
restaurants and pubs
the prohibition on smoking in public places, which
was introduced by Tony Blair’s government. That
decision tore apart his cabinet. Some ministers
feared a furious backlash from the millions of voters who would no longer be able to puff away in
pubs and restaurants. As it turned out, it was introduced with minimal fuss. Predicted pub riots by
fuming smokers never materialised. You are part of
a small and eccentric minority – and probably also
a member of Ukip – if you still think it was a bad
idea to end smoking in restaurants and pubs. You
are part of a smaller, and frankly weird, minority if
you think smoking should still be allowed on trains
and planes, in cinemas and at football stadiums and
on the London underground.
A big reason for this policy success is that it
has gone with the grain of human desires. You’d
expect that ban to be attractive to non-smokers. It
has worked because it wasn’t opposed by smokers.
Most nicotine addicts want to quit. Importantly,
it wasn’t a total ban. You can still smoke, so long
as you don’t mind going outside. That nudge has
worked because it guides, rather than compels, folk
to go in the right direction. Nudge doesn’t work
when it loses touch with the human factor. A topical example is the trouble the government has got
into with the introduction of universal credit. This
simplification of the benefits system is founded on
the excellent principle that work should always
pay: no one should be worse off by deciding to take
a job or put in more hours. The implementation is
going wrong because it failed to take into account
how lives are lived. People on low incomes can be a
day’s pay away from not being able to put dinner on
the table. So a delay of five weeks or more in paying
the credit is an atrocious design fault. Charging up
to 55p a minute for calls to the helpline was simply
stupid, as ministers have belatedly realised.
his illustrates one of the downsides of
nudge. It is highly dependent on the
nudgers getting it right and we know that
politicians and civil servants are also fallible.
Just like other human beings, they miscalculate
risks, prioritise short-term gratification over longterm achievement and can act irrationally. While
technocrats quite often really do know what is good
for us, sometimes they don’t, and even the bestintentioned can make bad mistakes. For years, the
tax system was used to incentivise drivers to move
away from petrol cars and towards diesel vehicles
because experts declared diesel to be less harmful
to health and the environment. That turned out to
be a faulty nudge.
“Liberal paternalism”, the posh label for nudge,
assumes that there is an elite that knows what is
good for the citizenry. This idea – the establishment knows best – is precisely the one that significant numbers of voters have been rebelling against.
One of the more powerful critiques of nudge is that
it concentrates on the psychological manipulation of voters rather than properly educating them
about choices, and the ultimate effect of this is to
infantilise the citizenry.
Experience has shown that nudge is not the
miracle cure for every political challenge. Some
problems are just too big to be fixed by adjusting
the “choice architecture”. Britain’s housing crisis
is not solvable with a few tweaks to the tax system
and the planning regime. That won’t be cracked
without bolder and stronger measures. Not a gentle hand on the elbow, but a muscular kick up the
arse. Nudge has some proved beneficial uses for
governing, but it is not the answer to everything.
Some things need the push and the shove.
They’re back, as wrong as ever. Enough
of Lawson and his band of 80s ultras
The Thatcherites’ support for Brexit reminds us that it was their policies that caused economic turmoil
straint that was necessarily and always a source
of economic inefficiency. Without this act, no
Northern Rock and HBOS 20 years later. Without
big bang, allowing US investment banks in London
to become broker-dealers and inventors of the
financial derivatives then prohibited in New York,
fewer of the weapons of mass destruction that later
were to so exacerbate the financial crisis. Whatever
else, this was not “judicious deregulation”.
What also of the liberalisation of the labour
market – code for breaking union power? Again, 30
years on, as the IMF worries about the decline in
real wages across advanced industrialised economies, the doctrine that stripping workforces of
rights and bargaining power is such a masterstroke
is being reassessed. Yes, excess union power is
palpably bad. But, equally, lack of countervailing
worker power creates the world we have today –
gig jobs, reliance on debt to sustain living standards
and stagnant productivity. There is a balance to be
struck, but Thatcherite Bourbons don’t do balance.
n any league table of national figures who have
been consistently wrong on almost every major
judgement Nigel Lawson must rank close to
number one. As Britain and his party reel from
the impact of intolerable intergenerational and
geographical inequality, stagnating productivity, a
vast personal debt burden, and now the poison of
Brexit, Lawson is the man most closely associated
with the ideas and policies that have brought us to
our current pass.
With a wholly unjustified reputation for being
an economic superman that buoys up his no less
unjustified self-confidence, Lawson remains an
insidious, if wizened, scorpion, as indiscriminately
dangerous to his own side as to his ideological
opponents. Beware his carefully targeted venom
even if his attacks only prove you are in the right:
millions will have immediately sided with the chancellor, Philip Hammond, when Lawson recently
called for his resignation because he was undermining a hard Brexit. Too many people remain in
awe of this hulk who should be towed out to sea.
Yet, extraordinarily, he is the leader of a group
of Thatcherite ultras who now crowd on to our
airwaves, exploiting the mythology of Thatcherite
greatness to insist Britain must make a complete
break with the EU. Alongside him there are the
baby scorpions – Sir John “Vulcan” Redwood, Lord
(Peter) Lilley along with the more genial, if no
less wrong, Norman Lamont. Corbynistas may be
throwbacks to the 1970s, but engaging with today’s
media is to climb into a different time warp – back
to the 1980s, a decade of wrongheaded mistakes
masked by an unsustainable credit boom, forewarning what was to come 20 years later.
Lawson, like the Bourbons who had learned
nothing and forgotten nothing, believes Brexit
“gives us a chance to finish the Thatcherite
revolution”. In an FT article in September 2016
he set out his stall. Boasting he was a member of
the Thatcher government that “transformed the
British economy” with “thoroughgoing supplyside reform and judicious deregulation”, he argues
that Brexit gives the opportunity to abandon the
“vast corpus of EU regulation” that overburdens
the economy. On top, because we do not need
and should not seek an agreement to trade with
Europe, we can be free to trade and “strike trade
deals with the rest of the world”. (Apparently, we
He is an
if wizened
scorpion as
to his own
side as his
don’t need trade deals with Europe while we do
need them with others. Consistency was never a
Bourbon virtue.) Thus will Britain complete what
Lady Thatcher began.
It is a farrago of inconsistent nonsense, resting
on the unchallenged assumption that the 1980s
transformed the economy for the better. They
didn’t. Last week, Thames Water released an
excoriating internal report acknowledging that, at
current rates of investment, it will take 357 years
to renew its water trunk mains even as the number
of sometimes life-threatening water main bursts
climbs. The merits of privatisation have never
seemed more questionable. This is a company
looted by its private equity owners for the last
decade. In his self-regarding book, The View From
Number 11, Lawson writes that the then deputy
prime minister, Willie Whitelaw, had the deepest misgivings about water privatisation, which
Lawson dismissed. Whitelaw’s judgment has
proved the more enduring.
What of the “judicious deregulation” of the
financial system in general, and the building
societies in particular, which was so economically
transformative? The 1986 Building Societies Act,
setting in train the demutualisation of the societies,
along with the big bang of the same year, are widely
regarded as two of the foundation policies of the
2007/8 financial crash. Their obsessed Thatcherite
authors believed socialist regulation was holding
back British banks and building societies, which
should be free to compete and lend without con-
Nigel Lawson was
Margaret Thatcher’s
chancellor from 1983
to 1989.
Getty Images
he list of mistakes is awesome: tax “reform”
that was code for biasing the tax system to
favour the better off and inherited wealth;
the dogged pursuit of money-supply control
in the midst of a credit boom, so generating high
real interest rates; an over-high exchange rate and
the accelerated deindustrialisation of Britain’s
regions. And let’s not forget the consistent undermining of capital investment through over-zealous,
indiscriminate control of public spending growth.
There were pluses – Lawson foresaw the debacle
of the poll tax – but history will be a harsh judge of
his role in those years. Yet he is held in awe by his
party and broadcasters alike. It is his same unblinking belief that government and regulation can only
do bad that lies behind his crusade against climate
change, establishing and chairing the Global
Warming Policy Foundation from 2009. It can’t be
the case, he argues that, even if temperatures are
rising, which he doubts, that there is any link with
human activity. For that would require – horrors –
governmental efforts to change behaviour, which
are always and everywhere destructive, immoral
and forms of backdoor socialism.
His attitude to Brexit, like those of his fellow
Thatcherite comrades, springs from the same
mindset. The EU aims to better its citizens’ circumstances: most Britons welcome regulations
that insist on high product standards, data privacy,
parental and worker rights and environmental
protection that take the brutal edge off the world
the Thatcher Bourbons have created. They, of
course, hate it. The hard Brexit for which they
argue is certainly the precondition for completing
the Thatcherite revolution. Time to call them and
their failures out – and fight them to the last.
Victoria Coren Mitchell Faster, higher, twerkier?
Why stop at pole
dancing at the
Olympics? Let’s
have groping
and mud
as well
he news that pole dancing has
been formally recognised as a
sport – and will now be considered for possible inclusion in the
Olympics – fills me with delight.
Regular readers may be surprised.
You might imagine I would feel weary
and suspicious at this development.
You might imagine I’d roll my eyes and
ask: “What next? A simultaneous men’s
event – how many bills can you shove
in her bra as she writhes?”
You might think I would worry
about where we’re heading as a culture and whether we are building on
the great historical achievements of
suffrage and feminism, or absolutely
dismantling them in our complacency
about how many battles have truly
been won.
You might think I would argue it’s
impossible to “reclaim” pole dancing
from the world of strip clubs, however
much we might kid ourselves something can be neutered just because we
say it is, and – however much I may
respect individual sex workers – I
believe we shouldn’t confuse their
seductive techniques with that which
we present to our daughters as “sport”.
Well, guess again. I’ve read many
defences of the activity by keen “pole
enthusiasts” and I’m persuaded. It’s
not titillating. It’s purely athletic.
Nobody thinks of strippers when they
see it, nor seeks it out for that reason.
Its inclusion as an Olympic sport
would be nothing short of excellent
news for women. Bring it on.
Here are some other sports I’d like to
see elevated to the world stage.
Mud wrestling
It’s time for women’s boxing to come
of age – and this great step forward
allows trained fighters to challenge
themselves even further by experimenting with the terrain. The mud
is there for literally no other reason
than to really stretch and challenge
the skills of these highly respected
sportspeople. In order to enable full
flexibility of their powerful upper bodies, tops are off.
Pillow fighting
Or they could just bounce on beds
hitting each other with pillows which
would also be a proper event that
everybody would watch for the right
100m twerking
Spinning tit tassels
Wet T-shirt contest
What people don’t realise is that track
and field events actually become even
more sporty if the women stop every
few yards to shake their bums in
spectators’ faces. It has been criticised
by dusty outdated so-called feminists
who don’t understand modern gender
politics, but the truth is that shimmying about in skintight hotpants is
a purely serious, athletic endeavour
and anyone who finds it titillating is
Points are awarded for speed and control in this extravaganza of boob-swivelling, which is clearly celebratory of
women because only they can do it. To
quote Mary Wollstonecraft, it is “utterly
bap-tastic”. The power and grace of the
competition is underlined by the presence of a brass band going at full throttle
as the Bristols whiz round.
Swimming events are actually really
sexist because probably it’s just about
looking at girls in costumes – so, instead,
this is an event where women jump into
the pool in T-shirts and then stand there
for ages being scored out of 10 by judges.
This is definitely good and fine.
Marathon porn hub session
This endurance event for men – in
which gold is taken by whoever can
remain alert and upright for the longest period of intense porn viewing – is
actually a respectful tribute to the
women being viewed, in the sense
that men are watching them “do some
sport” without moaning about how
females are slow and weak and boring to watch so shouldn’t be paid the
Full body waxing
Obviously it’s good when women rip
off all their body hair with boiling tar,
so it makes sense to do this publicly
with people watching and clapping.
You know, like rowing is.
(This event is usually won by the
The long-distance catwalk
This is a great breakthrough for
women, in that other sports require
them to have muscles. Here, bulges of
any kind are loudly derided by a hundred male fashion designers prescribing an immediate diet of fags and Pepsi
Max. So it’s all fantastically progressive
as the entrants mince up and down in
their pants. Also, once every five years,
a fat one is allowed to take part and
everyone gives themselves a massive
pat on the back.
Synchronised groping
It’s hello to the 21st century with this
forward-thinking mixed doubles event,
in which the women maintain a fixed
and rigid grin as men pinch, stroke and
pat them all over. But actually, because
the winning pair will share the medal,
this demonstrates complete equality of
gender and nobody need worry that it
400m clutch relay
As soon as the starting wolf-whistle
is sounded and the women race off in
their towering stiletto heels, passing the
spangly clutch bag from runner to runner, spectators realise at once that this is
a legitimate and challenging sport, contrary to the protestations of stupid, old,
irrelevant harridans who have no idea
what modern feminism has become.
