Book Review: Patrick Radden Keefe ~ The Snakehead (2009)

Priti Patel1 and her advisors should read this book. The complexities of an international people smuggling gang are outlined in brilliant readable prose. Numerous Chinese names are scattered across the page but the central theme isn’t buried in detail. And that theme is that America and the industrial West are magnets for ambitious poverty-stricken Third World economic-migrants.

Priti Patel is quite right, people smuggling trade is hideous. The aspirations of economic migrants are ruthlessly exploited with many deaths en route. Death is a cost that economic migrants are willing to accept in the fulfilment of their dream. Once it’s understood death is an acceptable ‘cost’, policies have shift to meet that reality. Rwanda2 isn’t a deterrent to people who’ve factored in the possibility of death.

People smuggling accelerates the corruption of officials. The vast sums of money, which are involved, drive people smuggling entrepreneurs to audacious techniques.3 Treating immigrants as cargo meant containers were utilised to by-pass frontier checks whereas the rich simply buy nationality entering the legitimate world.4

Keefe’s book is a gangster thriller; a sober analysis of immigration and the USA; an inspiring story of economic migration; and a story of a clash of cultures. Although it’s set in the USA the exact same principles are at work in the UK.

This book is brilliant. Unfortunately, it isn’t on Kindle and the paperback is quite pricy. Nonetheless it’s worth chasing up.

Notes

1 Priti Patel is Britain’s immigration minister

2 Why are migrants being sent to Rwanda and how will it work? | World News | Sky News

3 Essex lorry deaths: Men jailed for killing 39 migrants in trailer – BBC News

4 Countries where you can buy citizenship | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)

Havering’s Election: Collier Row and Mawney Ward, 2022

Councillors often lose their seats in mid-term local elections. These elections are sometimes used to ‘punish’ unpopular governments.1 This is a fact of electoral life. The Collier Row and Mawney leaflet published by the Conservatives is blissfully unaware of this. They’re planning a coronation.

The leaflet (nos. 85) claims there’s a local Conservative Action Team. Their sole identified achievement was delivering the leaflet. This is an abnormal use of the word  ‘Action’.

The 220 words in the leaflet are vacuous. There’s nothing about the positive impact the three councillors have made in 4 years. This is amazing because Jason Frost is the cabinet member for health during a pandemic!

The front of the leaflet2 is quaint, “Romford is a traditional English Market Town in the historic County of Essex3….” And,“…we fly the Union Jack from our Town Hall 365 days of the year!”  This is so feeble it should be on a life support machine.

Meanwhile on the back there’s a surprise. There’s a series of bizarre questions. An example is Q3, “Do you agree that Havering must keep its special character as a town and country borough and should not become just another part of inner London.”   This question is 57 years too late as Havering has enjoyed being part of London since the mid-1960s. Of course, the Conservatives might want to trade the London Freedom Pass for an Essex post code. In which case they should say so straight out.

Given that councillors have nothing to boast about in this pre-election leaflet, why would anyone vote for them again?

Notes

1 In 1968 Labour lost 21 of their 51 seats in Newham 1968 Newham London Borough Council election – Wikipedia

2 The Conservatives sometimes pad out their leaflets with quotes which owe more to artistic license than reality Romford Conservatives falsely quote residents in newsletters | Romford Recorder

3 Havering has been a London Borough since 1964 two years before Andrew Rosindell was born.

Havering’s RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre

Sometimes in life you work long and hard and fail. The dedicated volunteers who’ve created Havering’s RAF museum have no worries. They’ve triumphed.

RAF Hornchurch was at the epicentre of the Battle of Britain. The street names in the area memorialise their heroic deeds and two schools have been named to celebrate their victory.1 But there was no museum to gather together every facet of RAF Hornchurch.

The museum is organised around ten themes, each with their dedicated space. Because this was a labour of love, the volunteers went the extra mile to curate the collection. A stellar example was tracking down the uniforms of Wing Commander Finucane in Room 2. They were unseen and unloved in a professional museum until they were rescued and given a prominent display cabinet.

Room 5 tells the story of Sanders Draper who heroically saved hundreds of children’s lives by sacrificing his own when his Spitfire had catastrophic engine failure. As of September 2021, the local academy will revert to his name after the dismal decision to delete it a few years ago.

Room 6, The Home Front Room is richly evocative and filled with the everyday aspects of civilian lives. There are memoirs, with photographs, which cumulatively add up to a rare and wonderful insight into what that generation had to put with.

I spent about an hour in the museum but feel I only touched the surface. The volunteer guides are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.

There’s a small car park and an entry fee of £5. If you sense that you’ll be returning, and I will, then the £20 annual membership fee is a bargain. The museum is staffed by volunteers and is open each Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. till 4 p.m.

