Saturday, 27 April 2013

Does the Heart Beat Differently in Times of Crisis: 'Love in the Time of Crisis' by Theopi Skarlatos

Does the heart beat differently in times of crisis? 

Sex worker Anna says: "We don't have time for love anymore."
Activist Natasa observes: "I have friends who can't even afford condoms." 
Entrepreneur Zoe reflects on her possible childless future: "They say 'Love conquers all'. But maybe it doesn't..."
   Natasa adds: "They..," meaning governments and politicians, "are imposing some kind of misery" on the Greek people with their austerity and financial crisis.

Love in crisis
The above quotes are taken from Love in the Time of Crisisa three-minute mini-documentary by Theopi Skarlatos.
  This poetic film reveals the untold and statistically unquantifiable story of what is happening to personal relationships in Greece as biting austerity hits the fan.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, April 2013

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Thatcher's Disputed Legacy: Squandering North Sea Oil, Norway's Sovereign Wealth Fund

Did the late former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher squander Britain's 'great black hope'? Paul Coleman outlines another furious Thatcher legacy debate.
  Rewind. It's November 2, 1975. BP's Aberdeen HQ in Scotland. The Queen gently paws a gold-plated button. North Sea Oil starts to flow.
   Outposts like Nigg, Sullom Voe and Aberdeen gush with oil men and money. The Scottish National Party chimes, 'It's Scotland's Oil'.
  North Sea Oil peaks in the mid-1980s. Thatcher's Treasury receives a tenth of its tax revenues from oil companies.

Other way Norway
North Sea Oil's other beneficiary - Norway - stashes revenues in a national deposit or 'sovereign wealth' fund. By 2013, Norway enjoys a growing $700 billion fund.
  Thatcher did not follow Norway's example. Nor did she allow the British National Oil Corporation - created by Labour energy secretary Tony Benn in the mid-1970s - to take a majority stake in the North Sea oil fields and invest in onshore industries, infrastructure and jobs.
  In fact, Thatcher privatised BNOC in 1982, clearing the way for BP to buy it. She spent oil revenues on tax cuts for the wealthy and on welfare benefits for the growing mass of unemployed people.

Sovereign wealth
PriceWaterhouseCoopers economist John Hawksworth calculated in 2008 that had Britain saved and invested its oil revenues, the British people would've now enjoyed one of the world's biggest sovereign wealth funds - comparable to the Arab oil state funds now buying up huge chunks of prime central London land and property.

Opportunity knocks...again
After years of declining oil production, 14 new North Sea oilfields look set to produce 470m barrels of oil in 2013 - rising to 2m barrels per day by 2017.
  But will Thatcheresque deficit reduction austerity and tax cuts dangle the British people over a barrel of 'great black hope' once again?
As new North Sea Oil opportunities knock, who will really benefit from future oil tax revenues?

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, April 2013

Monday, 15 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher's Legacy: Voter Popularity and Clement Atlee

The ongoing fracas over Margaret Thatcher's legacy seems as helpful as two bald men fighting over a comb, writes Paul Coleman. But was Thatcher the UK's most popular Prime Minister?
   Electorally, the Conservative Party under Thatcher's leadership polled under 44% of the vote in 1979. This proved her biggest vote share and took her to 10 Downing Street for the first time.
  Turnout was 76%.

In 1983, the 'Thatcher landslide' polled only 42% of the actual vote. Labour suffered by losing votes to the Social Democrat Party defectors and their 'Alliance' with the Liberals.
Thatcher supporters claim she was Britain's 'greatest Prime Minister since Winston Churchill'. Her opponents say she will always be the most destructive, even worse than Tony Blair.
  But in terms of voter popularity, Thatcher remains eclipsed by Clement Atlee whose Labour Party polled nearly 48% of the 1945 general election vote.
   Margaret Thatcher, born 1925, died on 8 April 2013. 
Her state-funded 'ceremonial' funeral kicks off on Wednesday, 17 April.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, April 2013

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Thatcher's 'race' legacy: death, murder, Southall, Kuldip Singh Sekhon

Margaret Thatcher's prime ministerial 'reign' presided over - and some say contributed to - the tragic deaths of many people in disasters at New Cross, Hillsborough, Bradford, Clapham, King's Cross, Broadwater Farm and Brixton. 
  Certainly, Thatcher dictated UK government policy during the miners' strike, the Falklands War and the oft-forgotten United States' invasion of Grenada, a Commonwealth English-speaking Caribbean country.
  As Thatcher receives a state-funded 'ceremonial' funeral at St Paul's Cathedral this Wednesday (17 April), Paul Coleman recalls a tragedy during the Thatcher period that received little or no attention - the death of Kuldip Singh Sekhon in December 1989, one of many people believed to have been racially murdered during that era.
   Thatcher prefaced that era in January 1978 when, posing as a genteel English suburban housewife, she acted as willing spokeswoman for the 'common sense racism' prevalent across England at that time. 
   Speaking on national TV on Granada's World in Action, Thatcher oozed: "You know, the British character has done so much for democracy, for law, and done so much throughout the world, that if there is a fear that it might be swamped, people are going to react and be rather hostile to those coming in. So, if you want good race relations, you've got to allay people's fears on numbers."