Having sex with men for money
Only the most puerile and cynical
observer (or old, cobwebby, uncomprehending “feminists” of yore) could
think this was anything to do with sex.
Yes it does involve having sex. But that’s
neither here nor there. Fully reclaimed
by its highly trained and physically
dazzling exponents, when placed into
an Olympic context the rigorous and
athletic business of having sex with men
for money is basically exactly the same
as throwing the javelin, only instead of
throwing a javelin it’s having sex with
men for money.
Let nation speak
unto nation in the
arts and in life
Forget the silly row over the nationality of this year’s
Booker winner. Celebrate instead the prize’s openness
hat do we talk about now we no
longer talk about books? Well,
everything else, of course. Since
George Saunders won this year’s
Man Booker prize last Tuesday evening for his
novel Lincoln in the Bardo, virtually every report
and a heap of internet chatter besides has led
with the fact of Saunders’s Americanness. This,
put together with the Americanness of last year’s
winner, Paul Beatty, and the Jamaicanness of the
previous year’s, Marlon James, seems to spell
gloom for the UK.
It’s as though Colin Welland’s Oscar acceptance speech – “The British are coming!” – is being
rewound at zanily high speed. That we did this to
ourselves in 2014 – allowing the Yanks in to take
their chances alongside the Brits, the Irish, the
Indians, the New Zealanders and more – hovers
in the background, as if in reproof to openness.
Among the objections to the widening of the rules
is the plaintive cry that British writers should be
let loose on American literary prizes, which has
a certain amount of merit, but is also somewhat
beside the point: you might be nice enough to
share your toys, but there’s no onus on the friends
you invited to tea to share theirs.
Hastily leaving my seat at the medieval
Guildhall on Tuesday to bolt into a waiting radio
car, I found myself taking part in a curious – and
somewhat spiky – exchange. Had the Booker
become, wondered the Radio 3 presenter, who
was admittedly attempting to slot it into to a programme about national identity – a neocolonial
enterprise? Was it, indeed, just part of a scene, like
the Henley Regatta?
If this is an agenda that seeks to root out
privilege and elitism, the Booker presents it with
a problem. Here are the winners from the last
10 years: Anne Enright, Aravind Adiga, Hilary
Mantel, Howard Jacobson, Hilary Mantel again,
Eleanor Catton, Richard Flanagan, James, Beatty
and Saunders; a spread of nationalities, ethnicities and class backgrounds, with, as far as I am
aware, not a single Etonian in sight. And what’s
particularly striking in the case of the last three
winners is how long they wrote in relative
obscurity before receiving anything approaching
widespread recognition, praise and, of course,
financial security.
But the quarrel, of course, is not with the individuals, it is with the system and prizes, especially
rich, corporate-sponsored, high-profile, swishy
ceremonied ones, are a convenient focus for our
cultural dissatisfactions, fury and angst.
And there is much to criticise. The Booker, for
example, requires the publishers of longlisted
authors to make commitments about print runs
and stock levels that are a walk in the park for
larger publishers, but hugely daunting for the
small, independent presses that are playing such
a vital role in encouraging talent. If one of those
publishers should find themselves with a shortlisted title, they must find £5,000 to help with
publicity and hope that they will see a return on
their investment.
I recently spent an evening at a small literary
festival, at which the organisers, not, probably,
awash with excess cash themselves, took a group
of us out for a jolly pizza and pasta supper at the
end of the day’s events. I found myself chatting
to a recent Booker shortlistee whose work is
published by an aforementioned microscopic
publisher. He regaled me with tales of their trip
to London to take part in Booker business and the
comic cognitive dissonance between getting on
your black-tie gladrags, carousing with literary
high society and then returning to the backpackers’ hostel afforded by your budget. There was not
a shiver of complaint in his account, by the way,
just pure delight.
But back to the radio car. Did I, asked the
presenter, think Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo
was a worthy winner? I did, I replied, and if
only I had left it there. In fact, I thought it was
wonderful. Wonderful. I may have added a third
wonderful. In my defence, I had emerged from a
pressure cooker of hyperbole. Adjectives were,
to tax the metaphor a moment longer, merely
steam escaping from the bubbling casserole of
George Saunders, winner of this year’s
Man Booker prize for Lincoln in the Bardo.
Photograph by David Levene
He wasn’t having it. Surely, I simply meant
it was good. And if I were to call Lincoln in the
Bardo wonderful, what would that leave for War
and Peace?
Readers, this had me stumped: nobody expects
the Russian inquisition and, really, I had nothing smart to say about Tolstoy. But I managed a
response and we moved on.
uckily, I have now had several days in
which to channel my esprit de l’escalier.
And in fact, it seems remarkably simple
to me. I do think Lincoln in the Bardo is a
wonderful book. I thought so when I reviewed
it and called it “a brilliant, exhausting, emotionally involving attempt to get up again, to fight
for empathy, kindness and self-sacrifice, and to
resist”. I thought so even more when I read it a
second time and more again when I listened to
I was asked if the Booker
had become a neocolonial
enterprise or just part of a
scene, like Henley Regatta?
the audio version that brings to life its 166 voices.
I think so when I contemplate the strangeness
of its story – a dead child, who happens to be the
son of Abraham Lincoln, wandering through a
cemetery, waiting to be gathered to the afterlife
– and the utterly uncompromising nature of its
When I very first picked it up, I thought I
would never get to grips with its hypermobility,
its shifts of voice and aspect, its ceaseless wrongfooting. And alongside all this, its depiction not
only of a father in acute grief, but of a man leading
a nation in the crisis of civil war, its fields littered
with countless other dead sons. It’s impossible
to read Lincoln in the Bardo and not think of
America’s current convulsions, of the impossibility of reconciling personal and public duty, of the
harrowing, hollowing nature of irreversible loss.
So what I might have replied to the Tolstoy question is: “But it is War and Peace.”
None of this is to say that you have to like it.
It might leave you cold. It might irritate you.
You might be reading something else that you’re
enjoying more. If you are, that is excellent news.
Books, and the prizes that reward them, should
not be tests we pass or fail. The publishing and literary worlds have, in recent years, begun to turn
the tanker around and address issues of representation, the stories untold and voices unheard.
Changes will not happen overnight, but there is
one change every reader can make instantly: we
can start to talk about what’s inside the books, not
everything that’s outside them.
Russia’s free pass to undermine British democracy
ou’d never guess it, but Britain
is a lucky country. Across the
democratic world, Russia pursues its interests by corrupting
elections with black propaganda. But
in their insouciance, our government
and intelligence services show dear old
Blighty has no reason to worry. On the
rare occasions it bothers to discuss the
subject, the British state says “it can’t
happen here”, even though “it” is happening everywhere else.
The FBI is investigating how Russia
hacked the Clinton campaign and used
Facebook and Twitter to spread fake
news. Ukrainians are preparing for
the next stage of resistance to Russian
forces. European foreign ministries and
intelligence services have finally understood that Russia’s imperial strategy is to
weaken the EU and Nato in every country except, it seems, this sceptred isle.
Russia knows its best tactic is to
use migrant crises to stoke nativist
fears. “German government threw
their country under feet of migrants
like a rug, now try wipe their crimes
under carpet,” tweeted the Russian
embassy in London in 2016 as the
Kremlin began a successful campaign
to promote the interests of the chauvinists in Alternative for Germany. A bank
close to Vladimir Putin loaned $10m to
Marine le Pen’s anti-EU Front National.
He encouraged the anti-immigrant
Freedom party in Austria, the Lega
Nord in Italy and Jobbik in Hungary.
Liberals and socialists in the 19th
century feared Russia as the world’s
greatest reactionary power. So Putin
wants it to be again. He is uniting the
anti-immigrant, illiberal and, as often as
not, misogynist and homophobic forces
in Europe and the US into a far-right
version of the old Soviet Comintern.
Here’s a puzzle: although Britain is the
only country to do exactly what Russia
wanted it do and leave the EU, there is
no British equivalent of the FBI investigation. Journalists have tried to fill the
gap. My indomitable colleague Carole
Cadwalladr and others have thrown
themselves at the story.
On Thursday, the Labour MP Ben
Bradshaw used parliamentary privilege
to offer support by raising a report on
the openDemocracy news site about
“dark money in the EU referendum”.
It asked “new questions today over the
real wealth of Arron Banks, the main
financial backer of Leave.EU”.
Given the widespread public alarm
about “Russian, interference in western
democracies”, Bradshaw continued,
would the government investigate?
The report’s authors, Alastair Sloan
and Iain Campbell, bring together what
others have already discovered and
add details of their own. Although it
is packed with information, including
responses from Banks’s lawyers, the
argument boils down to this. In 2013,
regulators in Gibraltar discovered
that Banks’s insurance business had
reserves far below what it needed. Yet
a year later the apparently embattled
Banks was still able to pour money into
the propaganda campaigns that took us
out of the EU. He gave £1m to Ukip in
2014. He followed up that small fortune
with £9.6m to Leave.EU and Better for
the Country Ltd, along with additional
cheques for Ukip as the referendum
drew near. How did he afford it?
In June, Lionel Barber, the editor of
the Financial Times, raised the same
question. After his paper investigated
Banks’s real worth, Barber asked on
Twitter: “How rich is he really?” Banks
gave a Trumpian reply: “I founded and
sold a listed insurance business for
£145m! Not even mentioned – no FT,
fake news.”
We have a dispute. To say it is in the
public interest to resolve it is to put the
case as mildly as you can. But the odds
are that journalists won’t nail down
the truth if the state does not want us
to find it. “Where’s the smoking gun?”
critics always cry. Without the lethal
weapon, you don’t have a story. The
crime-scene imagery misses the point
that 99 times out of 100 it’s the police
who have the power to find gunmen –
not reporters. We can’t arrest suspects.
We can’t interview them under caution
and obtain warrants to search their
homes. We don’t have subpoena powers
and forensic laboratories. We are just
citizens with keyboards. On occasion,
we can nail a target with hard work,
resources and luck. But never forget
that the greatest of these is luck.
Journalists, for instance, can’t follow
the example of the US, where the FBI
has arrested George Cottrell, a former
aide to Nigel Farage, on money-laundering charges and cut a plea-bargain
deal in return for his testimony. We
must wait and hear what he has to say.
But his evidence won’t invalidate my
point: the absence of a British equivalent of the FBI investigation will, in all
likelihood, kill the story here.
ritain’s only inquiry into the
Brexit vote is run by the Electoral Commission, whose powers Bradshaw aptly described
as “pathetic”. His Labour colleague Paul
Flynn told the Commons that the commission has “no mechanisms to find out
whether there has been interference
by cyber-techniques from Russia, by
botnets and by artificial intelligence”.
The “organisations that may well have
rigged the result of the referendum”
could sleep easy.
The British government ought to be
vigilant to threats to our democracy,
but a government committed to Brexit
has no incentive to order an inquiry
that might cast doubt on the tactics of
the Leave campaign. Like the Trump
administration, it is desperate to “move
on”. All Boris Johnson has done so far is
attack Jeremy Corbyn for appearing on
Putin’s propaganda channel RT (Russia
Today). Just because Johnson opens
his mouth doesn’t mean he is lying.
The foreign secretary inadvertently
revealed why the opposition frontbench is as keen as the government
frontbench in airbrushing Russia from
the history of modern Britain.
For alongside the leaders of the panEuropean far right, who RT welcomes
into its studios, alongside anti-European Tories, the cranks, creeps and conspiracy theorists, sit the leaders of our
own Labour left – and not only Corbyn
and John McDonnell. Richard Burgon
is Labour’s satirically named “justice”
spokesman. He has never denounced
the injustice Putin brings to Russia and
the wider world during the nine occasions RT has had him on air. In this, he
is symptomatic of a wider left that calls
itself “anti-imperialist” but has nothing
to say about Eurasia’s most voracious
imperial power.
Russia has little to fear from Britain.
The government cannot defend
democracy because it is compromised
by its endorsement of Brexit. The
leaders of the opposition cannot force
ministers to act because they are compromised by their complicity with the
propaganda machine of a mafia state.
If “it” happens here, the British public
need never know.
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Children receive worse mental
health care than adults
Actresses must inspire others
to speak out over harassment
The extent of sexual allegations
against Harvey Weinstein is horrifying, but they give voice to “ordinary”,
mainly female, employees for whom
experiences of such behaviour also
resonate (“After Weinstein, let’s stop
asking women to answer for their sex
predator’s crimes”, Comment, last
Unfortunately, unlike actresses, these
women often don’t have the influence,
confidence or money that facilitates
being heard and taken seriously.
