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Last week a 78-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder after a suspected burglar was stabbed to death. The man, Richard Osborn-Brooks, discovered two intruders in his home South-East London in the early hours of the morning. One of the intruders was armed with a screwdriver and forced Mr Osborn Brooks into his kitchen where a struggle ensued and the intruder was stabbed. He was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead several hours later. The police, faced with a dead body and a man admitting to stabbing him, not surprisingly arrested Mr Osborn-Brooks on suspicion of murder.
This provoked a furious backlash in the tabloid press and some sections of the public. The Sun declared Mr Osborn-Brooks to be a hero and a GoFundMe page raising thousands of pounds for his legal defence was set up, one excited supporter on Facebook even declared that Mr Osborn-Brooks “deserves a medal” for his actions.
Within 48 hours, the police investigated the circumstances of the death and released a statement saying that Mr Osborn-Brooks would face no charges. You would think the tabloids would be happy with this turn of events as the police seemingly agreed with them that, given the circumstances of having his home invaded and being physically attacked, Mr Osborn-Brooks response was justified even if that caused the death of the intruder. However the tabloid press fury was undiminished declaring that Mr Osborn-Brooks should never have been arrested in the first place.
This was a tragic event, the elderly man and his wife suffered the trauma of having their home invaded and now he has to live with the guilt of having taken a life. We may not feel much sympathy for a man who sought to terrorise two pensioners but there will be a family mourning him.
The right wing press love to write stories about how the legal system and the courts are bias towards the criminal as part of their endless quest to terrify people, and by dropping the charges in this case the police undermined that narrative.
The legal position in these situations is that you can use reasonable force to protect yourself. As a general rule, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-defence. You are given greater protection under the law if force is used to protect yourself or others when dealing with a burglar. England’s Crown Prosecution Service says if you act in reasonable self-defence and the intruder dies you will still have acted lawfully. What is it that the right wing press find objectionable in that position? Do we really want to give free pass to someone who tortures an alleged burglar to death?
A crime was committed, a man lost his life, the police looked into the circumstances and found this elderly man was justified in using deadly force to protect himself. For once the system worked – don’t let the right wing press tell you otherwise.
No place like home – but where is home when you are on wheels?
The shows, the carnival, the fairground integral parts to a gala, the Highland games, a village fete and important part of Scottish communities; essential components to local economies. What are the shows?
The flashing lights and ringing bells, the stall holders calling out to come to their stall. “Hook a duck, every one’s a winner!”, “Can you ring the bell? “Have a go!” The smell of candy floss, toffee apples, donuts. Hotdogs? Hamburgers? You aren’t sure but the smell of fresh fried grub makes your stomach ache even though you already had your dinner.
You wait though because you haven’t been on the big rides or in my case the sticky wall yet. You stand in that circle drum, everybody laughing, knowing what is coming, it starts off so slow. Turning a wee bit, the young boys look determined, ready to perform acrobatics to impress whatever wee lassie they are winching. The speed picks up, the floor suddenly drops away and the boys flip upside down, everybody starts screaming and laughing. The force of the spin has pinned you to the wall, you are trying to look around, someone to your left looks awfy peely wally, are the gonna…? Aw naw!
Wean’s running about with plush toys, their bounty’s won at different attractions. From shooting galleries to hammers; small and large to test your strength. Hook a ducks; a children’s favourite. Can you knock over skittles with a throw of the ball? Can you throw a ring round some whisky?
The annual Glasgow holiday is even called the Glasgow Fair. Where for generations Glaswegians went doon the water to Ayr, Rothesay, Troon, Saltcoats and other seaside towns. And every year there was a carnival in the Glasgow Green. A summer celebration, I don’t think i ever missed as a child.
I even have a jigsaw of me and my niece as wee tots on a big green helicopter, on a roundabout. It was the winter carnival though at the Kelvin Hall. This has now moved to the SECC and is better known as the Irn Bru carnival. Where it is still tradition to go with the family between Christmas and New Year.
With fairgrounds being so popular in Glasgow and the West, it should be no surprise that…
“An estimated 80% of show people are Glaswegians, living in about 50 privately-owned or leased yards in pockets to the east, south and north of the city.”
The community of folk who travel and operate the fairgrounds all over Scotland are facing ever increasing difficulties. Show folk have intrinsic links to their yards, carnival sites and surrounding communities. Although the nature of business for the modern showman has drastically changed from 100yrs ago, many still travel with their wagons to various towns and villages often occupying the same routes at the same times for many years. These businessmen and women operate in all aspects of trade, diversifying and settling in communities, some have coffee shops and catering businesses, some have property portfolios and 9-5 jobs.
