Thursday, January 13, 2011

Layer 420 . . . Libraries, Social Hubs, Closures, Philistines, Pedlars of Fear, Securocrats and New Labour Nasties

It's now beginning to feel like the bad old days of Thatcher and the Nasty Party. Every day the blood starts to boil at the sheer awfulness, meanness and stupidity of government.

This week it's the continuing effects of unnecessary cuts in spending, the rise in prices caused by increasing VAT, the money wasted on goverment spies, the closing of libraries, and so on.

The closure of libraries is appalling. You can just sense the glee of the local bureaucrats and politicians, all of them presumably card-carrying members of the Provisional wing of the Daily Mail, who are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of shutting libraries - which from their point of view is a triple whammy.

1) Sod the working classes and their inability/unwillingness to buy their own books and computers, and to rent their own broadband.

2) Stop paying the salaries of librarians, and spending a fortune on new books.

3) Sell off valuable premises in some prime locations, thereby bringing even more money into their coffers.

Of course this works wonderfully for central government as well - being able to pass on the blame for library closures to local government, on the grounds that they didn't directly order the closures, and in any case they suggested that libraries could be run by 'volunteers'.

Have a look at this excellent article by John Harris, and learn more about the essential role of local libraries as community 'hubs', and the key role of librarians:

Librarians: 'We do so much more than shelve books and say shhh'

The Tories clearly don't know how much libraries do. Cuts will threaten the very social bonds they claim to want to promote

Fifteen minutes south of Scarborough is Eastfield Community Resource Centre – opened four years ago, to serve one of the area's most disadvantaged communities. In addition to lending out books, what would once have been a mere library has obeyed the modern demand to transform itself into a "hub", and provides what might look to a lot of people like the raw materials of social mobility: internet access, parent and toddler groups, space and resources to help with school homework, meeting rooms and more.

On the day I visit, four staff members are seeing to the needs of a steady stream of people. The shelves bulge with titles that point to horizons well beyond these parts: David Remnick's Obama biography, The Bridge; a rich work of pop-cultural scholarship entitled Dylan's Visions Of Sin; and a coffee-table study of Matisse. "You can't learn everything at school," one local tells me; this place surely offers instant proof.

In Somerset, 24 out of 40 libraries may soon close. In Doncaster, 13 of the 26 are under threat. The same applies to 20 out of 43 libraries in Oxfordshire, 7 of the 12 in Conwy, 23 of the 32 in Cornwall, and 9 of the 11 on the Isle of Wight. The noise of protest grows greater by the day: do not be surprised if pockets of local dissent soon fuse together, and cause no end of problems for both national and local government.
Why can't Cameron, Clegg, Pickles and co understand that this kind of thing makes this country look utterly pathetic in the eyes of the rest of the world - or at least the parts of it that aren't run by similar Philistine arseholes whose greed and selfishness are the key components of their DNA? Admittedly those sorts of people are the ones who tend to rise to the top in politics - in all countries - but anyone with a shred of decency and intelligence surely understands that for a country as wealthy as Britain to be CUTTING BACK on library provision instead of expanding it is a vile act of cultural and social vandalism. Obviously this sort of thing increases social divisions, instead of reducing inequality. It reduces people's prospects of lifelong learning instead of increasing them. It reduces social cohesion instead of increasing it. It destroys social capital instead of multiplying it.


It might be worth also taking another look at this article from a while back:

Our libraries are at risk - just when we need them most

Lean times are already bringing cuts in services, with little heed to the vital role they play and how they shape futures

Also refer back to the article by Catherine Bennett commented on in Layer 389 back in November:


You should also take a look at this piece by Simon Jenkins this week:

The state's pedlars of fear must be brought to account

Why have a private firm run police to spy on a few greens? The Ratcliffe Six case is a warning story of securocrats out of control

The picture of the Ratcliffe Six, who appeared to be "greens" from central casting . . .  recalled Chesterton's satire on the early Met police special branch, The Man Who Was Thursday, in which all the members of the "supreme anarchist council" turned out to be policemen. So, are the greens all policemen, and if so what is their game?

Mark Stone, aka Kennedy, clearly had a good job. He could climb trees, buy drinks, sleep with girls, shout at the fuzz and chain himself to nuclear power stations, all on the taxpayer. The only thing that went wrong was a bad attack of Stockholm syndrome. Kennedy fell in love with the enemy. He started worrying about global warming, which was not in the script.

Running Kennedy – let alone his colleagues – cost the taxpayer £250,000 a year, or £1.75m over seven years. Whether tree-hugging and the occasional trespass constituted threats to national security is moot. A gilded sledgehammer was clearly being deployed to crack a few nuts. They were not a serious terrorist threat. The denouement was a costly fiasco. This is what happens when authority has too much money and no one in charge to impose a sense of proportion.

It is significant that Kennedy did not work for any police force. He worked for a murky organisation called the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). With a budget of £5m this operates as a branch of the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU) which, in turn, works alongside the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU). Ask where this stands, and you will be told it reports to the Association of Chief Police Officers' Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee, codenamed Acpo(TAM).

Only those who have tarried in the foggy corridors of the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Metropolitan police can have any notion of the Orwellian extravagance of these places. Agencies, units and groups cruise shark-like round the feet of terrified Home Office ministers. Their staffs, expenses, overtime and accommodation are crammed into London's Scotland Yard and Tintagel House. If challenged, they incant their motto: "We keep you safe."

Kennedy's bosses in the NPOIU work for Acpo, but this is not what it seems. It is not, as its name suggests, the police officers' staff club, nor is it a public body of any sort. It is a private company, incorporated in 1997. It is sub-contracted by Whitehall to operate the police end of the government's counterterrorism and "anti-extremism" strategies. It is thus alongside MI5, but even less accountable.

As a private company, Acpo need not accede to Freedom of Information requests and presumably could distribute its profit to its own board. The whole operation is reminiscent of the deals set up by the Pentagon with private firms to run the Iraq and Afghan wars, free of publicity or accountability. There is no more vivid testament to the illiberalism of the Blair regime than these eccentric arrangements. They were all approved by the likes of David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, John Reid and Jacqui Smith.
These people are the real baddies in this story - Blair, Blunkett, Clarke, Reid and Smith. Every one of them a nasty piece of work - plotters, careerists, authoritarians, eliteists, bullies, egomaniacs and all-round arseholes. No more interested in civil liberties and justice than they are in socialism and greater equality in our society. New Labour through and through. It's mainly thanks to them - their negligence, acquiescence and positive intent - that the system became what it clearly is now, and which somebody needs to do something about as a matter of urgency. So step forward Teresa May . . .


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