Many women working in the 1970s,
1980s and 1990s, like me, endured
everything from lewd comments to
unprovoked and unwarranted overtly
sexual male behaviour. In my case, it
was hardcore pornography placed on
my chair and a boss who regularly lay
on the floor to look up my knee-length
Worse was the accountant/technical
author, who requested female assistants with exceptionally long hair so he
could rub his genitalia against it while
the woman typed corrections to his
Ironically, this was arranged with
the collusion of the personnel officer,
who thought it was “all right” as long
as they were, like me, married.
These are just a few examples
and don’t even begin to describe the
groping and similar indignities often
inflicted on female tube travellers.
Unlike the majority of women, eventually I did complain, but was classed
as making a fuss over nothing, while
changing jobs wasn’t always an option
or, alas, a remedy.
Sadly, such behaviour and dismiss-
Laura Bates’s
article last week.
ive attitudes prevail because victims
have largely been forced into silence.
Perhaps, in the light of the Weinstein
case, they will now speak out and a
new, more respectful attitude towards
women in particular in the workplace
will emerge.
Name and address supplied
May I re-gender some of Kate Hardie’s
article about male power dominating
the film industry? (“We should wake
up to the link between abuse and film
content”, Comment, last week).
For this thought experiment, you
will need to imagine the writer is a
male actor, writer and director and that
women have always dominated the
film industry.
“I spoke to two young actors… both
playing roles that required them to
be naked. I knew the nudity these
actors were being asked to do was not
integral to the story. I tried suggesting to the actors they could say no –
but of course I understood why they
felt afraid to. They were too afraid
of the all-female creative team, a set
of hugely powerful, award-winning
women. We proceeded to read the
scripts. A female producer was reading out the stage directions, her voice
hardly faltering in tone as she read out:
‘She rips open his pants and we see his
Alison Hackett
Dun Laoghaire
Co Dublin
Sexualised celebrity may not be the
oldest profession, but as long as there
is a profession that offers a nexus
between money and overnight success,
there will always be independently
rich and influential powerbrokers,
such as Harvey Weinstein, who are
able to rationalise the chronic immorality of offering advantage to dependently vulnerable women who are able
to rationalise their acute degradation
for the opportunity.
Mark Dyer
Western Australia
Our editorial last week (“Let’s not
pretend that the sexual harrassment and abuse of young women is
a problem particular to Hollywood”,
Comment, page 34) said: “The charity
SafeLives has revealed that almost one
in 10 women has suffered domestic
violence.” In fact, research by SafeLives
highlights that almost one in 10 women
suffers domestic violence each year.
A review of Heisenberg: The
Uncertainty Principle last week
referred mistakenly to an “observation”
by playwright Simon Stephens “that
music is the space between the notes”.
The remark has been attributed to
many musicians, from Mozart to Miles
Davis, but is generally associated with
Claude Debussy (“Love actually, love in
theory”, New Review, page 22).
We referred to the Pension Protection
Fund as “state-sponsored” last week.
While set up by government under
the Pensions Act 2004, it is funded
by a levy on eligible pension schemes
and does not receive public money
(“Monarch crisis leaves yet another
pension fund up in the air”, Business,
page 42).
A headline in last week’s Magazine
(page 54) announced the geopolitically impossible: “The UK’s best hotels,
Britain and Ireland.” Apologies.
Write to Stephen Pritchard, Readers’
Editor, the Observer, 90 York Way,
London N1 9GU, email observer.readers tel 020 3353 4656
Read them at
1. My three children say they never
want to see me again Dear Mariella
2. Rose McGowan: ‘Hollywood
blacklisted me because I got raped’
3. MPs move to block Theresa May from
signing ‘no deal’ Brexit
4. Once a fixture of downtown New
York, Weinstein is now a ghost
5. Trump juggernaut rolls on after White
House generals avert disaster on Iran
6. What the grim reality of a
‘bad-tempered’ Brexit means
7. How cool are you? Personality quiz
8. Kevin De Bruyne leads the way as
Manchester City thrash Stoke 7-2
9. Fiercest of rivals, best of friends:
cross-party pals in parliament
10. Sunday night suppers Rosie Sykes
I fully support the children’s
commissioner’s request to NHS
England to provide information about
how local clinical commissioning
groups are spending their increased
budgets on community-based provision
for children with mental health
difficulties (“Children’s commissioner
savages NHS…”, News, last week).
But there is another startling fact
that she highlighted in her recent
report. That is that the bulk of NHS
mental health spending is accessed
by only a tiny number of children,
who are admitted to largely privately
owned, low-secure hospitals. Unlike
in adult mental health, no information
is published on the outcomes. No one
disputes that some children require
in-patient treatment but for NHS
England to be unable to say if this
expensive treatment has had any
benefit means public money is being
spent without accountability and
without consideration for the best
interests of the child.
After our adolescent daughter was
placed in a low-secure hospital, there
was little incentive from the hospital
or child and adolescent mental health
services – despite the legal necessity
to ensure the least restrictive option
– to make provision for her discharge.
She spent 20 months in low-secure
provision, only to be transferred to an
adult hospital once she reached 18.
When there, she was discharged
home within the month. This is not
because the adult hospital was “better”
but because the consultant and
community-based services accepted
that prolonged hospital stays for
particular mental health difficulties
can be counterproductive. Adult
services provide good local crisis care,
something that should be more readily
available in children’s mental health
Deborah Stott
London SE19
Breaking down borders
Scottish and Catalan questions are
symbolic of our inability to define and
understand the purpose of a nation
state. Clearly, both need the intricate
trade and commerce arrangements
that surround them, yet they want
independence to “feel” independent, a
mixture of pride and control.
Is this not the same as Britain’s
struggle with the EU? The rhetoric
of those wishing to disband the EU,
taking back our borders, having our
own laws, falls short without an
explanation of what these things mean.
We have 48 counties in England,
each with a border, an administration
and a sense of individual pride. In
truth, these boundaries have been
weakened by relentless abstraction of
power to the state. The sharing of this
power with the United Nations and the
European Community weakened all
boundaries, from parish to nation state.
But all benefited. The UN Declaration
of Human Rights (a British concept)
outlawed wife beating in every parish.
It is impossible to spread humanity and
good governance without lessening the
effects of borders.
Spain has 17 autonomous regions,
a system that has held diverse groups
together despite the bitter memories of
a civil war. The inability to organically
expand this system has led to a rigidity
unacceptable to some. Dialogue and
mutual respect are necessary to social
relationships, something forgotten in
the Brexit debate.
Jon Choppin
Blandford Forum
Who in government accepted the
need to resolve three issues (migrant
settlement rights, the Irish border and
the financial settlement) on Brexit
before starting talks about trade?
It is exceeded in its strategic
weakness and stupidity only by
David Cameron’s decision to offer a
referendum rather than require his
party to have a policy on Europe.
For the government to pretend to be
contemplating tough “no deal” terms is
foolish and will be totally unconvincing
to our European friends. Clearly, the
Tory party has forgotten the lessons of
Tony Arnold
Opposing US policy on Vietnam
Rachel Cooke, in her review of
Marcelino Truong’s graphic novel
Saigon Calling (New Review,
last week), writes of the “antiAmericanism” of British leftists
who opposed the Vietnam war and
Truong’s bemusement that they
were “seemingly so supportive of the
I worked in the British anti-war
movement and we were not antiAmerican, only bitterly opposed to US
government policies. We supported
the North Vietnamese because they
fought to secure the independent
and reunified Vietnam promised in
the 1954 Geneva accords, whereas
the US-dominated regime in South
Vietnam (in which Truong’s father
served) fought in violation of the
accords to maintain American control.
John Heawood
Thrill ride only for the young
It is not entirely true that the steel
toboggan run down the side of the
Great Wall of China is devoid of basic
health-and-safety tests. (“Beijing
struggles to curb poverty…,” News,
last week). My daughter was allowed
on, but I was denied by a little old lady
screeching: “Too old, too old!” So I was
left to descend in a cable car, watching
my daughter whiz by below.
Mike Broadbent
Technology and innovation are key to saving the NHS
he NHS is the core of our care
system. It has remarkable
strengths and, by international
standards, is as competitive,
efficient and – in outcomes per pound
spent – as good as anything in the world.
But, as is becoming increasingly clear, it
faces formidable challenges. The population is ageing. Chronic diseases such as
diabetes are becoming more prevalent
and already absorb most of the NHS
budget. Costs are rising but budgets and
funding are not.
It cannot go on like this. Without the
right investment, the NHS will go the
way of its sister service – social care –
and buckle under the pressure. It is at
its weakest over winter. In the last one,
the gap between demand and supply
became clear as dozens of hospitals
reported an “inability to provide comprehensive care” to patients. Hospital
chiefs are already calling for a cash
bailout to get it through this winter,
amid the recent warnings of a severe
flu outbreak from NHS chief executive,
Simon Stevens.
The chancellor would be sensible to
heed the warnings and use his autumn
budget to forestall a full-blown NHS
crisis. Indeed, he should go one step
further and start preparing a long-term,
sensible funding settlement for our
overstretched care system.
But something else is needed too. As
the US proves, simply throwing more
resources at healthcare won’t bring
sustainable improvements. That’s why
reforms are as important as resources.
In the public debate about the NHS,
the talk is much more of daunting
challenges than opportunities. A sense
of possibility is missing. Yet the world
is on the verge of a huge leap forward
in healthcare, driven by advances in
knowledge and technology. We now
know much more about how the brain
works and the impact that the broader
environment has on our mental health.
We know more about how our gut
works and the impact food and diet
can have. The advent of big data and
predictive analytics means we can better plan care for a population. Advances
in genomics are changing our thinking,
from diagnosing and treating illness to
predicting and preventing ill health.
The development of precision medicine
will increasingly allow a patient to be
treated as an individual, not a number.
An influx of new mobile and bio-devices
will mean we will be able to check – and
take greater control over – our health in
a way never previously possible. These
kinds of innovations will enable organisations to make better population and
individual healthcare decisions.
All these big changes are under
way. They will accelerate in the years
to come. The question policymakers
should focus on is how to harness them
to improve the health of the nation.
That will mean making big changes to
the NHS, not just putting in more cash.
any of the technological
changes do not emanate from
the public side of health.
They come from private
players. For example, biopharmaceutical
company AbbVie has launched Live:Lab
(which, full disclosure, I chair), a collaborative, preventive health initiative,
led by technology and designed to alleviate strain on the NHS by reaching out to
people who are less likely to engage with
public health information in a more compelling way to help them overcome their
fear of finding out about their health.
It is no coincidence that the big tech
players have placed large bets on the
health sector. The future of healthcare
will involve forging networks with the
Googles, Apples, IBMs and Facebooks
of the world, while maintaining strong
relationships with the charity sector
and not-for-profit organisations.
Patient groups and voluntary
organisations also have a key role to
play giving a voice to the public and
providing more responsive services.
The NHS needs to face outwards, to
go with this tide of innovation, instead
of seeking to stand in its way. The
cyberattack on NHS trusts in May reinforced for many fears about advances
in technology and the potential threat
it poses to privacy. Of course, the right
safeguards are needed, but it is time we
stopped seeing the internet and data as
a threat to health, rather than something that can be harnessed for the common good. Technology is never neutral.
It can be a force for good or ill. But in
healthcare the time has come to move
our mindsets to embrace it instead of
resisting it.
Alan Milburn is a former health secretary
and chair, health industries oversight
board, PwC
| 37
Contact us Email
Phone 020 3353 4791 Fax 020 3353 3196
Agenda The squeeze is on
Can consumers keep
the economy going?
This week’s big economic number
is GDP for the third quarter, due on
Wednesday morning. Economists
reckon output rose by 0.3% or 0.4%
in the three months to the end
of September.
Assuming the figure isn’t lower than
expectations, economy watchers will
turn quickly to the underlying trends,
such as business investment. The
economy has confounded predictions
of a sharp post-Brexit vote slowdown
or recession, mainly because of
resilient consumer spending.
That is becoming harder to replicate
as prices rise faster than wages,
consumers become wary about adding
to debts and banks restrict lending.
Business investment failed to take off,
as the economy recovered from the
recession, and unwillingness to loosen
corporate purse strings has contributed
to Britain’s dire record on productivity,
which has become the big bugbear.
