Old Bill’s Almanack 2011

My “Baker’s dozen predictions for 2011.

I thought that I would stick my neck out and predict 13 events to occur in the area and looking a little further out national and international events for the New Year. As far as the last prediction as far as first contact with aliens during 2011 Paddy Power are offering 100-1. And if it does come to pass I will be having a pint of Vulcan beer in the “Final Frontier” pub next January 1st.

1. A comfortable majority will vote against the Sainsbury road proposals in Leek on a small turn out in the January referendum.

2. The Conservative led administration at SMDC will lose power in the May District Council elections.

3. The Foxlowe Community Arts venue plans will begin to come into fruition in 2011.

4. Unemployment will increase markedly in Leek during the year.

5. Fear of crime will increase following a major incident in Leek during the summer.

6. A financial scandal will shake confidence in the governance of the area in March.

7. Major civil unrest including riots in major cities in the UK will increase as unemployment rises towards 3 million by the autumn.

8. A leading Liberal Democrat member of the coalition will leave the Government and defect to the Labour Party in the autumn.

9. Pakistan will be subject to a military coup.

10. An environmental catastrophe will occur in China.

11. A major earthquake will hit California in June.

12. There will be a major terrorism event in a European City

13. Contact with an extra terrestrial civilisation will occur in September

Four Stoke-on-Trent Men Arrested [Updated 1845]

Four men from Stoke-on-Trent have been arrested as part of a counter terrorism operation across the UK this morning seeing 12 men arrested.

The men ““ five from Cardiff, four from Stoke and three from London ““ were detained on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism in the UK (Terrorism Act 2000) during a number of raids across the UK by unarmed officers at 5am this morning.

The operation is being led by DAC Stuart Osborne Senior National Coordinator Terrorist Investigations, and coordinated from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit. It also involves the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, South Wales Police and Staffordshire Police.

The 4 men from Stoke-on-trent were arrested at or near their home addresses, with the exception of one suspect who was at a domestic property in Birmingham.

Searches are now being conducted at the home addresses, plus the address in Birmingham and another residence in London.

The men arrested are

  • Male aged 28 from Cardiff
  • Male aged 26 from Cardiff
  • Male aged 25 from Cardiff
  • Male aged 24 from Cardiff
  • Male aged 23 from Cardiff
  • Male aged 19 from Stoke-on-Trent
  • Male aged 26 from Stoke-on-Trent
  • Male aged 26 from Stoke-on-Trent
  • Male ages 25 from Stoke-on-Trent
  • Male aged 20 from London
  • Male aged 28 from London
  • Male aged 17 from London
This is a large scale, pre-planned and intelligence led operation involving several forces.

The operation is in its early stages so we are unable to go into detail at this time about the suspected offences. However, I believe it was necessary at this time to take action in order to ensure public safety.

Officers from the local NPU are highly visible in the area of the raids to reassure local residents and flyers with information to keep residents informed are being handed out.

At 18:30 Chief Superintendent Bernie O’Reilly, Stoke on Trent Divisional Commander issued the following statement

This afternoon we met with community leaders following today’s early morning raids which took place as part of a national, pre-planned counter terrorism operation.
The meeting was called to help us understand local community concerns and to offer support and reassurance to people in the area following the arrest of 12 men in Stoke-on-Trent, South Wales and London, on suspicion of terrorism offences.

We only act against individuals about whom there is reasonable suspicion that they may be engaged in criminal acts. All communities want to feel safe and be safe.

We work hard on a daily basis to maintain the strong community relations we have here in Stoke-on-Trent and we do not take those relations for granted.

Throughout the day, local neighbourhood officers have been in the Stoke-on-Trent area talking with residents. Officers have also delivered a series of information leaflets.

In recent months, communities in our city have been affected by a number of significant incidents,, not connected with today’s events, and cohesion has been tested. However we are determined to continue to develop the trust we’ve built as we work to keep our communities safe and reassured.

I want to take this opportunity to re-assure everyone that police are absolutely committed to thoroughly investigating those incidents and to do everything we can to ensure offenders are brought to justice.

Finally, can I thank local people for their patience and understanding and urge residents to engage with their local community police officers who are in the area to offer support and reassurance.

A Tale of Two Home Secretaries or how Politics has changed- or not- in 50 years

This is the story of two Home Secretaries who were both Scots but who visited Leek approximately 50 years apart. One had been a prosecutor at the Nuremburg Trials after the Second World War and the other a former Communist whose rise in the Labour party under Tony Blair single him out as a potential Prime Minister. David Maxwell Fyfe the Home Secretary visited Leek in April 1953 and over half a century later John Reid came to Leek in November 2006.