Powell Reprise
Thatcher's statement received widespread acclaim from newspapers like the 'Daily Mail'. The mainstream media saw it as a common sense reprise of Enoch Powell's "rivers of blood" speech against immigrants a decade earlier.
   But marginalised voices condemned Thatcher for presenting a blank cheque excuse for thugs intent on making the streets feel unsafe for black and Asian people, including the many now born in Britain.
  Critics also said Thatcher helped fester a hostile climate where racial harassment and racial violence became tolerated and further fuelled by indifferent and, at times, outwardly racist policing. Kuldip Singh Sekhon's murder typified the feel and reality of street life for black and Asian people in London and elsewhere during Thatcher's turbulent 'reign'.


(By Paul Coleman, Asian Times newspaper, London,Tuesday 6 February 1990)

'Southall shutdown one of Mrs Thatcher's favourite British crowd scenes - the High Street money-go-round - to draw attention to a very British tragedy; the turn-a-blind-eye approach to racial violence.
  Southall's west London Asian community was determined to draw attention to Kuldip Singh Sekhon's brutal murder in December as well as to console the Sekhon family.
  Sekhon was stabbed 58 times in his mini-cab by a late-night passenger, a 'known local racist' man. Southall's Asian community are united in the belief that Kuldip's murder was racially motivated.

Show Respect
Markeet Sekhon insisted her husband's body be displayed to show Britain what had happened to him. It bore no resemblance to the handsome pictures of Kuldip Sekhon posted around Southall's streets.
  Sekhon's murder deprives his five beautiful yet bewildered daughters of the life-time experience of having a Dad. How are Jaskram, aged 10, Karamjit, 8, Sukhbir, 7, and five-year-old twins Harpreet and Rajvinder, going to make any sense out of their father's death?
  Southall showed its respect. Sweet centres and Sari shops shutdown. 
Kanda Jewellers closed its shutters. 
The Suman Marriage Bureau ceased match-making. 
So much for the myth that the Asian trader sees life only as open all hours money-making.
  Even Barclays Bank closed. 
Leeds Building Society clerks stopped pushing mortgages. 
Schoolchildren raised money for the Sekhon family. 
A local radio station launched an appeal.

Kuldip's need for extra income drove him to part-time drive a mini-cab, a supplement to his day job as a caterer for SAS Caterers at Heathrow Airport.
  Reconstruct Kuldip Sekhon's world; indeed, the lives of many black and Asian shift-workers, mini-cab drivers, bus crews, railway workers, cleaners and waiters. Lower paid, longer hours, less safety, more isolation and, in many such jobs, virtually no protection from thugs, racist or otherwise.

Working alone
Two Tamil security guards were murdered working at a Soho amusement arcade last year. In July 1987 restaurant worker Abdus Sattar was stabbed to death by skinhead Anthony Carroll as he walked home along a Hampstead street at 11.30pm.
  Peter Burns, a British Rail ticket collector, died after a metal stake was thrust into his eye. 
He was working alone, late at night. 
No protection. 
No security.

Hanif Akhtar, whose niece Tasleem was brutally murdered in Birmingham last December, said the Asian community in Britain must take greater steps to protect itself.
  Fifty-eight stab wounds is horrific but 50 racial murders in the past two years seems to fail to make the 'disaster' grade. There is no talk of tragedy from government, Parliament, the police.
  No flying visit from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to the Sekhon family home. 
No message of condolence from Buckingham Palace.
  No public inquiry into the lives of families devastated by racial violence. 
Not even a report to gather dust on a shelf.'

(Three years after Kuldip Singh Sekhon was murdered - and long after Thatcher had stood down as Prime Minister - the outcry over the 1993 murder of black student Stephen Lawrence in south-east London forced the government, judges, politicians and police to belatedly take seriously black and Asian people's daily experience of racial harassment and violence).