In July, when second-quarter
GDP growth came in at 0.3%, Philip
Hammond, the chancellor, blamed
the pound’s fall after the Brexit vote
for what he called a “painful” squeeze
on living standards and the slowing
economy. Since then, Hammond
has been a target for pro-Brexit
Conservatives who have accused him of
talking down the economy. Hammond
has stuck to his guns so far but he risks
a new onslaught if he continues to make
the case against Brexit.
Jayne-Anne Gadhia: rare role model.
Financial firms are still
too male and too white
The Treasury committee has launched
an inquiry into why so few women
make it into senior jobs in finance. The
first witness, on Tuesday, is JayneAnne Gadhia, chief executive of Virgin
Money. Gadhia will no doubt have
some personal insights but she could
face stiff questions in her other role as
the government’s women in finance
champion. It’s almost a year since
she took up the post and nearly 100
financial firms signed up to a charter
pledging to put women in senior jobs.
The committee, chaired by the
Conservative MP Nicky Morgan, is
seeking a progress report. Starting
at the top, Morgan wrote to the
chancellor on Thursday asking for
evidence that the Treasury is doing
enough to hire women and people
from ethnic minorities at the Bank
of England. MPs want information
about the makeup of applicants for top
jobs at the Bank before they confirm
candidates at appointment hearings.
Morgan’s letter follows the
chancellor’s recent appearance before
the Treasury committee, at which he
lamented a lack of female candidates
for the vacancy on the Bank’s monetary
policy committee. Morgan doesn’t
appear convinced.
Share price, pence
It’s been a bumpy 12 months for Whitbread, the owner of Costa Coffee and
Premier Inn, which reports first-half
results on Tuesday. The shares have risen
by about 3% over that time.
Quote of the week goes to Richard Hill QC,
who launched a case on behalf of Lloyds
shareholders for losses incurred from
the bank’s takeover of HBOS in theatrical
fashion: “We are saying shareholders were
mugged in this acquisition and should never
have been kept in the dark.”
A good week for Ed
Casey, chief operating
officer of Serco.
After 12 years at the
outsourcing company, Casey will leave at
the end of this year. Why is that such good
news? Casey has been travelling to Serco’s
head office in Hook, Hampshire, from the US
for each week the past four years. He ran
Serco’s US business, based in Washington
DC, before starting the transatlantic trek as
interim group chief executive in 2013. When
Rupert Soames took over, Casey became
his operations man, but he has had enough
of leaving his family in Virginia every
Sunday. Soames said: “We completely
understand that after four years of weekly
commuting across the Atlantic, he would
like to have a job closer to home.”
Looks like a bad week
for high-street banks
Britain’s biggest high-street banks report
on trading this week but each faces
problems outside day-to-day business.
First up, on Wednesday, is Lloyds.
The bank is under attack from
customers whose businesses were
ruined by fraudster bankers at HBOS
before Lloyds bought the failing
bank during the financial crisis. The
bankers were jailed in January but TV
presenter Noel Edmonds, one of the
claimants, has alleged Lloyds and its
boss António Horta-Osório must have
known about the fraud.
Lloyds is also defending itself in
court against shareholders seeking
compensation for losses caused by
the takeover of HBOS. If the two sides
haven’t settled, Tim Tookey, Lloyds’s
ex-finance director, will start up to
seven days of evidence on Wednesday.
At Royal Bank of Scotland, which
reports on Friday, the Treasury
committee wants the Financial
Conduct Authority to publish a
suppressed report into RBS’s treatment
of business customers. Will Ross
McEwan, RBS’s chief executive, repeat
his comments about former customers
unfairly “badmouthing” the bank? On
Thursday, Jes Staley, Barclays’s chief
executive, will unveil his numbers
while the Financial Conduct Authority
investigates him for trying to root out a
Paul Newman’s Rolex could set a record
when it goes up for auction on Thursday
in New York. After a tour of three continents to drum up interest from billionaires,
experts reckon it could fetch $10m and
even beat the record $11.1m paid for a
wristwatch last year.
Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward,
bought him the Cosmograph Daytona in
the late 60s and he wore it regularly. In
1984, the actor gave it to James Cox, then
the boyfriend of his daughter Nell, who
was helping renovate a treehouse at the
Newmans’ house. Unlike today’s stars,
Newman didn’t endorse Rolex but his name
became synonymous with the Daytona,
making it one of the most coveted models.
Cox wore the watch for a few years but
stashed it away as its value rose.
Newman, the most unglitzy of superstars, would probably have disliked all the
fuss but he would have approved of the
outcome. Cox and Nell broke up in the 90s
but he is selling the watch to raise money
for her foundation, which supports sustainable agricultural projects.
A bad week for
Tom Albanese,
Rio Tinto’s
executive, who
was charged
with fraud by
US regulators
on Tuesday.
The Securities
and Exchange
Albanese and
his former finance director, Guy Elliott,
of inflating the value of coal assets in
Mozambique, while Rio raised billions of
dollars from investors in 2012 and 2013.
Albanese said the allegations were untrue
and Elliott said he would contest the charges.
Postscript Frankfurt, here we come
More profit warnings
ahoy in choppy waters
Goldmans not betting
on Britain after Brexit
You don’t get to run the world’s most
powerful investment bank without
understanding what reaction a tweeted
comment will get. So it was no slip of
the smartphone when Lloyd Blankfein,
chief executive of Goldman Sachs,
effectively trolled the government on
Thursday: “Just left Frankfurt. Great
meetings, great weather, really enjoyed
it. Good, because I’ll be spending a lot
more time there. #Brexit.”
With Theresa May in Brussels
trying to unblock the Brexit impasse,
Blankfein’s message was that he was
ready to move a chunk of Goldman’s
European business out of London and
into the Frankfurt building the bank
has leased. May can’t say she wasn’t
What a tweet: Blankfein message is clear.
warned. Sam Woods, a Bank of England
deputy governor, said this month if
there is no deal before Christmas,
“diminishing marginal returns will kick
in” for banks based in London.
Blankfein’s tweet is unlikely to have
any effect on the national mood –
global financiers don’t hold much sway
with the Brexit brigade. By the time we
learn whether his warning has serious
consequences, it will be too late.
Profit warnings are back. After a lull
this year, a series of companies lined
up to disappoint investors last week.
They included IWG, the serviced office
provider, Merlin Entertainments, the
theme park operator, and ConvaTec,
the medical care company. Serial
offenders Interserve, the construction
and support services company, and
Hornby, the model train maker, also
featured. Reckitt Benckiser, the
consumer goods giant, issued its
second sales warning of the year. The
flurry follows 75 warnings in the three
months to the end of September – up
from 45 in the previous quarter. EY,
the accountancy firm that compiled
the figures, says many companies were
affected by the unpredictable economy.
But bosses are paid to navigate events.
Who said this last week? “It’s time to
grow our way out austerity?” Was it
John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow
chancellor, or the CBI business lobby?
It was the CBI – but if you thought it
was McDonnell that would have been
entirely reasonable. In its submission
before next month’s budget, the business lobby called on the government
Austerity accord: McDonnell and the CBI.
to spend on infrastructure, invest in
schools, reform business rates and
set out a clear industrial strategy. All
these ideas were in Labour’s manifesto.
McDonnell and the CBI differ on many
things but their overlapping criticisms
of the government indicate how much
has changed since the election showed
Britain was fed up with austerity.
A few months ago, it was easy for the
government to brand Labour’s proposals as dangerous and wacky. Now, not
so much. Consultancy Fathom has a
further take on things. It reckons the
economy is struggling because we are
addicted to near-zero interest rates.
By increasing spending and setting off
inflation, it argues “a Jeremy Corbyn-led
government might just stumble across
the right medicine” to clear out unproductive firms surviving on zero rates.
That’s a hardline position, but there
is a growing mood that something different is needed to get the economy out
of its rut.
Air France-KLM has diversified into
low-cost air travel to compete with
the likes of easyJet. Reuters
Air France boss says UK must
play by EU’s rules after Brexit
Jean-Marc Janaillac says he is happy to see British airlines
fly to the continent – as long as they accept European
Court of Justice control. By Daniel Boffey in Brussels
s the head of Europe’s largest intercontinental airline,
Jean-Marc Janaillac can
speak with authority on
the complexities of crossborder travel. He carries
some political insight, too, because
he is chief executive of a business, Air
France-KLM, that is 17%-owned by the
French government.
At the intersection of pan-European
travel and politics lies Brexit, of which
Janaillac is a dispassionate observer.
After all, it is not his business that will be
most affected by a split between London
and Brussels. Janaillac says Britain leaving the EU is neither “an opportunity
nor a catastrophe” for a business created
by the merger of the French and Dutch
national airlines in 2004.
“For Air France-KLM, and other airlines, the British market is important but
it is not a huge part of our activity. I think
it is more a problem for British airlines
than continental operators,” he said.
The 64-year-old gives a tour d’horizon
of the issues facing British rivals come
the leaving date of March 2019. They
range from the threat of not being able
to fly beyond British borders to having
to having to accept the jurisdiction of
the European Court of Justice – the latter being a red line in the Brexit negotiations for Theresa May.
But first, the basics: will the likes of
British Airways and easyJet be able to
fly to Europe once the UK has exited
the EU? Janaillac, who took over Air
France-KLM last July, says that the British government should be planning for
the worst-case scenario, in which a new
agreement between the UK and the EU
does not materialise. This would mean
flights between Britain and the continent could be grounded because the UK
will no longer be a member of the European Common Aviation Area.
Under the ECAA regime, any airline
owned and controlled by EU citizens
is free to operate anywhere within the
EU without restrictions on capacity, frequency or pricing. A new agreement will
have to be struck if British airlines are to
continue to enjoy the freedoms of today.
“Some say if there is not an agreement
all the flights are going to stop and British people with homes in Spain will not
be able to fly home for the weekend,” he
said. “Others say that former agreements
are going to work. I think the government should prepare. I mean, plan in
order to assure that things are going to
be smooth in March 2019, if there is no
agreement. I hope it is possible to have
an intermediary period.”
Then comes the Brexiters’ pet hate
– the European court of justice. Janaillac says that bowing to the ECJ will be
unavoidable for a UK-based carrier if
it wants to operate services within the
EU – between Berlin and Rome,
for instance. Indeed, easyJet
has already announced plans
to set up a new European
headquarters in Austria for
its intra-EU flights and that
Janaillac: Brexit not
‘opportunity nor
Dominance of of US tech firms
squeezes life out of startups
by Olivia Solon
San Francisco
Facebook has been breathing down
the neck of group video-chat app
Houseparty for over a year. The
app, developed by the San Francisco
startup Life On Air, has been a hit with
teenagers – an audience Facebook is
desperate to woo.
After months of sniffing around its
tiny competitor, Facebook launched
its own group video-chat tool within
its Messenger service in December
2016. In February this year, it invited
teens to its headquarters to quiz
them, in return for $275 Amazon
cards, on how and why they used
video-chat apps. By July, Facebook
was demonstrating a Houseparty
clone, Bonfire, to employees and by
early September the app launched
in Denmark.
“They see we’re having traction,”
Sima Sistani, co-founder of
Houseparty, said in August. “That’s
why we’re pushing so hard.”
But pushing hard might not be
enough when you’re going up against
some of the world’s most powerful
companies. Startups drive job creation
and innovation, but the number of new
US business launches is at a 30-year
low and some economists, investors
and entrepreneurs are pointing their
fingers at big tech.
The deep pockets and resources of
companies such as Facebook, Google,
Amazon and Apple – with a combined
value of almost $2.5 trillion – make
it difficult for startups to compete or
attract investment.
“People are not getting funded
because Amazon might one day
compete with them,” said one founder,
who wished to remain anonymous. “If
it was startup versus startup, it would
have been a fair fight, but startup
versus Amazon and it’s game over.”
Even multibillion-dollar startups
such as Snap, Snapchat’s parent
unit will therefore operate under the
auspices of the ECJ.
For other British airlines, Janaillac
says that it would be unacceptable if
UK airlines were able to operate with
a lower level of rights, or forced its passengers to seek justice in British courts.
“We would approve the British airlines flying within Europe as European
operators on one condition: if they have
the same rights, they should have the
same obligations as European carriers,”
Janaillac said in an interview in Brussels,
where he was attending a gathering of
European airline executives. Citing the
example of Norway’s low-cost carrier,
he added: “A bit like Norwegian [airlines]. I think it is very clear: 100% of
the rights means 100% of the obligations. If not, we will not have a level
playing field.”