But the thing that unites them is their community, their inherent sense of belonging, their language and perceptions of self, they will remember the carnival differently from me. They might remember the smell of diesel and the “put put” of the generator, (lighting set for the well versed). Showfolk will remember the hard work, the long build ups and pull downs, gathering with their friends and attending dances, the weather when they had to get towed by a tractor and moving to the next town or village.
Imagine being able to go to work where you can meet up with all your family, your extended cousins and aunties, kids you used to go to school with. It would be such a privilege to work a wee kids Ferris wheel that your great grandad also operated, imagine having that connection and sense of belonging. It’s so beautiful and should be treasured.
As a punter going to the carnival means different things to me than it would a showman. But I can clearly see the deep and varied traditions, I can appreciate the art of the stalls and could endlessly stare at the vintage graphics on display. But i am surprised to find that this amazing culture has no official status or protection.
Even though a distinct and unique culture, showmen aren’t afforded the same status as Irish travellers or Romany Gypsies. Fairground sites where showmen can also park their wagons alongside their valuable machinery are rapidly disappearing. Static year round yards where showmen can be secure in the knowledge their children have a stable and consistent education are rapidly being eradicated.
Showfolk face discrimination like many minorities, one story I was told that broke my heart was of a young kid going for her first day at a new school, her classmates made her feel welcome so much so that they invited her “to come throw stones at the gypsies”. At her own home, her own people.
The lazy stereotyping of the general population also doesn’t help. An increasing amount of show children are doing well at school, attending university and of those who don’t continue in eduction have a hard working ethos instilled in them from being part of a family business from a young age.
The fairground community is a vibrant, hardworking, complex part of Scottish society. The skills, knowledge and history so connected to Glasgow that in the Museum of Transport there is a whole display dedicated to Showfolk, their vehicles, their homes and the history of the fairground.
What now is seen as a trendy lifestyle choice, living off grid in eco friendly homes, maximising space and storage, the showfolk of Scotland have been doing for centuries, such as conserving water, recycling and up cycling. Although a modern chalet is more akin to a modern semi detached new build than an off grid earthen shed, Amazing Spaces and George Clarke should check out some of the innovative chalet design in various Glasgow yards.
Showfolk take such pride in the appearance of their stalls at a carnival, imagine the pride they have in their homes? Showman’s yards are like many estates within Glasgow, some immaculate, well maintained, tidy properties others not so pristine. Rides, trailers and machinery vital to their livelihood, kept close by for security purposes. They are nice places, where everybody knows your name , would help out in any situation and somewhere I’d want to live. This is a throwback to traditional Scottish Communities where every neighbour knew everyone on the street. Everyone knows everyone. If they don’t know you they ask “Who do you belong to?” and quickly a connection is established.
So imagine living somewhere for 37 years, establishing roots, having a short term lease throughout that tenure precluding you from investing in it, you become more of a maintainer or caretaker than an owner of that place. Moving into it as a dump. A black site, unsuitable for anything else so the council lets you park on it. But you still have to pay rent, council tax and have a licence to occupy. Then out of the blue, just because that place you have lived for all this time, is now trendy, you have to move. What are your options here? Move your kids from School, depart from your friends in the local community? Will your neighbour you have parked next to for 37 years be beside you again? Your next site will not be in The West End, nor will it necessarily be in the South side where you are but most likely the alternative will be in another black site – ghettoised in 2018.
Why write these thoughts you may ask, well this injustice is happening now to people in Glasgow, because when it comes to it they are people, like you and me, being told to move because that bit of land is now worth more to the council with them off it. This has happened in Patrick, Vinegar Hill to name but a few and it is now happening in Govan. The two adjoining yards in Govan, the Stringfellow’s and Johnstone’s are being closed, the council not allowing their lease to be renewed. The papers heralded the new development without initially reporting the impact on the people. The occupants for nearly four decades are being evicted. With limited options of another location. To be geographically displaced is one thing but when you think about what their options are most likely to another black site, not desirable (at that time) and without their ties to the local community and possibly their established businesses in that area, not much of a choice really! Will this be owned or will this be leased? If they do get somewhere else is there really any certainty over the future of showfolk and their established roots in Glasgow…
Not everyone who identifies as showmen travels with the fairground. Elderly folk retire to these yards and continue to be protected and looked after by their community.