Note

1 R J Mitchell Junior School and the Sanders Draper Academy

Havering’s Crime and Disorder Committee, 5th August 2021

Take a bow councillors Sally Miller, John Tyler, Philippa Crowder and Michael Deon Burton. They made the Overview and Scrutiny system work.1 Interestingly they were present in the chamber unlike silent Zoom councillors.

Item 5 was an update on a £5 million CCTV capital programme. John Tyler, supported by the chair, Sally Miller, expressed his incredulity. They were outraged by incompetent decision-making, which authorised a £5 million expenditure, without detailed costs. This is ‘wish and a prayer’ procurement. The incompetent culprits are Councillors Viddy Persaud and Roger Ramsey who are, respectively, Public Safety and Finance cabinet members.

The principal officer struggled to defend this fiasco. Heroically she said the £5 million budget couldn’t be exceeded. She acknowledged a Chinese factory fire had created a world-wide shortage of microchips, but, no worries, other suppliers would fill the gap. This left the programme in tatters, as Tyler noted.

She thought that about 350 cameras were needed but it might fewer. The number was being driven by costs. Deon Burton said Havering needed mobile units to combat fly-tipping. He also asked about competitive tendering. This was an unintentional trick question because local authority CCTV is a quasi-monopoly. Consultant fees were questioned but the committee were hurried past as they are an unmentionable cost.

The chair is dubious about the £5 million. Perhaps Councillors Persaud and Ramsey could explain why they authorised a £5 million expenditure without any detailed costs to the committee?2 £5 million? Why not £4 million? Whether it’s value-for-money at all wasn’t asked.

Notes

1 For the webcast go to Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) This section begins at 20 minutes for about 20 minutes

2 No cabinet member has ever appeared before an Overview and Scrutiny committee to be questioned about their policy decision-making. So this would be a significant event.

Havering and the East London Waste Authority

Bin collections and politics are strangely linked in the East London Waste Authority (ELWA). ELWA is a four borough group.1 The bin and ‘paid-for’ green waste collection is faultless but that’s where excellence ends.

Recycling

Recycling is organised as a weekly orange sack and bin collection. There are also bottle banks, to which you have to travel and Gerpins Lane for bigger items. ELWA’s recycling statistics are ghastly with them coming 327th out of of 341 local authorities.2 This seemed unbelievable so I researched it. Havering is cemented into ELWA with three albatrosses.

Havering accounts for 52.2% of ELWA’s total.3

 

Financial Engineering

ELWA’s financial officers produced a huge, impenetrable document for the councillors. The officers engineered a short-term ‘solution’ to meet the challenges that the local authorities are under. Unfortunately it’s very expensive. “This report proposes a decrease of 29.52% in the 2021/22 levy, which is significantly lower than the 4.59% forecast increase reported in February 2020.”4 That’s a 34.11% decrease on the budgeted levy. “The consequence of the one-off significant decrease in 2021/22 is an increase in the following year of 51.72%. These movements equate to an increase over the two-year period from 2020/21 to 2022/23 of 6.93%.4 Reducing budget pressure looks like a great idea but, “this could provoke a referendum on Council Tax…”5 A referendum would be politically embarrassing and hugely expensive.

Needless to relate they ignored this severe warning and agreed to the 29.52% decrease. ELWA is a political organisation run by councillors who don’t know what they’re doing.6

Notes

1 Havering with Barking and Dagenham, Newham and Redbridge. Osman Dervish and Robert Benham are Havering’s nominees.

2 2019/20 overall performance – letsrecycle.com ELWA comes 327th out of 341

3 08.02.2021-ELWA-Authority-Agenda-Pack-Public.pdf (eastlondonwaste.gov.uk) p165

4 ibid p100

5 ibid p110

6 Despite the well flagged challenges councillors agreed this action Authority-Agenda-Pack-25.06.21-FINAL-open.pdf (eastlondonwaste.gov.uk) Minutes pp9-10

Havering Council Meeting, 15th December, 2020

This was a truncated meeting because chief officers are engulfed with Covid-19 preparations. The Mayor carefully avoided saying the problem was that government announcements always come late, with maximum urgency.

There wasn’t a repetition of ‘the Mayor and the Priest’ fiasco as of 9th September, 2020, which was a bit of a shame.* This time the Priest did his best with a couple of feeble jokes, a nun’s 17th century prayer and a badge of honour. Quite why councillors needed God’s assistance is a curiosity as there weren’t any moral conundrums on the agenda.

Using a tactic Stalin, an atheist, would have been proud of, every vote was ‘Vote Only’. The Conservative minority, with the Harold Wood 3, swept through. Only Damian White’s smirk showed this was how he’d like every council meeting to be conducted.

