Laurie Penny explains why with her usual vigour:

In Britain, private security agents might be hired to do the same jobs as police officers and prison guards, but they’re not accountable to the public in the same way – at least, not yet. The Independent Police Complaints Commission still has no power to investigate private security staff, and the Government is prevaricating over the watchdog’s request to extend its remit – which was supported by G4S – while extending the outsourcing of policing to for-profitcompanies. G4S was recently awarded a £200m contract to take over half of the civilian duties of Lincolnshire police force. Policing employees helping protect the public in Grimsby and Scunthorpe will now wear G4S’s company logo – that discreet sharp slash of red and black.

What difference does it make if the men and women in uniform patrolling the world’s streets and prison corridors are employed by nation states or private firms? It makes every difference. A for-profit company is not subject to the same processes of accountability and investigation as an army or police force which is meant, at least in theory, to serve the public. Impartial legality is still worth something as an assumed role of the state – and the notion of a private, for-profit police and security force poisons the very idea.

The state still has a legal monopoly on violence, but it is now prepared to auction that monopoly to anyone with a turnover of billions and a jolly branding strategy. The colossal surveillance and security operation turning London into a temporary fortress this summer is chilling enough without the knowledge that state powers are being outsourced to a company whose theme tune features the line: “The enemy prowls, wanting to attack, but we’re on to the wall, we’ve got your back.” If that made any sense at all, I doubt it would be more reassuring.

It’s brilliant to look back on this, given the fiasco currently unravelling regarding G4S’s incompetent mishandling of the role they were paid hundreds of millions to undertake at the Olympics. It now turns out there’s no penalty clause in their contract:

Private security company G4S will not be financially penalised for failing to recruit sufficient security guards for the Olympic Games, it emerged last night.

The firm has been accused of letting the country down just two weeks before the Games, with soldiers forced to cancel family holidays to ensure venues are protected. But a senior Government source told The Independent that the contract with G4S did not include a penalty clause.

The revelation appears to contradict a statement by the Home Secretary Theresa May in the House of Commons. She told MPs that while the contract was between G4S and the Games organisers Locog, she understood that there were “penalties within that contract”.

A source said that in fact it was a pro-rata agreement where G4S were paid for each extra security guard they supplied – and not penalised if they did not make the overall target. “The person who negotiated the contract should be shot,” the source said.

 

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You know things are bad when the Spectator are on LOCOG’s case:

The real risk, in my view is not so much from the letter of the law. It is from the chilling effect on free speech, created by the rules and their gung-ho implementation. Consider the following:

  • Sally Gunnell photoshoot promoting easyJet’s new London Southend service in July 2011. Locog executive stopped photoshoot of her raising a Union flag above her shoulders. Union flag was removed & she had to change from a white tracksuit to an orange T-shirt.
  • Butcher in Weymouth. Was told to remove his display of sausages in the shape of the Olympic rings.
  • Olympicnic. A small village in Surrey has been stopped from running an “Olympicnic” on its village green.
  • ‘Flaming torch breakfast baguette’ offered at a café in Plymouth to celebrate the arrival of the Olympic torch was outlawed by Locog.
  • ‘Cafe Lympic’ & ‘Lympic Food Store & Off License’. Both had to drop the ‘O’ at the start of their names. But Alex Kelham, a brand protection lawyer at Locog, says: ‘The legislation actually catches anything similar to the word ‘Olympic’ as well. It’s not a fool-proof get-around.’
  • Florist in Stoke-on-Trent. Was ordered to take down a tissue paper Olympic rings display from the shop window.
  • Oxford Olympic Torch stalls. Traders will have to cover up their logos, and can only sell soft drinks from the Coca-Cola product range (inc. bottled water)
  • Webbers Estate Agents in North Devon. Threatened with legal action for displaying makeshift Olympic rings in its windows.

The word soon gets around: if you upset the Olympic censors, they will come for you. And what shopkeeper wants to get landed with a massive lawsuit? You’d sooner not take the risk. If a newsagent has been told (as we were, originally) that it’s illegal to be rude about the Olympics then to stock this week’s Spectator – which is defiantly rude about the Olympics – would be a risk you’d understandably not take.

