Tag Archives: gabriel webber

Lapelgate

If you want to follow this blog before the inevitable injunction, the box in which to do so is on your right.
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01-lapelcameras[1]My revelation last week that Sussex University bosses have contracted Interserve to use secret lapel cameras to spy on students unlawfully caused a bit of a rumpus, as did the revelation that security contractors are required to suppress anything approximating a protest. No, I haven’t lapsed into wittering about ancient Egypt again, this is a modern-day higher education institution we’re talking about.

The University press office went all out in its quest to help journalists discover the truth:

james-hakner-sussex-press-office-privatisation

In relation to the lapel cameras, they said: “Use of body cameras for security staff aids their personal security.” Now this is interesting. Spokesperson Hakner is obviously right to say that Sussex’s security guards are small, diminutive people who couldn’t possibly take care of themselves if subjected to physical challenge…

sarcasm…but one wonders how it is that they aren’t adequately protected by the fixed CCTV system on which the rest of us have to rely. Surely the University can’t be admitting that we’re all unsafe on campus? How strange. (They also forgot to answer the question about why the lapel cameras aren’t included on their legally-required CCTV notification signs.)

I’ve also had more time to pore over the outsourcing documents released last week. They’re written in some of the most impenetrable English I’ve ever come across, requiring frequent trips to the several chapters of ‘definitions’ to be comprehended. But it’s good fun; where else would one find a requirement that cheese be “fit for purpose”? (Sadly no mention of Vice-Chancellors being fit for purpose.) Where else is ‘going bust’ pleasantly referred to as “an Insolvency Event”? And what other University has the opportunity to host ‘Disaster Declaration Discussions’?

interserve logoThe contract dedicated a good three of its 1,100+ pages to “anti-bribery provisions”. Interserve was asked to guarantee that it had not been found guilty, within the last six years, of any offence “involving bribery, corruption, fraud or dishonesty”. (Lucky there was no mention of health and safety offences or they might have had to mention their conviction for exposing workers to toxic asbestos.)

Interserve also had to guarantee that it had not, within the last six years, “been the subject of any investigation, inquiry or enforcement proceedings by any governmental, administrative or regulatory body under any bribery legislation”.

This is also intriguing. Sussex’s smug proud lawyers Pinsent Masons, who drew up the contract, clearly intended these provisions to serve as a background check on the people they were dealing with. But why were they interested in “bribery, corruption, fraud or dishonesty” – four different areas of law – in relation to criminal offences, but only “bribery” in relation to regulatory investigations? It’s certainly an unfortunate accidental omission, because if Interserve had been asked to declare any regulatory investigations over fraud and dishonesty then their £11m Office of Fair Trading fine for illegal bid-rigging might have arisen as a topic of conversation.

And we wouldn’t want that, would we.

Meanwhile, the battle between universities and unions rages on, with the threatened assessment-marking boycott potentially going to delay my graduation, which would be a tragedy, because I’m really looking forward to paying £100 for the privilege of wearing 18th-century clothing and shaking hands with a Vice-Chancellor I despise.

ucu-marking-boycott

Putting the ‘rat’ back into ‘irrationality’

Grayling with his best horns

Grayling with his best horns

Justice secretary Chris ‘we don’t take bookings’ Grayling, our exalted “minister of justice and dispenser of none”, has written another one of his ‘please pity me’ articles about judicial review in The Telegraph. Once again, his main argument seems to be that he sometimes loses court cases so clearly they must be a bad thing because he Represents The Public.

(The fact that he was elected in the context of a democratic society espousing the rule of law, in which politicans are not actually free to do literally whatever they want, has apparently not occurred to him.)

Anyway, for the benefit of those readers who have English as a first language, I have translated Grayling’s Telegraph article into an intelligible format and you can read it here.

We’ve had lots of letters

The letters page of The Jewish Chronicle featured a particularly fine selection of fruitcakes and loonies last week. Seemingly none of them realised how ridiculous they sound.

One man, from “London NW6″ (shock) wrote, “One cannot ‘illegally’ occupy land that one owns, as in the case of Judea and Samaria, where sovereignty is unambiguously vested in the Jewish people.”

Yes, and that lack of ambiguity no doubt accounts for the overwhelming global consensus on the political status of the West Bank.

Miriam the prophet with her salad spinner in her hand

Miriam the prophet with her salad spinner in her hand

The most UKIP-like letter, though, came from London N3 and argued against women being allowed to take on roles of leadership within the Jewish community.

Its author said: “In ancient Egypt, Israelite women were proactive in ways that were appropriate. If they had aggressively and stridently pushed to have the same role as men, would our people have been redeemed at all?”