The intervening years have indicated how changeable politics has been. For instance Maxwell Fyfe represented a working class seat in Liverpool including the Croxteth and Norris Green council estates. At the last General Election the Tories came fourth in this seat. He even managed to hold the seat in the Labour landside of 1945. I supposed it helped having a glamorous wife: he was married to Rex Harrison’s sister. During the War he served in the coalition as Solicitor General and became one of the principal prosecutors of the trial of Nazi War Criminals at the war’s end. He came out of that experience with his reputation enhanced being one of the only prosecutors to have bested Herman Goering in cross examination over the fate of prisoners of war who had escaped Stalag Luft III. Following the judgement of Nuremburg he became interested in Europe especially rebuilding the continent after the ravages of war on a legal framework of human rights. He was the principal architect of the European Convention of Human Rights which Britain ratified in 1951 by which time he had become Home Secretary.

His most controversial decision was his refusal to grant a reprieve to Derek Bentley who was hanged at the beginning of 1952. This was despite a petition of 200 MPs and the fact that Bentley was mentally retarded having only a mental age of 11. The decision had resulted in a great public outcry and strengthened the movement for the abolition of capital punishment.

When Maxwell Fyfe came to Leek in April 1953 the event was widely trailed with newspaper reports and publicity weeks before the event. Over 600 people went to the meeting at Leek Town Hall. He was in an emollient mood and spoke of the need to guarantee full employment to build 300,000 houses a year and drawing on his Liverpool experience to give decent people a decent chance by having a decent home.

When people think of the 1950s they think of peace security and of a time which was relatively crime free. In the words of Andrew Marr in his TV series on Modern Britain a time of lost content an orderly restrained Britain where men wore hats and all married women are housewives. It does not seem that from the newspapers accounts. Maxwell Fyfe’s priorities as Home Secretary have a decidedly modern ring as he told his Leek audience. His priorities were making the carrying of weapons illegal and doing something about the growth in violent assaults, increasing the numbers in the police force, making more prison places available and making Britain a more moral place.

The newspaper report from 1953 is comprehensive and gives a detailed account of all the questions that the Home Secretary is asked including the strange questions that are often the bane of politician’s life at a public meeting. One questioner asks Maxwell Fyfe he feeling that Communists are ever present trying to undermine British life by acts of sabotage and agitation in places of higher education. A Baptist minister asks him about the current crime wave. He responded by saying that cooperation was needed to raise moral standards.

John Reid became Home Secretary in May 2006. His background could not have been more different from David Maxwell Fyfe. He came to Leek last November and attended a meeting in the town following the conviction for murder of Mark Goldstraw earlier that month. The meeting, which was in front of an invited audience of 400, was organised to allay fears that local people had over the operation of the Criminal Justice system. The meeting was hurriedly arranged and Reid arrived late for the meeting. In the nature of modern politics the questions were controlled although one rogue questioner managed to raise a point on identity cards.

Both men during their time in office have had to tackle threats. In the case of Maxwell Fyfe it was the danger poised by a militant Soviet Union with nuclear weapons in a time of great instability. The month prior to Maxwell Fyfe’s visit saw the death of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and the uncertainty of who would succeed one of the greatest tyrants of the 20th century. John Reid had to battle with the threat of Islamic terrorism especially after the attack on London in July 2005. Both men wanted to see a greater emphasis on a moral or respect agenda. Even when Reid announced his retirement from Parliament he gave time to castigate human rights agenda born out of the European Convention on Human Rights which his fellow Scot and predecessor had framed.

But history has one further trick to play on Maxwell Fyfe later on his career as Lord Chancellor he said to the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan that ” I am not going down in history as the man who made sodomy history” if this is so then the late Home Secretary must be spinning in his grave. As Home Secretary he was a stern supporter of the laws which at the time criminalised homosexual acts. Prosecutions rates for offences increased five fold during his tenure of office. When he spoke at Leek he said that he was opposed to Communism but he would not use Communist methods to fight illegality. This was not case in his crackdown on gay men. The actor John Gielgud among many men was arrested for importuning in 1953 by the use of entrapment. Maxwell Fyfe sanctioned the use of traps, tapped telephone calls, surveillance and forged documents in order to gain a conviction- all actions unlawful under the Convention of Human Rights that he had bought into the world. And it was that piece of legislation which was used to declare Britain’s Sexual Offences Act illegal in that prohibited certain homosexual acts.

2007 saw the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Wolfenden Report which arrived at the conclusion that homosexual behaviour between consenting adults should be no longer a criminal act. The Report had been commissioned by Maxwell Fyfe four years earlier and it was a further 10 years before the law was changed in 1967- the year that Maxwell Fyfe died. The values that he espoused were torn apart by the very document that he did so much to bring into being.

Launch of Labours New Counter Terrorism Strategy!

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter

Labour’s Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has launched a revised version of the Government’s strategy for countering international terrorism.
Drawing on the experience gained and lessons learnt since it was first established in 2003, the strategy gives a detailed account of the principles which provide the basis for the Government’s response to the terrorist threat.

Labour’s Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, said:

Jacqui Smith

Jacqui Smith

“Protecting the public is my key objective and the aim of the Government’s new counter terrorism strategy is to reduce the risk of terrorism to allow people to go about their lives freely and with confidence.

“The UK has one of the most comprehensive and wide ranging approaches to tackling terrorism in the world and we have updated our CONTEST strategy to take account of the evolving threat, the lessons we have learned and the new challenges we face.”