This can’t possibly be in the spirit of what the Olympics are supposed to be about. Protected by missiles for fuck’s sake? Insane. Missiles forcibly installed on people’s roofs? What sort of country is this anyway? I can’t imagine what sense it makes for chips which aren’t McDonalds’ to be outlawed in the Stratford Park during this period! But G4S not being able to deliver the security personnel it promised, forcing army personnel to police the event, is serious financially (how many hundred million were G4S paid?) and sets an ominous precedent. And PLEASE someone tell me what sense there is in banning cyclists from ‘Games Lanes’ (very Soviet) in the run-up to and during a SPORTS EVENT?! There’s no discussion going on about sport at all, as far as I know! This is crazy!

Peter Tatchell sure thinks so:

Corporate giants, Gaydar and Smirnoff, last week reportedly offered well in excess of £60,000 to cover Pride’s funding shortfall but the Mayor’s office spurned this offer claiming it was “too late”. This “too late” claim is disputed, with some people suggesting that there was still sufficient time last week to produce a viable rescue package, if the Mayor’s team had the will to do so.

Last year, the costs involved in the post-parade rally in Trafalgar Square were reportedly in the region of £50,000. This year they are allegedly £100,000. If true, it seems hard to justify a 100% increase which has, in part, created the funding shortfall.

It is claimed that the GLA is forcing Pride to use certain contractors, who are not necessarily the cheapest. This may be artificially exacerbating Pride’s money problems.

The financial difficulties faced by Pride are mostly a cash-flow problem. The GLA has forced Pride to pay for everything upfront as a condition for the events to go head. Pride says the sponsorship money it expects to receive by the end of the festivities would have bridged most of the funding gap.

The GLA has reportedly not paid all the money it promised to Pride; thereby compounding the cash-flow difficulties.

The Mayor’s office says there are “problems” and “safety issues” related to the Pride parade which require the start time to be bought forward to 11am and which require huge insurance premiums to be paid. However, they refuse to say what these problems and safety issues are. This is tantamount to demonising Pride as a troublesome event. In contrast, the police say it is one of the most trouble-free events held in London. Previously the police have adopted a very low presence, confident that Pride has no problem or safety issues.

Mayor Johnson’s sudden change in the parade start-time from 1pm to 11am is very unfair to people who have pre-booked trains and coaches for a1pm start. The march will have left before many people have arrived. This is a recipe for chaos and disruption. Instead of an orderly march, tens of thousands of disorganised people will swarm through the streets towards Trafalgar Square and Soho, blocking traffic and causing grid-lock.

Peter later mentions Boris’ attempts to ban him from speaking at the Trafalgar Square event on Saturday. Check out this video of Jenny Jones questioning the blond buffoon about just that and make your own mind up:

What a mess.

Apparently the former Tory Party Chairman knows something about marriage equality, which noone else does:

He said: “When I get extremely irritated about it, I say: There is no inequality. Any male can marry, barring the restrictions on consanguinity, any female. Any female can marry any male. I’m terribly sorry sir, you want to do something that I don’t wish to do. That’s your problem, not my problem.”

There you have it folks. There is no inequality because any man can marry any woman. But he’s not through:

He also questioned why there was not “more discussion about whether it’s in the best interests of children that they should be brought up in civil partnerships or so-called gay marriage and I think too little attention has been paid to that”.

Ahh. Too little attention has been paid to the question of gay parenting! I wonder what the prize Tory bigot means by that: are my fellow gays indoctrinating their children in some way? Are they too busy (as a remarkable individual on Twitter recently suggested to me) so busy fucking they won’t have time to bring their children up responsibly? Are gay people perhaps less qualified to parent children than straight people? I’d be delighted to have that conversation with him, but I doubt he has the courage to really initiate that discussion! But wait there’s more:

“Within the can of worms that Mr Cameron is determined to open there are several nests of snakes. Why should a marriage be confined to just two persons? What is the barrier to the marriage of sisters, brothers or even parents and children?”

So in this Tory’s mind allowing gay people to marry opens up the possibility of legalised incest. Who says they’re not the Nasty Party?