The meeting ended with Cllr. Joshua Chapman** singing the National Anthem. Unaccompanied. This should have been a coup de theatre but the artistic director fell down on the job. At the very least a Union flag should have been unfurled behind the Mayor’s seat.

* For the 9th September 2020 council meeting and especially the first ten minutes see Havering Council Meeting, 9th September 2020 – Politics in Havering

** If you wish to do a sing-a-long go to Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com) 41 mins 46 secs.

Havering’s Overview and Scrutiny Board 24th November 2020

The meeting received the ‘Inclusive Growth Strategy and Implementation Plan’. It includes statements about educational achievement in Havering in its discussion of economic growth (see table and graph above).

Havering’s secondary schools are, in general, well below the levels of Redbridge, unlike our primary schools which are above average at KS2.Unfortunately, Havering’s secondary academies ‘coast’ instead of building on this wonderful achievement. The government colludes in this,

From September 2019, the department will no longer publish coasting thresholds and RSCs will take no formal action as a result of a school meeting the coasting definition. Whilst local authorities retain the power to intervene, the department is unlikely to support action against a school on the basis of coasting data alone.”* (my emphasis)

Havering’s KS2 general achievement is statistically significant at the national level. Post-16 education, in contrast, is a stark failure, especially NVQ 3 and 4. This is caused by the mediocrity at Havering’s academies (see Addendum). During the debate about future employment and new businesses in Havering, there was much talk about ‘aspirations’ and ‘jobs for Havering’s youngsters’ with ‘higher value jobs’**. None of this will happen without significant improvements in educational achievement throughout the 11-16 schooling period.

Brexit and Covid-19 *** place a premium on education. KS2 achievements should lead to KS4 excellence as a base for achievement at higher education. Havering is sold short by their secondary academies. Only the council can end the cycle of complacency and mediocrity. The government doesn’t want to admit that coasting schools are an outrage but this council should.

Addendum: Education and economic growth

To develop an aspirational programme through the Havering Academy of Leadership, to combat low ambition among young people and their parents. The Local Authority has worked with the early years’ providers, schools, and colleges to develop a shared Education Vision for the Borough. (my emphasis) Para 9:2 p67 (Public Pack)Agenda Document for Overview & Scrutiny Board, 24/11/2020 19:30 (havering.gov.uk) Let’s remind ourselves that these children and parents are the same children, with the same parents, who over-achieve at primary schools and then stagnate at secondary level.

Notes

* Schools causing concern guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk) p5

** SQW and BBP’s report to the Board Economic Evidence Base: Havering January 2018 pp 118, 121, 126, 140. Table and bar graph on pp141-2. NB: NVQ 4 are degree level qualifications

*** Neil Stubbings at 21 minutes going forward. Annotator Player (sonicfoundry.com)

Sources

The ‘coasting’ school concept was formulated in 2015 using several key indicators see Coasting Schools Definition: The Nerdy Details Guide (schoolsweek.co.uk)

Havering’s educational institutions are opaque in informing the public about their results usually relying on hyperbole instead of statistics. Havering Colleges Sixth Form Results 2019 says, “I am delighted to announce fantastic outcomes for our students at Havering Sixth Form in 2019.” (my emphasis) Results – Havering Colleges (havering-sfc.ac.uk)

For the disparity between Havering and Redbridge secondary schools see Havering and Redbridge: A Tale of Two Boroughs – Politics in Havering

For the council’s potential response see Havering’s Academy Schools: Councillor Robert Benham’s Dilemma – Politics in Havering

Havering and Free School Meals over Christmas

Havering’s Conservatives are in disarray over Free School Meals. Marcus Rashford highlighted the fact of hunger during the summer holidays. Johnson rejected the request. Government policy was reversed and meals were provided. The issue came back to parliament for the October and Christmas holidays. On 21st October, Conservatives in parliament decisively rejected provision of Free School Meals. Shortly afterwards, Andrew Rosindell stoutly defended the government’s position, which Damian White rejected. Johnson then reversed government policy once more.

Andrew opposed free school meals during school holidays. Andrew’s reply to my blog said,

Extending Free School Meals to over the school holidays would mean effectively handing over responsibility for feeding our kids from parents to the Government and I do not believe that this is right.”*

Damian, Conservative leader of Havering, wrote to me saying,

The Covid crisis we are in continues to have significant impacts on vulnerable people and families in the borough and this is a sensible solution to a problem that is fundamentally about the wellbeing of our children.”**

Romford’s Conservatives are split on Free School Meals because it means higher taxation. It’s now known that most welfare beneficiaries are in work. Welfare payments are a subsidy for employers. Johnson’s flip-flopping illustrates an unpleasant truth, which is that welfare payments are too low for civilised living in Havering today.