Janaillac comments reveal how
problematic Theresa May’s insistence that Britain will no longer
accept the jurisdiction of
the ECJ will become
company, struggle to compete against
these tech titans. Like Houseparty,
Snap was nipping at the heels of
Facebook. At first, Facebook played
nicely, making an offer to buy
Snapchat – a strategy that worked
with Instagram and WhatsApp. When
that failed, Facebook cloned all of
Snapchat’s features, awkwardly at
first but relentlessly, and with the
resources of a $510bn company,
until Snap’s potential slice of the
advertising market shrivelled to
a sliver.
It’s hard to say for sure whether
concentration of financial muscle
within the tech giants is the cause
or effect of startup decline. On one
hand, the existence of fewer startups
makes it easier for incumbent firms
to accumulate power. However, as
industries become more concentrated,
it also raises the barriers to
entrepreneurship, choking off
innovation in the marketplace.
“They are financing the nextgeneration research at a scale no one
else can afford,” said Tomasz Tunguz,
a venture capitalist, citing Google’s
experimental projects Loon (balloonpowered internet), Fiber (high-speed
internet) and Waymo (self-driving
cars). “They are playing in big markets,
93.4m 52,173 328
Passengers carried
last year
Total ground staff,
pilots and crew
Number of places
it flies to in
Year founded
Profit last year
later in the Brexit negotiations. The
prime minister has claimed that whether
or not the UK has left, the remit of European judges should be regarded as a test
of whether Brexit has been delivered.
The French state, which is already
pushing the importance of the role of the
ECJ in the protection of citizens’ rights
in the Brexit negotiations, is likely to be
pushing the airline’s interests, where
it can. The French president Emmanuel Macron has made it no secret that
he hopes that French businesses will
exploit the opportunities caused by the
UK’s decision to leave the bloc.
Although Ryanair is a bigger player by
passenger numbers, Air France-KLM is
a powerful presence in the European airline business. It has a fleet of 346 planes
which carried 93 million passengers
to 328 destinations worldwide in 2016,
allowing it to claim to be Europe’s biggest
carrier for intercontinental flights.
Speaking of easyJet’s Austria move,
Janaillac says: “I guess the authorities
will check. I think the rule is either you
control the airline or you don’t. Is it a
subsidiary that the company doesn’t
control? For me, it is a bit strange.”
There is a competitive edge to his
easyJet comments. Air France-KLM
launched a new subsidiary, Joon, last
month, as part of the French flag carrier’s attempts to cut costs and compete
with low-cost models and the recent
expansion of Gulf-based airlines.
Janaillac said his new airline would
only ever account for 10% of Air FranceKLM’s fleet but that it felt it had been
“compulsory” for the company to
diversify. Cabin staff will work under
making big bets. Historically, that’s
been the domain of startups.”
As the established tech companies
get more powerful and staff salaries
get higher, there’s even less of an
incentive for workers to set up on
their own. If they do, the endgame
is often to be acquired by their
previous employer.
“If your strategy from the outset
is to be acquired by Google, that’s
just fuelling consolidation,” said
Ian Hathaway, an economist at the
Brookings Institution.
Jonathan Frankel was thrilled when
Amazon’s investment arm funnelled
$5.6m into his startup, Nucleus, after a
year of discussions. He was less thrilled
when, a year later, Amazon launched
its latest voice-controlled device, the
Echo Show: an almost perfect clone of
the Nucleus product.
Nucleus was an Alexa-powered
tablet computer that focused on video
conferencing and communication,
with a plan – which Amazon would
have seen – to move into other areas.
When the Echo Show launched, it too
focused on communication, the core
of Nucleus’s vision, instead of other
key features such as e-commerce or
connected home elements.
Frankel, who declined to comment
separate and less generous contracts to
those enjoyed on Air France-KLM, and
the airline will offer one-way tickets to
passengers. “The idea was to have a new
airline with a less expensive cost structure,” he said.
“We are going to fly between Barcelona, Lisbon and Berlin and we are going
to compete with many airlines, but especially with easyJet. We do say that if you
change the naming, the positioning, you
[attract] people who would not have
looked at our site.
‘I don’t feel sympathy
for Ryanair. I’ve never
known sympathy
from the airline. It is
proof that its model
has some limits’
Jean-Marc Janaillac
“They can change their minds [about
Air France-KLM] and check our prices
and see that they are not that different to
those of our competitors.”
Air France-KLM’s profits just topped
€1bn (£890m) last year, when fuel prices
were low but, until 2015, the group, the
result of a merger in 2004, had failed to
make a profit. Although it already has
one low-cost subsidiary, Transavia, Air
France-KLM has failed to force through
lower wages and conditions on other
airline staff comparable to those at competitor airlines. Analysts say the opera-
Facebook, founded by Mark Zuckerberg,
has the power to take on startups and
win, as Snapchat has discovered.
for this piece, was furious, saying this
year: “Their thesis is what our thesis
was: communication is that Trojan
horse to get those devices throughout
the home and throughout the extended
family’s home.
“The difference is, they want to sell
more detergent. We actually want to
help families communicate easier.”
tor’s subsidiaries will struggle to match
easyJet’s average costs.
Andrew Lobbenberg, aviation analyst
at HSBC, said Joon remained “a tool to
drive cost reduction at the legacy business”. He said: “They are going to use it
as a bit of a laboratory on the marketing
and design side, to make it more attractive to millennials. But they battled hard
for significant change in the labour contracts at Air France and it didn’t work.”
The funky new carrier, with cheaper
crew and some concessions from pilots,
is a subtler attempt than the aggressive
change seen at British Airways owner
IAG, he suggested: “But it’s a better
productivity and cost proposition for
Air France.”
Janaillac said it was not a matter of
seeking to undercut easyJet, and he
offered a scathing response to Ryanair’s
problems this summer, when hundreds
of thousands of customers had their
flights cancelled due to a pilot rostering
error. Ryanair’s pilots have been reluctant to come to the company’s aid, amid
tensions over pay and conditions.
Janaillac has little sympathy for his
under-pressure counterpart, Michael
O’Leary. “I have never [known] sympathy
from Ryanair towards legacy carriers and
towards Air France-KLM in particular,”
he said. “I don’t feel any sympathy. It
is proof that its model, its social model
especially, which for us is totally contrary
to the European norms and the social
content of our culture, has some limits.”
Dublin-based Ryanair, however, will
remain within the EU after 2019. It is
the UK carriers that need to change
their model.
These kinds of tactics had rattled
investors, some startup founders
said, making it harder for fledgling
companies to raise money.
A venture capitalist confirmed this,
describing Amazon’s launch of an
almost identical product to Nucleus
as a “very, very strange coincidence”.
He added that he was frequently in
meetings where investment decisions
are informed by the question: “Can
Amazon do that?”
“Amazon can do anything,” he noted.
It’s not just a problem within the
tech industry. Since 1980, the share
of US companies less than a year
old has almost halved – from 15%
to 8.1%, according to US Census
Bureau data.
“It’s been a persistent and fairly
precipitous decline,” said John
Dearie, the founder of the Centre
for American Entrepreneurship.
“The reason why this is so troubling
is that new businesses account for
virtually all new job creation and
account disproportionately for
disruptive innovations.
“It’s not a coincidence that at a
time when the startup rate is in a
long-term decline, the economy has
not grown at 3% or better. We are in
a growth emergency.”
Belfast breathes sigh of relief
as Airbus swoops in to help
What takes place at Bombardier
Aerospace’s factory at Belfast is one
of those everyday, patented modern
miracles – and one whose success
now depends on politics and business
machinations continents away.
Rolls of carbon fibre are cut,
injected with resin and pressurecooked and cured to form an aircraft
wing. This is shipped from Belfast
city docks via Liverpool and New
York to be fitted in Mirabel, Quebec,
and become part of Bombardier’s
innovative C-Series plane.
When one of the world’s biggest
airlines, Delta, placed a multibilliondollar order in 2016, it looked like the
C-Series could really spread its wings
– until the US slapped punitive, 300%
tariffs on its import last month.
Then, last week, Airbus announced
it was taking over the programme from
Bombardier: a tie-up that potentially
guarantees the plane’s future. But will
this move prove a stroke of commercial
genius or simply be blocked as a
transparent attempt to circumvent the
US government’s ruling – and will the
jobs of 1,000 people making wings in
Northern Ireland be preserved?
At the heart of the row is a plane
that its Canadian manufacturers hoped
could finally break through the AirbusBoeing duopoly. The C-Series aircraft
sets a new standard for efficiency and
comfort for its passengers, its makers
say. But those passengers are flying
only in and out of Switzerland and the
Baltics. Years of delay in production
had cost Bombardier customers; the
75 planes ordered by Delta was the first
deal big enough to make the whole
programme look viable. Crucially,
it gave the C-Series entry to the US
market, accounting for up to half of its
prospective sales worldwide.
Little wonder Boeing wanted to stop
it: the US corporation has seen Airbus,
also backed by state subsidies, grow
to challenge its dominance. Bailouts
of Bombardier by the Canadian
government between 2015 and this
year – as well as subsidies to Northern
Ireland’s operations from the UK –
amounted to illegal state aid, it argued,
and the US Department of Commerce
concurred, slapping 300% tariffs on
Delta’s order, a purchase worth up to
$5.6bn (£4.2bn).
Airbus had already examined the
merits of buying parts of Bombardier’s
operation. But now the European
giant’s move to take a majority stake in
its C-Series programme was “win-winwin”, as Airbus’s chief executive, Tom
Enders, put it. It affirmed the future
of the C-Series, and by switching
final assembly of the planes to the
Airbus factory in Mobile, Alabama,
would eliminate import tariffs and
enable the Delta deal to go ahead. The
other win, Enders didn’t say, was to
outmanoeuvre Boeing.
Boeing argues: “Everyone should
play by the same rules for free and fair
trade to work.” Its own legal view is
that the C-Series was “dumped” below
price in the US market, whether whole
or in parts, and the Airbus deal would
not change that verdict.
The politics are complex: the move
will mean more US jobs, while the
C-Series has engines made by Pratt &
Witney and avionics from Rockwell
Collins, both American firms. The
proposed tariffs may not be ratified by
the US trade commission – the fervent
hope of the Unite union in Belfast.
For the UK, Theresa May’s efforts
to influence President Donald Trump,
alluding to Britain’s defence contracts
with Boeing, appear to have been
fruitless. Boeing has been keen to
stress its own involvement in the UK,
and the wider jobs that depend on it. A
first Boeing facility in Europe is being
built in Sheffield, with only 50 jobs
expected – but it spent £2.1bn last year,
supporting 250 companies and 18,700
jobs in the UK supply chain.
Unite, meanwhile, is taking its
campaign to Brussels. While the irony
of Britain, looking to secure trade deals
post-Brexit, being rebuffed by the US
and then rescued by a pan-European
business has been widely remarked
on, the secondary worry for Northern
Ireland will be its future place in
C-Series jets will now be made by Airbus.
Airbus’s supply chain outside EU
borders and customs agreements.
However that plays out, Bombardier
in Belfast has been vastly assured by
the Airbus takeover – with hopes of an
expanded order book and new markets,
even if the US situation is unresolved.
Infrastructure investment in Northern
Ireland has lagged behind the UK
– at least until the Conservatives’
post-election agreement with the
Democratic Unionist party.
More and more of Bombardier’s
4,200 employees in Belfast – from
engineers and computer designers to
the assembly line and support roles
– expect to transfer to work on the
C-Series in future. Davy Thompson,
Unite’s regional officer and an
ex-Bombardier employee, says: “If it
was stopped, it would call into question
the whole viability of the site.”
Aerospace brings about £400m into
the region’s economy each year, he
says: “You have families work here.
They’re very highly skilled, soughtafter jobs.” The UK response should,
he says, “be a lot stronger. It’s UK
aerospace today – it could be elements
of any industry tomorrow.”
Gwyn Topham
Rise in savings rates will give Hammond an
excuse to stop subsidising well-off pensioners
City stands to
be the loser in
Goldman game
over Europe
s Philip Hammond prepares to defend his £12bn of
welfare cuts in his autumn
budget, pensioners can
consider themselves lucky
to be financially insulated.
While most people on low and middle incomes are finding their spending
power squeezed by rising inflation and
cuts to in-work benefits, the triple lock
on pensions is safe.
This was made clear by the chancellor after the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development
(OECD) joined the long queue of
thinktanks from left, right and centre,
arguing that pensioners need to share
the burden of austerity.
The triple lock, which guarantees
a 2.5% increase in the state pension
or a rise linked to inflation or earnings, whichever is the higher, has done
much to improve the lot of pensioners.
It was a Liberal Democrat promise in
2010 that the Tory leadership of the
coalition government adopted.
By contrast, Labour’s pension
increases in the early part of the century focused on raising the incomes of
the poorest with a means-tested pension credit.