This also goes hand in hand with other economic influences affecting showmen such as inconsistent licensing regimes across Scotland, all of which threaten their economic well being and way of life.
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Recently the Scotland in Union organisation hit the headlines with a major information leak to independence bloggers such as Wings Scotland and Bellacaledonia and even the unionist These Islands got a little press coverage when a member of its advisory council, Professor Nigel Biggar, got into a row about his defence of the British Empire but More United forms the third leg of the unionist triumvirate and even though it has proved to be the most dangerous so far, not many people know what it did and what it does.
More United is a brainchild of Lord (Paddy) Ashdown. Its stated aim seems laudable enough, it’s there to create a new model of politics, making it less extreme, less tribal and giving the electorate more power to make an impact and although it’s not explicitly unionist a quick glance at its “Team” shows strong unionist make up to its management.
The original More United company was formed by Austin Rathe, Paddy Ashdown, Maurice Biriotti and Elizabeth (Bess) Mayhew on the 18th of June 2016 and the current directors are Austin Rathe, Paddy Ashdown, Maurice Biriotti, Corinne Sawers and Dan Snow.
On the More United website information on the “The Team” page is split into two sections.
The first section is simply called “The Team” and comprises, Bess Mayhew, Austin Rathe, Corinne Sawers, Maurice Biriotti and Paddy Ashdown.
The second section are the “Convenors” (and it has some cross-over with the aforementioned Team).
Anne-Marie Imafidon, Social Tech Entrepreneur
Clare Gerada, Medical Practitioner
Dan Snow, Broadcaster
Gia Milinovich, Writer and Presenter
Janet Smith, Former High Court Judge
Jeremy Bliss, Lawyer and Entrepreneur
Jonathon Porritt, Environmentalist and Green Party Member
Josh Babarinde, Social Entrepreneur and Youth Worker
Luke Pritchard, Entertainer
Maajid Nawaz, Author, Activist and Columnist
Martha Lane Fox, Entrepreneur
Maurice Biriotti, Businessman and Academic
Paddy Ashdown, Politician
Rumi Verjee, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Simon Schama, Writer, Broadcaster and Professor
Sunny Hundal, Columnist and Lecturer
There are some interesting snippets of information about those Team members and Convenors which can be found on the web.
Corinne Sawers’ father Sir Robert John Sawers used to run MI6.
There are three members of the House of Lords in there, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, Lord Verjee and Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho.
There’s a strong Lib-Dem influence. Paddy Ashdown of course, the ex-leader of the Lib-Dems and a Lib-Dem Lord. Bess Mayhew and Austin Rathe are both ex-Lib-Dem staffers, Clare Gerada is a Lib-Dem, Josh Babarinde used to work as a parliamentary assistant for Lib-Dem MP Stephen Lloyd, Maajid Nawaz was the Lib-Dem candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn constituency in 2015 and Rumi Verjee is a Lib-Dem Lord.
Team members and convenors who came out against Scottish independence are Clare Gerada, Martha Lane Fox and Jonathon Porritt on twitter, Paddy Ashdown on Question Time, Simon Schama as a signatory to the “Let’s Stay Together” open letter and Sunny Hundal on his blog and of course, last but not least Dan Snow who was heavily involved in the Electoral Commission registered “Let’s stay together” campaign and the Trafalgar Square rally.
If Scotland in Union, These Islands and More United form the three legs of a unionist triumvirate in Scotland then Dan Snow forms the apex of the three which links them all together. He’s an enthusiastic promoter of Scotland in Union, appearing at dinners and doing videos for them, he’s on the Advisory Council for These Islands and he’s a director and convenor of More United.
So what does More United actually do? Very simply, it fundraises and uses the cash to support candidates in a General Election who support its values.
The problem for the SNP, quite apart from the unionist Dan Snow as a director, is that one of More United’s values is:
“Openness: we welcome immigration, but understand it must work for everyone, and believe in bringing down international barriers, not raising them.”,
which makes it very difficult for them to endorse an SNP candidate even if by some odd stroke of fate they wanted to. The unionist make up of the More United team includes Dan Snow, Paddy Ashdown and Simon Schama so it’s probably no accident that “bringing down international barriers, not raising them” was written into their values. Whatever happens in the rest of the UK, in Scotland More United will be a unionist organisation which will always support candidates against the SNP.
The following twitter exchange is instructive:
Replying to @MoreUnitedUK
Why are we attempting to deseat SNP mps?