Tories make things up, won’t answer entirely legitimate questions because the ‘data is evolving’ and again aren’t really bothered about the budget deficit because they can alwayscore some cheap points with tax cuts. It’s all about ‘households and businesses’ after all. If only every incompetent Tory on TV was treated with the same contempt Paxo displays for Chloe Smith here!

Prime Minister David Cameron has been trailing his new ‘big idea’ of throwing young people off housing benefit entirely. What an ingenious move, to suggest that the economy is being ruined by workshy benefits claimants, rather than the bankers who caused the economic crash in the first place. Polly Toynbee makes short shrift of his ‘idea’:

He sounded plausible, and his sweeping tour of benefits seeming common sense to many. Every system since the Poor Law faces the same dilemma – how to help the needy without weakening work incentives, how to tell a “sturdy beggar” from a hard-luck case and give them enough to live but less than a low-paid job. There are no satisfactory answers – but Cameron’s “ideas” are the harshest ever proposed. How knowingly he misled in almost every example he gave, as he pitted “those who work hard and do the right thing” against those on benefits, deliberately disguising that these are mainly the same people. Most of the poor drawing benefits are cleaners, carers, caterers – the 62% living below the poverty line, working hard yet needing benefits to survive.

Cameron’s focus on the ever-rising housing benefit bill omitted key facts. The Smith Institute reports that 95% of the £1bn rise in housing benefitthis year is paid to people in work. Only one in eight people drawing the benefit is out of work; the rest are low earners. The cost is not about feckless people but the housing crisis, the failure to build social, rented or private housing over the last three decades. Shortage makes rents rise faster than earnings, and faster than price inflation. Cameron’s plan to peg housing benefit to prices, not to inflation, will be devastating. Shelter reports that if prices rose as fast as rents since 1971, a chicken would now cost £47.51. Nor is there any sign housing benefit cuts will cause rents to fall: rents are still rising as landlords turn away benefit tenants, easily finding others in this starved market.

In a familiar litany of charges against the workless, single mothers, drug addicts (only 4%), he summons up a familiar portrait of the multi-child household, beloved of television documentaries, seeking worst cases to be entertainingly put right by Ann Widdecombe. Every society will always have enough of those to keep the cameras happy. But the dull lives of cleaners juggling childcare and jobs make bad TV, as do dull statistics that give the lie to the idea that moral turpitude drives the escalating benefits bill.

Low wages and lack of housing are the root cause. A living wage would lift the burden off taxpayers and put it on to employers. Regulated rents and a great housebuilding programme are the way to cut the housing benefit bill. The government prefers mass removal of the workless to low-rent areas with no jobs.

Owen Jones was right when he argued yesterday  that Labour should be arguing for more social housing, rent caps and a living wage, but don’t expect that bunch of neoliberal zealots to spout anything other than the Tories’ lies. Meanwhile the rhetoric will continue to spead that the workshy are the root of all our problems, when the truth is that if you look, for example, at housing benefit, you’ll see just how fraudulent Cameron’s being:

Of course the government and the media don’t like to admit – or is it doesn’t know – that Housing Benefit is an in-work benefit.  I mean who would know that since the coalition took office that 232,340 of the 263,120 new HB claimants since the election are in work – just a mere 88% of them.   So 88% of the indolent workshy bar stewards claiming HB are also paying taxes – Not quite the same story is it Mr Cameron.

Even fewer would know or realise that the nearly £2bn per year of savings this coalition promised its Housing Benefit reforms would deliver currently see the HB bill £4.78bn OVER this target!  Yes I am talking about those HB caps that the public lapped up and had 76% support until the public realised their direct impact in the attempted movement of homeless families from Newham to Stoke last month.

Meanwhile the public are expected to forget about the ‘culture of entitlement’ in Westminster, not to mention in the cabinet. These Tories are getting more detestable by the day. Labour may be 5 points ahead of them in the opinion polls, but they’re largely singing the same tune as this rabble, and as long as they don’t provide any genuine opposition will remain part of the problem. Owen Jones suggested on Twitter that we put pressure on Liam Byrne, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to commit to the solution he and Polly Toynbee point to. I’m not holding out much hope.