The OECD said last week in its
annual health check on the UK that,
since the triple lock was put in place,
workers had made the largest contribution to reducing the government
deficit, “whereas older individuals
have been relatively unaffected”.
The September inflation and earnings figures are used as the basis for
calculating next April’s pensions
increase. Inflation was 3% and earnings
2.2%. No wonder the OECD said that it
would be fairer to tie future increases
to earnings.
The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS),
the thinktank that can claim to be
one of the hothouses for developing
Thatcherite policies in the 1980s, argues
that welfare spending has become
dramatically skewed in favour of the
retired, pushing up their incomes by
10% in real terms, while benefits are
down by around 5% for people of work-
Philip Hammond has ruled out lifting the triple lock on pensions – but even the OECD thinks he should change his mind. Barcroft
ing age. Had state pension rises only
sought to protect retirees from inflation
since 2010, setting aside the link to earnings and 2.5%, the Treasury would now
be £8.6bn a year better off, which might
have paid for a two percentage point cut
in income tax or increased spending in
areas of greater need, it says.
The CPS analysis illustrates how a
promise that appears to cost little can
become a weight, slowing the ship of
state. When it was first agreed, George
Osborne’s former Treasury adviser,
Rupert Harrison, says it was a budget
item costing £50m a year.
Hammond is sympathetic to the
campaign for a breather in pushing
up the incomes of the better off. But
he has ruled out any change for fear
of endangering his already precarious political position. Yet his budget
on 22 November could prove to be the
perfect moment to stop funnelling ever
more funds into pensions, should the
Bank of England raise interest rates for
the first time in a decade.
This is the moment many older savers have been waiting for – when the
pendulum swings away from cheap
credit to providing a higher return on
savings. The increase from 0.25% to
0.5% only restores an emergency cut
made by Threadneedle Street in the
wake of a Brexit-induced panic last
August. In practice, it is unlikely to herald a rush back to even modest interest
rate levels of 1% or 2%.
However, the signal will be unmis-
takable, and the banks will begin to
price their products accordingly. In
fact, they already have. Mortgage lenders have increased their fixed rates for
two and three years in anticipation of
an increase in the base rate.
Higher savings rates will no doubt
follow in due course, providing the
chancellor with a cheery backdrop –
at least from the perspective of those
who are retired – of stronger returns
on savings. He can use this to pare back
future pension benefits and redirect
them to the working poor.
In the name of fairness, the government cannot keep hammering the
young to protect the old. It must shift
its position before the generational
divide widens further.
A highly charged warning for the big power companies
hange is coming whether you
like it or not, UK energy regulator Ofgem told energy firms
last week.
While Dermot Nolan’s speech was
partly about laying down the law
to companies who have grumbled
against the price caps he will impose,
it was also about making it clear there
are other big structural changes afoot,
irrespective of these measures.
In the future, householders
might get their power from electric
carmakers or tech firms selling smart
gadgets, Nolan said. Or maybe they
would get it from their local solar
farm, making traditional suppliers less
relevant or even redundant.
While British Gas is the biggest
energy company today, the market
leader in a decade’s time could be
plausibly be an Alphabet-owned Nest.
In the meantime, there’s the small
matter of price caps to implement.
Nolan’s message to companies who
oppose caps was clear: stop moaning,
embrace it.
oldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein gave London mayor Sadiq
Khan and City minister Stephen
Barclay the equivalent of a cold
shower last week when he tweeted:
“Just left Frankfurt. Great meetings,
great weather, really enjoyed it. Good,
because I’ll be spending a lot more time
there. #Brexit”.
The Treasury and Khan, not to mention the lord mayor of London, Andrew
Parmley, are desperate to stop major
banks, insurers, accountancy and law
firms from decamping to Germany’s
financial centre following Brexit.
Plans for a soft Brexit – one that
provides the banks with most of their
demands – appear to have disappeared as the EU and UK’s respective
negotiating teams lock horns. A hard
Brexit beckons. It means that agreeing the legal framework for trading
between the EU and a newly independent Britain is fraught with difficulties
arising from the rivalries with financial
centres inside the EU and the limited
time left to secure a deal.
Financial industry lobby group
TheCityUK says that most of its members will need to begin putting their
contingency plans for a hard Brexit
into action by April next year at the
latest. It fears the loss of 75,000 jobs,
£38bn in revenues and £10bn in tax
should Britain exit without a deal.
Theresa May’s pleading in Brussels
last week could arrest the situation,
especially after Angela Merkel said
trade talks might begin in December.
Yet the City knows the Brexit debate
is not confined to May and Merkel or
Brexit secretary David Davis and the
EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.
The Tory party has a stake in the outcome, meaning anything could happen.
So are financial firms bluffing if they
threaten to quit when the Brexit flag
goes up? Yes, but only because it takes
time to move people with expensive
demands from one place to another,
set them up in swanky offices and find
them homes and schools for their children. In the end, the very real risk is
that London’s financial sector and the
exchequer will be much diminished.
Brexit makes a nonsense of Lawson’s struggle with inflation
few years ago I shared a platform with my old friend Lord
Lawson at a conference on our
membership of the European
Union. This was some time before the
infamous referendum. The event was
good-tempered, and it will come as no
surprise to readers that Lawson was, in
a term yet to be coined, a “Leaver”, and
your correspondent was not.
What surprised me over subsequent
coffee and drinks was the number of
successful, and obviously intelligent,
people in the audience who thanked
Lawson and me for having covered the
history of the EU. It turned out some
of the audience had only the vaguest
idea why, to use the original title, the
European Economic Community was
set up in the first place.
Decades have passed since the
foundation of a group of nations that
were bound together in the hope that,
after centuries of conflict, they should
not go to war among themselves again.
And, of course, the “community” has
evolved into (at present) 28 nations.
Although, as an economics
commentator, I concentrate principally
on the needless economic harm
threatened by Brexit – indeed, it is
already happening – I nevertheless find
it baffling that politicians as intelligent
and experienced as Lawson should
want to risk disrupting a Europe that
is faced by such large and powerful
global forces as those reigned over by
presidents Vladimir Putin on one side
and Donald Trump on the other.
When it comes to the economic
debate, Lawson placed hopes then – as
others, such as the Brexit secretary
David Davis, do now – on the prospect
of some magical transformation
of our commercial prospects. This
would come about by abandoning
membership of the vast and highly
beneficial European customs union
and single market, and arranging
trade deals with the likes of Trump.
Can this be the same Trump whose
regime wanted to impose penal tariffs
of 300% on imports of Bombardier’s
C-Series aircraft?
This smacks more of a trade war
than a trade “deal”. It is hoped that
Airbus will come to the rescue – in his
memoirs, Kenneth Clarke hails Airbus
as a wonderful example of cooperation
within the EU to create a rival to
Boeing, and confesses that he was
wrong to oppose it at first.
It puzzles some people why Nigel
Lawson should be so anti-European
when he spent much of his time as
chancellor (1983-89) in a succession
of abortive attempts to persuade
Margaret Thatcher to agree to putting
the pound into the European exchange
rate mechanism (ERM).
Of course, when, after Lawson’s
resignation in disgust, Thatcher was
finally worn down by the fashionable
establishment view at the time, our
brief membership of the ERM–
1990 to 1992 – ended in political
disaster for what was by then the
Major government. Unfortunately, it
emboldened the eurosceptics in the
Conservative party – or “septics”, as
Sir Edward Heath liked to call them
– and they nagged away until they got
their referendum.
However, it was for counterinflationary, not pro-European, reasons
that Lawson preached the virtues
of entry to the ERM. Monetarism
had proved a dismal failure, and he
hoped that an ERM dominated by
the Deutschmark would offer a safer
counter-inflationary anchor.
So what have Lawson and his
fellow Brexiters (I have decided that
the extra “e” in Brexiteers makes the
unruly gang sound far too romantic)
achieved? Yes, the 15% devaluation the
financial markets have imposed on the
UK – in wise anticipation of economic
disruption to come – has produced an
outburst of, ironically, Lawson’s old
enemy: inflation.
The impact of rising prices is
everywhere in the shops. The
squeeze on real incomes has become
more pronounced. The governor
of the Bank of England drops
stronger and stronger hints that,
in the face of referendum-induced
inflation, monetary policy is going
to be tightened. The justification
is an acceleration of inflation in an
atmosphere of near-full employment.
But, thanks to a sequence of events
– the weakening of the unions, the
competitive forces of globalisation,
the financial crisis of 2007-08 and the
counter-productive policy of austerity
– having a job no longer cushions
millions of people against hardship or
outright poverty. The daily news about
personal indebtedness illustrates
this. Higher interest rates can only
aggravate such problems.
Against this background, Lawson
recently chose to refer to the current
Tory chancellor, Philip Hammond,
as being “very close” to a saboteur in
refusing to spend more in preparation
for a cliff-edge, no-deal Brexit. He even
urged Theresa May to sack Hammond
– not a very nice attitude to adopt
towards a successor.
At all events, those of us who refuse
to accept Brexit should be heartened.
The referendum was conducted on
false pretences. Recent polls suggest
that, as the costs of departure become
apparent, people are waking up to the
implications of Brexit. A YouGov poll
for the Times showed 42% for Leave,
outnumbered by 47% for Remain.
We live in a representative
democracy. From the moment a
general election result is known, the
opposition begins the fightback. Nigel
Farage said on referendum night that
he would not accept a close Remain
result. The fightback is now well
under way, and the absurdity of Brexit
becomes more evident by the day.
The main economic reason for
our joining the EU was to improve
our economic performance. The
International Monetary Fund, the
OECD and many others are united in
saying that Brexit would be deleterious
for our economy. Do we really need
this self-harm?
Ofcom rules rob
BBC newsroom
of independence
et us, in round two, put James
Harding on the pedestal that
many of those who’ve worked
with him willingly erect. Let’s
take the departing BBC head
of news at his own word: that’s
he’s off to start a different kind of news
organisation that will be allowed –
ahem! – to reach conclusions, to take
sides, to have beliefs. In short, to be free.
But isn’t Harding’s current empire
a vision of freedom? No Barclays or
Murdochs telling him what to say. No
sudden collapses in advertising to bring
his plans tumbling down. This is a
newsman’s nirvana, surely?
Alas, think again. Or rather go to
bed early and read the latest Ofcom
prescriptions for corporation sanctity.
Some of them land – or would have
landed – straight in Harding’s lap.
“We will strengthen news and current
affairs rules,” Ofcom insists.” We have
increased quotas for news and current affairs on BBC1 and 2, and set new
conditions for radio. Radio 2 will be
required, for the first time, to air at least
three hours of news and current affairs
in peak time per week, and Radio 1 to
broadcast an extended news bulletin in
peak time each weekday.”
Oh! And never forget your “public purpose of providing impartial
news and information to help people
understand and engage with the world
around them in accordance with its
obligations under the charter”.
Many of these prescriptions, meanwhile, take words like “diversity” and
squeeze the life from them. Diversity in
employment on screen and in production. Diversity in serving every region
and community around the land. Diver-
sity with new targets and formulae,
subject to annual review and sanctions.
At which point it may gently be
observed that very little of this has
much to do with airing crisp news or
incisive analysis – and much more to do
with the weight of government regulation tacked slyly, for purpose, on to
charter renewal; along, of course, with
hefty cuts in the licence fee and news
budget, plus assorted contemporary
problems, like pay differentials across
the swath of news coverage.
A nightmare. No wonder Harding
reputedly longs for a life free from a)
bureaucratic criteria; b) politicians; and
c) rules for news gathering that impose
almost inhuman restrictions on good
reporting instincts.
Overseas news has different rules.
Jon Sopel doesn’t have to be fair to an
unbalanced Trump. But the big issues
that affect Britain are different.
There’s no story bigger than Brexit,
but it’s clearly a scoop-free zone. Any
new voice of opinion – say, from Sir
Martin Donnelly, lately Whitehall’s top
expert on international trade, has to be
countered 20 Today minutes later by a
Leave businessman. Brexit, like the referendum that gave it birth, is an endless
parade of he said/she said. Yet what
does impartiality imply in this context?
Only a collective lack of commitment
that, on one side or another, has no
basis in demonstrable fact. Impartiality
isn’t independence to establish truth.
I took some stick from Catalan
nationalists last week for asserting that
Catalan radio and TV channels create a
cocoon of unreality around their cause.
Which is predictable enough, in the
sense that being for or against independence is an issue that affects and
divides 7.5 million citizens. Of course,
coverage on both sides seems warped.
How could it not be, for instance, with
the ex-deputy head of one driving
organisational force for independence
plonked in charge of TV3?
But is that more or less useful than
a BBC mired in the Ofcom mud and
doomed to wheel in Iain Duncan Smith
or Nigel Lawson at ritual rebuttal time?