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, April 2013

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Artworks, Walworth Road, Heygate, Elephant and Castle: A Strange Tale of Little Boxes

The strange tale of little boxes on Walworth Road near to the Heygate Estate at Elephant and Castle...coming here soon.
Please be patient...contain yourself, writes Paul Coleman.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Home Sweet Home: Enrica Colusso, Heygate Estate, Developer-led Regeneration, Thatcher's London Housing Legacy

Margaret Thatcher died today and enters history as Britain's most divisive prime minister, writes Paul Coleman.
Thatcher's fiery confrontational brand of 'popular capitalism' ripped the guts out of the trade union movement and tore the heart out of Britain's subsidised public or council housing.
  She pushed social democrats like ex-Labour leader Neil - now Lord Kinnock - so far to the right that they wholeheartedly embraced the 'Big Bang' hegemony of deregulated banking and finance and the privatisation of utilities and infrastructure, including railways.
  Personally, Thatcher bore two children. Politically, Thatcher conceived New Labour, Blair and Brown.

London legacy
So, on the day Thatcher died, Tate Modern poignantly screened Enrica Colusso's intimate documentary, Home Sweet Home, the story of a New Labour cohort at Southwark Council selling the Heygate Estate in south London to luxury property developer Lend Lease - a deal Thatcher would've surely endorsed.
   Thatcher sought to create a 'property owning democracy', chiefly by allowing the sale of council houses and, perhaps as importantly, preventing local councils from re-investing sale proceeds in building new council houses.
  Unfairly, Colusso's film might be branded as anti-regeneration and anti-developer. But Colusso gives Lend Lease and Southwark Council more than just a fair crack of the 'developer-led regeneration' whip.

And, by giving a voice to Heygate residents like Helen - working people systematically excluded by London TV news and the city's only daily evening paper - Home Sweet Home provides a nuanced, thoughtful and upbeat take on the sad decline of the Elephant and Castle estate.
   Thatcher died today but Colusso's film shows Thatcher's London housing legacy is still unravelling.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, April 2013

Bitcoin, Silver and Gold, Cyprus, Evading capital controls

My Cypriot contact says officials intrusively stop people at Cyprus airports from taking more than €1,000 cash out of the financially stricken Mediterranean country, writes Paul Coleman.
"We don't know if we'll have jobs next week," she says. "And bank ATMs only allow us to take out €300 a day."
  But capital and cash controls can be evaded by simply carrying a small memory stick containing as much Bitcoin digital currency as people can afford.
  Travellers can dodge controls by simply memorising their numerical Bitcoin addresses in their 'mind wallets'.

Silver skim
But RT financial pundit Max Keiser advises Bitcoin buyers prudently skim and park ten per cent of their Bitcoin profits in silver.
 "Silver is the natural hedge of Bitcoin," says Keiser. "Going forward, Bitcoin and silver will be vying as the global currency to replace fiat currencies such as the Dollar and Euro."
Gold, too, will continue to rise.
  Don't forget to invest in those memory sticks.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, April 2013

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Nicolas Sarkozy, Carla Bruni, Qatar, Knightsbridge: Le grand ex-fromageen Londres

Trying to glimpse Carla Bruni sashay along Knightsbridge might've been demented but certainly distracting, writes Paul Coleman.
  When Bruni's hubby, Nicolas Sarkozy, lost the 2012 election and his job as French president he hit on a grand idea.
  Sarkozy vowed to come to a London office two or three days a week to make money from a €250 million private equity fund kick-started by the Qatar Investment Authority, the Arab state's $100 billion sovereign wealth fund.

Sarkozy's fund would invest in 'European reconstruction' and make the fund an estimated €3 million annually. Sarkozy enjoys reportedly good relations with Qatar emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani.
   Tristement - sadly - for Sarkozy, the fund idea now sits on hold. French judges ruled the ex-President be investigated for allegedly 'persuading' 90-year-old L'Oreal heiress Lilliane Bettencourt to give cash to Sarkozy's 2007 presidential election campaign. Bien sur, Sarkozy denies wrongdoing.
  Mais, c'est affreux.
But, this is dreadful.
  Londoners will now be denied their 'I saw Bruni' Knightsbridge moment.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, April 2013

Monday, 1 April 2013

St Mary Woolnoth, City of London churches: Spiritual Derivatives

Insurance man James Gerry identifies a strange trend, writes Paul Coleman.
Senior City of London bank and finance company executives are apparently attending St Mary Woolnoth, one of the famous 'Square Mile' churches, in greater number and with increased frequency.
  Gerry, also a church warden, says the bank chiefs are trying to "square their business with Christian compassion".
  Since the 2008 financial meltdown the number of registered church members in the City has risen 24% to 3,566, according to Diocese of London figures.
   "There is tension in the workplace and people are struggling to cope," says Gerry.       
  "People are a bit desperate. They're asking, 'Is this all there is?'"
   Nearby, St Stephen Walbrook runs morality sessions in tandem with its neighbouring bank, Rothschild's.
  Church membership outside the City has remained stable. 
The City of London's resident population has also stabilised around 8,000.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, April 2013