Notes

* Andrew Rosindell Letter dated 27th October 2020

** Damian White Letter dated 27th October 2020

Sources

For the blog which Andrew replied to see https://havering.blog/2020/10/24/andrew-rosindell-and-the-free-school-meals-debate-21st-october-2020/e

For the parliamentary debate selected quotations see https://oedeboyz.com/2020/10/23/selected-quotes-the-free-school-meals-debate-21st-october-2020/

Havering’s Finest Park

Hornchurch Country park doesn’t rest on its considerable laurels. It’s constantly evolving. Its principal feature is peace and quiet in a rural environment. But that’s just the setting. There’s much more for all age groups and interests.

There’s a good walking surface over the extensive grounds with benches at appropriate places, overlooking the SSSI, Albyn’s Farm lake, and luxuriating in the countryside. Large open spaces offer opportunities for playing with dogs or flying kites or casual picnics at the tables which are scattered around. It’s also a Heritage site with information boards about the role of the area in wartime. The children’s playground has a model Spitfire as part of the equipment alongside traditional swings and so on.

The Essex Wildlife Ingrebourne Valley Trust has built a visitors centre. This serves as an educational facility as well as a cafe and shop. There’s a large outdoor area overlooking open countryside. Finally there’s a decent sized free car park with a hard surface.

Hornchurch Country Park is a destination for those sauntering, keeping fit, flying kites, dog-walking, kicking a football, picnicking, playing in the playground, and taking world famous photographs.** It’s a revered heritage site. This park is Havering’s finest. It’s a credit to the Council and everyone associated with it.

Sources

* https://www.havering.gov.uk/info/20037/parks/699/hornchurch_country_park

** https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/safaris-and-wildlife/Incredible-photo-captures-weasel-riding-on-the-back-of-a-flying-woodpecker/

Andrew Rosindell and the Free School Meals Debate, 21st October, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility of Britain’s businesses and the jobs dependent on them. Thriving shopping malls, like Romford’s, are in meltdown, faced by a pandemic and on-line shopping. Tens of thousands of jobs are now unviable. The social and economic question is this: is this a new world or a temporary blip? In this cauldron, children are collateral damage. Andrew and the government’s problem is clear: should children go hungry because fighting the pandemic means work disappears? On 21st October the answer was ‘Yes’. Andrew didn’t speak in the debate but his definitive statement was his vote.

Andrew is said to be a loyal Conservative MP and always votes with his party and so ‘held his nose’ and voted as instructed. But Andrew doesn’t always vote with the party. In the Public Health debate, 13th October, 2020, Andrew voted against his party because he disapproved of the economic measures embedded in the government’s proposals. Andrew carefully chooses how he votes. Throughout the latter stages of the Brexit EU negotiations, he rebelled against Theresa May’s Conservative government. Andrew helped bring down a Conservative prime minister because he judged it was in the national interest. He’s a parliamentarian, not an unthinking ‘nodding donkey’.

His vote against the provision of Free School Meals for impoverished children over Christmas is calculated. Andrew believes it’s the right thing to do. The immediate implication of this is the abolition of Free School Meals altogether. The reasoning by many Conservative MPs justified children going hungry because the state has no responsibility for feeding hungry children.This repudiates the 1906 Education (Provision of Meals) Act. This Act acknowledged that children were victims of circumstances and it was a grotesque injustice they be punished with hunger. Andrew’s vote on the 21st October is a reversion to Victorian attitudes towards children living in poverty.

Andrew’s prepared to rebel against Conservative whips when it suits him. His membership of the European Research Group helped destroy Theresa May’s government. He and 43 other Conservatives voted against Johnson’s proposals to fight Covid-19 because it was ‘uneconomic’: a lives against business argument. And now he’s voted against the proposals to provide minimal school meals from October, 2020 to Easter, 2021 because such claimants are scroungers. Andrew has a ‘safe’ seat and believes he’s immune to punishment in the ballot box. He may well be right but what happened to his moral compass?

Sources

For the Free School meal debate see https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-10-21/debates/79C0CA8D-CADF-4562-9317-5A51810BB5DE/FreeSchoolMeals

I have created a selection from the debate which I think accurately gives the tone of it. See https://oedeboyz.com/2020/10/23/selected-quotes-the-free-school-meals-debate-21st-october-2020/

For the Covid-19 Public Health debate see https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-10-13/debates/1081EDA2-9232-4C9E-9B01-4D5879390AAF/PublicHealthCoronavirusRegulations

For the 1906 Education (Provision of Meals) Act see https://www.intriguing-history.com/school-meals-act/