You can’t blame Harding for getting fed
up. Nor, alas, can you blame ordinary
viewers and listeners either.
Phone hacking
was terrible, but
there are greater
threats online
Investigative reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb. Reuters
Brutal murder of Maltese journalist
is a tragedy that should touch us all
omehow it’s the violent deaths
of female journalists that linger
longest. Veronica Guerin, fearless Irish investigative reporter,
shot dead in her car by gangsters at
a traffic light. Anna Politkovskaya,
gunned down in the stairwell of her
Moscow flat. And now Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese journalist who
spent her life turning over her island’s
stones, blown to bits by a car bomb.
There are two things worth saying
about Caruana Galizia’s brutal killing.
One is that she’s a symbol who should
make us all think of countries where
reporters and editors die regularly, simply because they’re doing their job: say
Mexico, 11 killed already this year.
But Caruana Galizia has a greater
demand for our attention. Like Guerin,
slain in Dublin. Like Politkovskaya,
murdered in Russia’s days of relative
freedom, 11 years ago. Malta is part of
our world, our European world and our
colonial heritage.
Put terrorism to one side and only a
handful of European journalists have
died for their stories in the last 25 years.
But never put complacency aside.
Malta, with its stench of corruption,
is not alone. Nor is Guerin’s fair city.
There’s a job here, and everywhere,
that needs brave correspondents to
cut through official silence. Caruana
Galizia is not one isolated murder. It is a
murder that touches us all.
wo articles from two different
media experts drop almost simultaneously. In one, Brian Cathcart,
leading advocate for Hacked Off,
upbraids the media secretary for continuing hints at relaxing press control
implementation. “She needs us to think
that there have been so many changes
since 2013 that were not foreseen by
government, parliament or the Leveson
inquiry that she... has been obliged to
step in and seek the best way to put
things right. It’s just not true … “
Meanwhile, in a long read for the
Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal sets a rather
different time frame: “Things we
thought we understood – narratives,
data, software, news events – have had
to be reinterpreted in light of Donald
Trump’s surprising win, as well as the
continuing questions about the role
that misinformation and disinformation played in his election.
“Tech journalists covering Facebook
had a duty to cover what was happening
before, during, and after the election…
But no one delivered the synthesis that
could have tied together all these disparate threads. It’s not that this hypothetical perfect story would have changed
the outcome of the election. The real
problem... is understanding the set of
conditions that led to Trump’s victory.
The informational underpinnings of
democracy have eroded, and no one has
explained precisely how.”
Now, apples and pears. Cathcart pursues the events of 2003-07 zealously.
Madrigal wouldn’t dream of delving
into events so far past. Both see terrible threats looking back. But the gulf
between their visions seems stark when
you try to look forward. One a sleazy
episode from a decade past. The other
an overarching issue we all have to
grapple with sooner or later. Like, now.
Circulation in September:
1,472,975 copies a weekday, rising
9.8% a year, a print superstar. But the
fact that it’s free doesn’t account for
Metro’s success. Free newspapers
don’t count. Except that as its editor,
Ted Young, says thousands are picking it up each morning and leaving
their smartphones in their pocket.
Except, as Young mordantly adds,
you can find stacks of FTs (£2.70 a
time) in a free pile at Heathrow – and
still there as you ready for take-off.
44 | CASH
Personal finance
Meet the teens
who are making
thousands from
selling online
‘I don’t need any
more money from
my parents now’
The 17-year-old lives in Brighton and is
studying for her A-levels.
Lydia Clear was only 14 when she caught
the bug for selling clothes online.
“My mum used to sell on eBay, and so
when I grew bored of my outfits I started
selling them on Depop.”
It wasn’t until last year that she
started buying clothes with the sole
intention of reselling online for a higher
price. “I started going to Supreme drops
in London during the school holidays
and I’d buy the most popular items,” she
says. “I’d also often go to Adidas and Nike
shops to buy hyped items that I’d heard
about on social media.”
During one Supreme drop, Clear
enlisted several of her friends to queue
and buy products that she could sell on
Depop. She spent a total of £300 on
hoodies and T-shirts and made a profit
of £1,000.
To create more hype, she also models
the clothes on Instagram, where she has
close to 10,000 followers, and add a link
to her Depop store.
She spends about two hours a day
reselling, and makes about £1,000 profit
every month. She has saved up £8,000
so far from reselling. It’s certainly a
win-win for her mum and dad. “I’ve told
my parents not to give me any money – I
don’t need any from them any more.”
Generation Z are building business empires
from their bedrooms using sites such as
Depop and eBay. Four of those cashing in on
fashion tell their stories to Suzanne Bearne
ing more. “Before long I had a whole
tower of Rubik’s Cubes.”
From there he moved on to selling
Japanese anime merchandise before
settling on his current market – reselling streetwear from Supreme, Palace and
“When I saw how much certain items
were selling for on eBay, I wanted a piece
of the action,” says Wall, who is studying
for a BA in music production at Northbrook Metropolitan College in Brighton.
“I started selling mostly T-shirts, then
coats and jackets because they go for a
bit more.”
He says he will only buy hyped items,
and reads comments and polls on Twitter to gauge the popularity of a certain
Sometimes items will “brick” (an item
that doesn’t resell for much more than
retail), so sometimes he takes a loss. He
spends about three hours a day reselling,
and makes a profit of between £1,000 to
£2,000 a month. To help increase his
chances of success, he lists the same
items on multiple resale platforms.
While Wall spends the cash on rent,
food and clothes, it’s also provided
him with an enviable money pot worth
£14,000. “I’m saving for a mortgage on a
house,” he adds.
Like Wall, Scarlett Gillespie, who
lives in Greenwich in London, was 14
when she started selling clothes on
Depop. “When I didn’t wear something
any more, I thought I may as well sell it
on,” says Gillespie, now 15. She mainly
sold branded clothes such as American
Apparel, but soon realised she could
earn more by buying and reselling
hyped products from brands with a cult-
Cash on
the web
For all the
and savings
best buys
go online
ntrepreneurial teens are selling
hyped merchandise on resale
platforms such as Depop – and
earning mega-bucks. Every
Thursday morning, a snake-like
queue forms outside streetwear
brand Supreme’s store in Soho as fans
line up in the hope of walking away with
bags filled with limited edition clothing
“dropped” that day.
Among the fanatics are teenagers, and
they’re not just there to boost the coolness of their wardrobe – they’ve come
for the sole purpose of buying highly
sought-after items to resell on Depop, a
youth-targeted (54% of its users are aged
14 to 24) auction app.
And it’s not just Supreme they’re
lapping up. Generation Z – those born
between the mid-1990s and early 2000s
– are buying hyped merchandise from
streetwear brands such as Bape, Nike
and Yeezy to resell for significantly more
on platforms such as Depop, eBay and
Forget delivering newspapers or
working shifts in the local supermarket.
Instead, these entrepreneurial teens
– many still at school or college – are
devoting hours every week to reselling
limited edition goods, a gig that’s earning them up to several thousand pounds
a month.
Reuben Wall was just 14 when he
became hooked on selling items online
after he bought one too many Rubik’s
Cubes by accident.
“I decided to sell the spare cube and
I sold it for double the price that I got
it for,” says Wall, now 18. He then reinvested the money in buying two more
and sold those on eBay, before purchas-
like following. “I’ve bought Supreme
rucksacks and tops from the drop at
Supreme’s store on Carnaby Street,” she
says. “I’ve only been once – and spent
almost a whole day queueing and in the
store – but I’ll often ask friends to buy
stuff for me.”
Gillespie also seeks out products from
labels such as Nike, Adidas and Ralph
Lauren, and scours clothes markets.
Like many of her peers, she discovers
which products are in demand by checking streetwear-focused Facebook group
The Basement. She recently bought a
Supreme backpack for £120 and sold it
for £180, handing her a tidy £60.
She earns an average £100 a month
and “wherever I go, I look out for products to resell. My dad is always asking
what I’ve sold. He thinks it’s cool.”
Many Depop resellers such as Lydia
Clear, who has 9,942 followers on Instagram, create hype around their products
by modelling them on the photo-sharing
“There’s a whole market of Instagram
influencers that sell clothing on Depop
and these markets feed off each other,”
says Petah Marian, a senior editor at
trend forecasting firm WGSN. “They
build up their influence and street credibility on the platforms – this helps them
when they come to selling.”
But does this devalue the brands at
all – or are they losing out because their
products are being sold again through
resale sites? (There’s no response to
emails sent to brands such as Supreme,
Nike and Yeezy.)
Marian says it’s a win-win for the
labels. “It’s good for brands as kids are
so attached to the items. It makes people buy into the brand more, and demand
creates desire.”
Depop founder Simon Beckerman
says the app, which has had more than
7m registrations, has “opened the doors”
to a new generation using a marketplace
for the first time.
“You have vintage sellers specialising in the 70s, people with a more Y2K
[early 2000s] aesthetic, then there are of
course the ones who are into the culture
of the drop,” he says.
Beckerman says Generation Z aren’t
afraid of building empires from their
REUBEN WALL ‘When I saw how much
certain items were selling for on eBay, I
wanted a piece of the action … I’m saving
for a mortgage on a house.’
wear something any more, I thought
I may as well sell it on … I’ll often ask
friends to buy stuff for me.’
willing to pay 10 times the retail price
within the first 10 minutes of an item
selling out if they’re really eager for it.’
bedrooms. “There’s very little risk in trying,” he adds. “There’s so much uncertainty around us nowadays that being
your own boss is a very appealing idea.”
This interest in reselling among teenagers forms a key part of Gen Z’s characteristics, says Lucie Greene, worldwide
director of the Innovation Group at JWT
Intelligence. “Gen Z are generally much
more entrepreneurial and creative in the
way they make money. They see themselves as brands, creators, marketers and
are using social media to monetise their
influence,” she adds.
Growing up as digital natives, spending time online to create their own
Depop store or building hype around
clothes on Instagram is second nature
to this demographic.
“As a generation they’re showing a
massive amount of self-awareness and
agency, as well as being extremely creative and sophisticated in their understanding of brands and culture,” says
“The combination is that you have this
micro-entrepreneurship being applied
to lots of what they do. It’s also reflective
of their interests generally. If millennials were the reality TV generation where
anyone could be a celebrity, Gen Zs are
the cohort who believe that anyone can
have their own business.”
Ask the teenagers if they feel guilty
about buying items and reselling for a
significant mark-up, and it’s pretty much
a resounding no.
“For those that genuinely support the
brand, that want to buy clothes to wear
and keep, it’s understandably annoying
to be beaten to a product by someone
just looking to make money on the exact
same item,” says 18-year-old James Marshall Griffin, who lives in Southampton
and resells hyped streetwear products
by brands such as Supreme and Palace,
making him about £600 to £1,000 a
“However, it’s inevitable people are
going to do this when people are willing to pay sometimes 10 times the retail
price within the first 10 minutes of the
item selling out if they’re really eager
for it.”
It’s a dog-eat-dog world for these
entrepreneurial teens.
Your problems
Anna Tims
Shower maker’s
attempt to back
out of guarantee
just won’t wash
the product had become obsolete and
apologises for being “unclear”.
What its emails meant to convey was
that since spare parts are no longer
available, it will replace the shower
with a similar product of the same
value. And because of the stress caused
by this lack of clarity, it will install it
for free.
In November 2007 we installed two
Kohler Daryl showers and took out
lifetime guarantees for each one. As
we have a problem with one of the
showers, I asked Kohler to investigate under this guarantee. However,
Kohler claims the lifetime guarantee
is no longer valid because of a company acquisition that took place two
and a half years before our guarantees were issued.
BA delayed my luggage and
was slow to compensate me
CF, Ipswich
This is a breathtakingly brazen attempt
to back out of a legal commitment.
Lifetime guarantees can be
ambiguous. They might mean the
expected lifetime of the product, the
trading lifetime of the manufacturer
or they might guarantee to see the
customer into their grave. The terms
and conditions should make it clear
which of these applies.
The cover letter for your
policy promises you a “lifetime of
satisfaction” and the small print
includes no caveats. Kohler Mira
bought Daryl Industries in 2005 and
your guarantee is branded Kohler
Daryl. When you pointed out that it
was issued two years after the takeover,
Kohler merely repeated in writing that
it was now invalid.
It changed its tune when The
Observer got in touch. It now claims
it was merely trying to explain that
In August my family and I flew with
British Airways to Toulouse, but my
suitcase didn’t arrive. I was given a
number to ring and an operator, who
struggled to speak either English or
French, assured me that it would be
delivered to my lodgings (90 minutes’
drive away) the following day, which
was a Sunday.