10:10 PM – 5 May 2017
More United @MoreUnitedUK
Replying to @minkpill
Hey! MU is firmly supportive of maintaining the union of England and Scotland (and the rest of the UK!)
10:59 AM – 8 May 2017
So what did More United do in Scotland in the 2017 General Election? In 2017 More United supported and endorsed six candidates in Scotland of whom the majority were not surprisingly Lib-Dems and where their nearest opponent in each case was an SNP candidate. They were:
Alistair Carmichael (LD) Orkney and Shetland against Miriam Brett (SNP)
Christine Jardine (LD) Edinburgh West against Toni Giugliano (SNP)
Jamie Stone (LD) Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross against Paul Monaghan (SNP)
Ian Murray (Lab) Edinburgh South against Jim Eadie (SNP)
Jo Swinson (LD) East Dunbartonshire against John Nicolson (SNP)
Elizabeth Riches (LD) North East Fife against Stephen Gethins (SNP)
From Electoral Commission data More United donated:
£5,000 to Christine Jardine in Edinburgh West
£3,000 to Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire
£5,000 to Elizabeth Riches in North East and Central Fife
£2,000 to Jamie Stone in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.
Although this last one is an odd one. He received his money a month after the election on 07/07/2017. Every other More United donation was before the poll.
So in Scotland they pumped a direct cash injection of £13,000 into three target Lib-Dem constituency campaigns before the election and £2,000 into a Lib-Dem seat after the election and of the six candidates they supported, five got elected and Elizabeth Riches just got pipped at the post by two votes by the SNP’s Stephen Gethins in North East Fife.
Support was not just limited to cash. Support can include formal endorsement, donations and voluntary support. Each supported constituency had a More United page and the call for support for each candidate on the the last day of the campaign is still up if you Google for it.
From the More United annual report:
“As well as donations, 1000 MU supporters around the UK were mobilised to volunteer around the country. Collectively they gave 3,000 hours over 5 weeks – the equivalent of a year and a half’s full time work.”
Now to be fair to More United they were not the sole donors to these constituencies. From the Electoral Commission data, only six Lib-Dem constituencies got direct donations between the announcement of the General Election on 18th of April 2017 and the poll on the 8th of June 2017 and the total figures are below. (It’s seven if you count Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross who got a donation from More United after the election.)
Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire got £35,000
Christine Jardine in Edinburgh West got £24,000
Elizabeth Riches who tried for North East and Central Fife got £20,000
Alistair Carmichael in Orkney & Shetland got £12,000
John Waddell in Aberdeenshire West got £5,000 (A single donation from Balmoral Comtec Limited based in Aberdeen.)
Martin Veart in Edinburgh North East and Leith got £2,000 (From a North East and Leith Lib-Dem donor)
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) got £2,000 from More United but not until a month after the election.
From the figures it’s easy to see the four target Lib-Dem seats where a lot of money was directed in from the outside to support the campaign. They must have been gutted not to get North East and Central Fife and it’s certainly clear why Jo Swinson had money to burn on undelivered leaflets.
More United were not the only donors or the only reason that the four Lib-Dem MPs and and Ian Murray got into Parliament but they certainly were significant donors of cash and organised help for campaign work in the target constituencies.
Scotland in Union is there to provide funding to the Unionist side in the next referendum, These Islands is there to give a veneer of academic respectability to their arguments and More United is committed to fighting against the SNP in elections.
As a unionist organisation More United is much more dangerous than Scotland in Union in elections because even though Scotland in Union spent £73,818.21 in Scotland in the 2017 General Election they spent it on their own literature and events while More United donated directly to four of their five Lib-Dem candidates and endorsed and organised help for Carmichael and Murray.
More United claim to have raised over £500,000 before the last General Election and from Electoral Commission data they donated £159,800 in the 2017 General Election to various candidates across the UK. Because they spent more than £250,000 their spending figures are not up on the Electoral Commission site yet and when that information goes live it will be interesting to see what they spent their money on and if there’s a way to find out what portion was spent in Scotland.
More United have their sights on Scottish Parliamentary elections,
“As we grow and raise more, we may begin to support candidates in other types of election, such as Scottish and Welsh or mayoral elections. “
And with over 94,000 supporters, including 14,000 paying members they have ambition:
“We aim to make More United the biggest source of people, money and power in British politics. If we do, the extreme forces that have taken over our democracy won’t stand a chance.”
When it comes to elections forget Scotland in Union, the real unionist danger comes from More United.