How right can you be? Miriam provided a perfect example of a docile female figure who just stayed in the background, kept quiet and never tried to assume any form of leadership role.

It would have been awful if women had attempted to turn the slaves’ Exodus from Egypt into a civil rights struggle. It is plain for all to see that God would not have freed the Israelites from Pharoah if they had been, erm, trying to win their freedom.

What could be next?

jc-letter-for-blogOr shall we stick to a sensible, universalistic interpretation of Jewish values instead? Yes? Good.

Savouring the day

An intriguing section of Sussex’s contract with caterers Chartwells requires that all cheese used be “fit for purpose” (sadly there isn’t a requirement that all Vice-Chancellors used be fit for purpose). Slightly concerning that something so seemingly obvious had to be specified, no?

Lock-up before conspiracy

Lock-up before conspiracy

But suddenly Chartwells’ cheapo cheese isn’t the only unsavoury material we need to worry about, because Home Office minister James Brokenshire accidentally let slip in an interview with the Financial Times that UK internet providers are being asked by the government to filter out material “that may not be illegal but certainly is unsavoury”.

This is part of the government’s long-standing agenda to protect global human rights by repealing the Human Rights Act, making it more difficult for people to challenge unlawful government policies and – now – deciding what online content is and is not ‘savoury’ for us humble serfs (‘Serfers’, shurely? -Ed.) to view.

The Conservative Party has already made its own website a model of crispy, saline savouriness by deleting all of its pre-election pledges from public availability. This was necessary because if we were able to compare the government’s track record against the things that David Cameron promised, it might be bad for morale which is bad for Britain.
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George’s Day

george campbell birthdayNo, not St George’s Day. At some unspecified date in the next week or so it will be the 190th birthday of my good friend Sir George Campbell MP. We wish him many happy returns and he has this short statement to make:


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Caption competition

Gabrielquotes is looking for appropriately comical captions to this screenshot in which m’blog about the University hospitality register got Sussex’s Senior Communications Officer Alison Field into a lather:

sussex press office panicEg. At least he’s not found out about the Vice-Chancellor’s second home yet!

Afterword

Oh yeah, and I’ve got a job! Exciting times.

Five of the best

This week’s letter-writers
In tonight’s episode, Sussex’s press office stuck rigidly to the facts. The UCU marking boycott is being organised by general-secretary Sally Hunt and her brother Jeremy *. Chris Grayling wrote drivel because he hasn’t been exposed to books recently. The reputation of the Jewish community was enhanced enormously by God-free Bloom. James Brokenshire declared this blog to be unsavoury. Sir George has made yet another of his many happy returns to this blog. This was an Gabrielquotes production!
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Pesach special: continued p5774

pesach special alex salmond david cameronSlave-drivers part of religious cult

1000px-Ammit.svg[1]An investigation by The Guardian has revealed that those responsible for keeping the Israelites slaves in Egypt may have been part of a religious cult. “We have seen evidence that the slave-drivers worshipped an array of part-animal part-human deities who always stand side-on.”

Other Pesach news this year:

Follow the money

Readers may remember from last month that Sussex University recently noticed that it had accidentally paid one of its staff an extra £75,000. I speculated at the time that their reasons for asking for a repayment over several years – rather than dismissing the individual concerned and taking legal action – was about saving themselves embarassment.

Well, how wrong can you be. Because shortly after The Argus published a story about the incident, the Audit Committee paper which was my source mysteriously disappeared from the database on which I found it. Look: the series of papers runs from 1 to 10, but strangely, number 8 is missing:

sussex university fraud - audit committee transparencyHow odd. I daresay it’s just a mistake, because Director of Finance Allan Spencer described the episode as an “irregularity” rather than incompetence or fraud. Since he clearly has nothing to hide and the removal of paper A/79/8 must have been an oversight, I am providing a copy here.

Other Sussex transparency news

1518.item[1]Readers may remember the recent refusal of Director of Student Services Claire Powrie (pictured) to respond to freedom of information requests on ridiculous non-grounds (“The University is not obliged to take into account the views of the relevant individuals [when making decisions about the handling of their personal data]“). Her reasoning was, it turns out, based on substantial legal advice.

I asked how much this advice cost. The answer: “The University is withholding this information [...] The University’s legal advisers agreed its costs with the University on the understanding that this information would be kept confidential.” Now this is interesting. It’s a reasonable argument on the surface, yet it has never been the case before. The University has always published its legal expenditure on request.

What can have changed? Could it possibly be the fact that Sussex’s excessive legal expenditure has repeatedly been the subject of embarrassing media coverage? (Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, Exhibit D, Exhibit E.) I think so. The cunning devils have actually gone to the effort of entering into artificial but legally-binding confidentiality contracts to avoid having to release this information any more.