I spent most of the first day of my
holiday waiting for it. It turned out
that the delivery service employed
by BA does not work on Sunday,
and that the call centre was based in
Madrid, hence the language barrier.
I called back on the Monday and
was sent a text confirming that the
case, containing all my clothes and
my camera, would be delivered that
day. It wasn’t. On Tuesday, I got
through to lost luggage at the airport
and was told that Monday had been
a public holiday and the courier service did not operate.
It took them four full days to
restore my missing luggage. I filed a
complaint with BA and received no
response, so I wrote to the CEO.
Three weeks passed with no reply.
I then rang and, after hanging on the
line for 50 minutes, was told I would
be reimbursed for the clothing but
that there was no question of com-
CASH | 45
pensation for my spoiled holiday. Do
you agree that I have a right to that?
AC, London
A moral right, possibly. But a legal
right? No, unfortunately.
If it had been you who had been
delayed you would have been entitled
to a statutory payout under European
regulations to make up for the stress
and inconvenience. But the stress and
inconvenience of four days without
clean underwear is not recognised.
Airlines are expected to pay
for emergency essentials such as
toiletries and for expenses if you
have to return to the airport to collect
delayed luggage. They don’t have to
compensate you for lost hours of your
holiday, or even a missed onward
connection if the missing luggage
delays you. Nor will they countenance
buying new fashion wear to replace old
clothes, or replacements of valuable
items if your bag goes astray.
This why it’s important to buy
decent travel insurance. The airline
should, however, reunite bags with
passengers as quickly as possible.
“When bags are delayed our teams
do everything they can to reunite
customers with their belongings as
quickly as possible,” says BA. “We also
provide help with essentials while
customers are waiting for their bags to
It has now refunded you the €190
you spent to tide you over. For any
more you would have to approach your
travel insurer if you took out a policy.
If you need help email Anna Tims at or write
to Your Problems, The Observer, Kings
Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU.
Include an address and phone number.
Fee £
Hanley Economic Building Society
Rate %
Term Max LTV %
0845 070 5090
Hanley Economic Building Society
0845 070 5090
Post Office Money
0800 077 8033
First Direct
5 years
0845 610 0 103
0845 070 5090
0800 169 6010
Newcastle Building Society
0345 606 4488
bbr tracker + 0.74%
2 years
0800 030 4640
bbr tracker + 0.84%
2 years
0800 030 4640
bbr tracker + 0.99%
2 years
0800 030 4640
offset bbr tracker + 1.34%
2 years
0845 070 5090
Yorkshire Building Society
offset fixed
0345 120 0874
Savings Builder
123 Current Account
RCI Bank
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Online Easy Access
120-Day Notice Account
Regular Savings Account 3
Charter Savings Bank
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Axis Bank UK Ltd
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Ikano Bank
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Leeds Building Society
Limited Issue Online
Access Isa (3)
Virgin Money
2-Year Fixed-Rate Cash
e-Isa (282)
Direct Isa
3-Year Investment Gtee
Growth Bond
Bank of Cyprus
Min £
Junior ISA
easy access
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easy access
0800 218 2352
easy access
120 days notice
easy access
03451 220 022
1 year
2 years
3 years
4 years
5 years
easy access
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easy access
2 years
easy access
3 years
No wdls until 18
A branch opening; B rate includes bonus; C monthly fee applies; D based on £400 monthly spend; F fixed rate; I internet
opening; P postal opening; R save £1 to £500 every month; T telephone opening. Please check rates before investing.
Provider card name
0% Offers
Sainsbury’s Bank Nectar
32 months
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30 months
Santander All in One
39 months
MBNA Ltd Platinum
38 months
fee %
Repr APR
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1.0% Standard + Intro
0.5% Standard + Intro
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Table compiled 20/10/17. In case of late changes, always check rates and terms before transacting.
All above figures from financial information business Defaqto (
Four of the best UK landscape photographs of the year
1. David Hopley Cast
Everingham, East Riding, Yorkshire
“The sun was low in the sky, which created a long shadow from the lone tree.
The drone I used gave me the freedom
to try different viewpoints, but I thought
this composition worked very well.”
2. Jeff Overs Wet Sleddale
“A hiker salutes the Wet Sleddale
Reservoir as it overflows down the
21 metre-high dam, creating a wall of
water following heavy rain and high
winds. A late-night text message from
the local farmer, who I had befriended,
read ‘overflowing!’ That sent me hurtling up the M6 before dawn.”
3. George Robertson
The Cauldron
Grangemouth, Stirlingshire
“I had been planning this for some time
… I had to wait for a cold, clear and
breezy winter evening to allow me to
capture the structures lit up against the
early evening sky, with streaks of steam
rising from the cooling towers.”
4. Andrew Bulloch Skatepark
under the northern lights
Musselburgh, East Lothian
“I thought that having the skatepark in
the foreground would be unusual, and
a change from the mountain scenes
that aurora photos usually feature. I
only just caught it in time, as the aurora
faded soon afterwards.”
■ This is a selection of winning and
shortlisted images from the 2017 Photographer of the Year competition. See the
full gallery at
(52F) Hull
Channel Is, Cent S England, SW England, W Midlands, Wales: Mostly cloudy
today with the odd shower, mainly across the coast. A moderate to fresh
north-westerly wind. Max 9-14C (48-57F). Overcast tonight with periods of
rain arriving after midnight. Min 7-11C (45-52F).
SE England, London, E Anglia, E Midlands: Generally dry today with mostly
cloudy conditions. A moderate to fresh north-westerly wind. Max 11-14C (5257F). Staying generally dry tonight with clear periods, mainly east of London
and afternoon. Min 7-10C (45-50F).
Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, NW England: Mostly cloudy today with scattered
showers, mainly at the coast. A fresh to strong north-westerly wind. Max
8-12C (46-54F). Staying mostly cloudy tonight with spells of rain along the
coast, mainly late. Min 6-10C (43-50F).
1 Squall (4)
3 Exotic dancer (8)
9 Exposed to the elements (4-3)
10 Permed (5)
11 Satisfied (5)
12 Grief (7)
13 Multifarious (13)
16 Dilapidated (3-4)
18 Subject of discussion (5)
20 Propose to a meeting (5)
21 Eastern Mediterranean honorific (7)
22 Prohibited zone (2-2,4)
16 Fair
16 Cloudy
16 Rain
15 Cloudy
16 Showers 16 Fair
16 Fair
17 Cloudy
14 Cloudy
16 Showers 17 Showers 16 Fair
16 Fair
16 Rain
15 Cloudy
14 Showers 15 Rain
14 Cloudy
15 Cloudy
15 Cloudy
14 Showers 15 Rain
14 Showers 14 Showers 15 Cloudy
15 Cloudy
15 Showers 17 Rain
16 Cloudy
18 Rain
16 Cloudy
17 Cloudy
18 Cloudy
14 Fair
16 Cloudy
15 Showers
18 Showers 18 Fair
17 Rain
14 Cloudy
14 Rain
16 Showers 16 Cloudy
18 Cloudy
17 Cloudy
15 Showers 16 Cloudy
16 Cloudy
15 Showers
18 Fair
14 Cloudy
14 Showers 16 Cloudy
15 Cloudy
15 Cloudy
14 Fair
14 Cloudy
18 Showers 17 Fair
17 Fair
17 Cloudy
17 Cloudy
16 Cloudy
18 Showers 18 Fair
18 Fair
19 Cloudy
17 Cloudy
16 Showers 16 Showers 16 Fair
17 Fair
17 Cloudy
16 Cloudy
16 Showers 16 Showers 16 Fair
17 Fair
17 Rain
15 Cloudy
15 Cloudy
17 Cloudy
18 Cloudy
15 Fair
18 Cloudy
16 Cloudy
13 sh
Manchester 12
New York
29 st
Birmingham 13 sh
Nottingham 14 sh
Rio de Jan
15 w
Bournem’th 14
San Fran
Ronaldsway 14
Hong Kong 27
S’hampton 14 sh
Sao Paulo
27 st
14 sh
Stornoway 15 sh
24 st
24 sh
Teignmouth 12
L Angeles
22 sh
15 sh
Weymouth 14
Washington 25
23 Scrutinise (4)
1 Benevolent person (4,9)
2 Extract metal from ore (5)
4 Ignore (4,1,5,3)
5 Under an assumed name (abbrev.) (5)
6 Colonnade (7)
7 Back-up band (6,7)
8 Loiter (6)
14 Flood defence (7)
15 Advise (6)
17 Musical drama (5)
19 Sudden fright (5)
Stuck? For help call 0906 200 83 83 or text OBSERVERQ followed by a space, the day and date the crossword appeared another space
and the CLUE reference (e.g OBSERVERQ Sunday5 Across7) to 88010. Calls cost £1.10 a minute, plus your telephone company’s access
charge. Texts cost £1 per clue plus standard network charges. Service supplied by ATS. Call 0330 333 6946 for customer service (charged
at standard rate).
First Quarter 27 Oct
Sea, Essex (Sunday) 9.3hrs.
15 sh
16 sh
17 f
17 f
16 c
25 c
21 sh
19 sh
19 s
21 s
20 s
20 f
22 f
23 s
23 s
24 s
22 f
12 sh
11 c
11 sh
11 c
12 c
12 r
11 c
10 r
10 r
10 f
11 c
11 r
15 c
11 c
16 f
18 f
21 s
20 f
20 f
22 s
24 f
25 s
25 s
25 f
26 s
5 f
5 r
4 r
4 c
8 c
4 r
15 c
18 f
20 f
20 f
20 c
18 c
10 sh
11 sh
11 c
13 c
12 f
11 r
19 f
21 s
22 s
21 s
21 s
21 s
17 sh
17 f
16 f
16 f
16 f
15 c
17 Showers 16 Fair
°C Wthr (Maximum temperature and overall condition)
13 Fair
15 Showers 14 Fair
Pressure in millibars,
(inches in brackets)
13 Showers 14 Cloudy
Birmingham 15 Cloudy
14 Showers 15 Cloudy
Moon rises
15 sh
N Orleans 29 c
15 sh
Wellington 16 f
NE England, SE Scotland, SW Scotland, NE Scotland: Mostly cloudy today with London
Key: c=cloud, dr=drizzle, ds=dust storm, f=fair, fg=fog, g=gales, h=hail, m=mist, r=rain,
showers, scattered in Scotland and isolated and in the morning across northsh=showers, sl=sleet, sn=snow, s=sun, th=thunder, w=windy. Forecast/readings for noon
eastern Scotland. A moderate north-westerly wind. Max 7-14C (45-57F).
Generally dry tonight with clear periods. Min 0-8C (32-46F).
W Isles, N Isles, NW Scotland: Mostly cloudy today with scattered to numerBirmingham
Weather last week
Weather this week
ous showers. A moderate to fresh north-westerly wind. Max 3-13C (37-55F). Bristol
Warmest by day: Holbeach, London
Chance of rain
Mostly cloudy tonight with spells of rain mainly across the coastal regions. Min Dublin
Lincolnshire (Monday)
0-11C (32-52F).
Coldest by night: Cairngorm Glasgow
Northern Ireland, Ireland: Mostly cloudy today with scattered showers. A
Summit, Scotland (Weds)
moderate to fresh westerly wind. Max 5-14C (41-57F). Becoming overcast
Wettest: Capel Curig,
tonight with periods of rain, arriving after midnight in Northern Ireland. Min
Clwyd (Friday) 54mm
Sun rises
Moon sets 1940
4-12C (39-54F).
Sunniest: Southend-on-
Storm Brian will be in the North Sea
on Sunday, but blustery showers
will still be moving across parts of
England and Wales. The wind from
Brian will subside by the afternoon
hours. Storm Brian will approach the
Netherlands with some gusty winds
for the overnight with periods of rain.
An area of low pressure will rapidly develop across Northern Italy, which will
bring snow to the Alps and heavy rain
and thunderstorms to north-eastern
Italy and the northern Balkans. Some
of this rain will be heavy at times that
could lead to flooding, especially given
how dry it has been recently. Rain
will fall across Poland and southern
Sweden. Much of eastern Europe into
Greece will be generally dry. It will be
seasonable and generally dry as well
across Spain and Portugal.
14 Cloudy
15 Showers 14 Rain
13 Showers 15 Cloudy
(56F) Hull
Manchester 15 Cloudy
°C Weather (Maximum temperature and overall daytime weather conditions)
Your forecast for the week ahead
Gone with the wind in Lahinch, Co Clare, as
storm Ophelia caused lockdown across Ireland.
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by AccuWeather, Inc ©2017
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