If any more proof is needed, I also asked from whom the legal advice was sought. The response: “The University is withholding this information [...] If the University were to release the name of its legal advisers [...] it would constitute an actionable breach of confidence.” Just think about that. An actionable breach of confidence. It is being suggested that if Sussex names its lawyers, they could sue the University. Not say, “Thank you for the free publicity and for the business we’ll now get from other large scummy universities.” Sue.

That seems just a little too convenient and implausible. So their deep commitment to transparency now involves them going to extraordinary efforts to circumvent legislation aimed at openness.

sussex uni chartwells contract transparencyMeanwhile back at the farm, Sussex’s insistence that over 100 pages of their contract with catering nightmare Compass (a company blacklisted by the United Nations for corruption) should be withheld from publication was challenged, and the Information Commissioner found that most of the redacted information should have been released. He ordered them to publish a proper copy with only minor redactions. I’ve also managed to browbeat them into releasing their contract with facilities/ accommodation/ porter/ printing/ security provider Interserve.

Sussex tried to suppress over 100 pages. Following the challenge, the Information Commissioner ruled that they were only legally entitled to suppress eight. So they weren’t trying it on at all then

These contracts were drawn up by the University’s very expensive lawyers Pinsent Masons, who are identified by name and logo on the front page of each document. Strange that there was no breach of confidence involved in that…

The juicy bit

I am now releasing these documents in full, exclusively on Gabrielquotes: the University of Sussex’s outsourcing contracts with caterers Chartwells, and facilities managers Interserve part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4. This newly-released material, especially the Interserve documents, frankly contains some dynamite revelations including:

  • img-APD-Lapel-Camera-Upgrade[1]“Patrolling Security Staff will [...] carry a continuously-recording video camera on their lapel [...] Lapel cameras [will] record continuously while the Security Staff [are] on patrol” – so we’re all under constant hitherto secret surveillance of dubious legality.
    p155 of Part 3
  • “The Service Provider will take all reasonable steps to prevent any protests and demonstrations taking place on the Premises [the campus including buildings and grounds].” Now contrast this previously secret clause with the Brighton County Court witness statement made under oath by Head of Security Roger Morgan, which said that students have ample opportunities to express dissent on campus. Morgan specifically said (and I quote) that we have “the opportunity to hold peaceful demosntrations and marches around the campus  [...including] in Library Square”.
    I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions about this apparent contradiction.
    p162 of Part 3
  • Interservants has the job of monitoring the “intruder alarm for Vice-Chancellor’s suite”. Could Michael Farthing be living in fear of unwelcome visitors?
    p146 of Part 3
  • “The Service Provider shall adopt a set of values which reflects the values of the University and [their own] (and in the event of any conflict then the value of the University shall take precedence). The Service Provider shall ensure that its staff [...] live the relevant values.” Erm… #vomit. Also, I take no comfort in John Duffy’s values ‘taking precedence’ over a corrupt profiteering company, because frankly that makes little difference.
    p428 of Part 4
  • “Windows will be cleaned with a cloth [...] and the residue removed using a squeegee [...] All areas are left clean and dry.” Surely the world’s only professional facilities management company which is incapable of cleaning a window without detailed instructions drawn up by a firm of solicitors.
    p67 of Part 2

As you will see if you download these documents, there are hundreds and hundreds of pages and I’ve only had time to look through a couple of them. Anyone who wishes to help wade through the material and find the interesting/scandalous bits should definitely get in touch!

I’m going to be well proud to be a Sussex alumnus.

Maria Miller’s second pyramid

The late Maria Miller gave MPs a heartfelt apology for overclaiming expenses and obstructing Parliamentary authorities’ investigation. Her apology lasted a good 30 seconds, so that’s alright then. Or not, because the leader of the Labour Party called for and eventually got her resignation. (My greatest achievement. -Ed) (That’s funny. -Ed.)

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Maria Miller at the centre of her web

However, what hadn’t come out at the time was the protection racket being run by Miller’s special advisor Joanna Hindley. When a Telegraph journalist contacted Hindley to ask about the £5,800 discrepancy (Irregularity. -Allan.) in the MP’s expenses, they were told:

“Maria is obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around [press regulation post-]Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to flag up that connection for you to think about.”

Or in other words:


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Her role has now been split: the Culture and ‘Equalities’ (why is that now a plural?) portfolios have gone to Sajid Javid, while the new Minister for Women will be Nicky Morgan – who, in her role as a representative for empowered British women, will be answerable to Sajid Javid, a Man. She’ll have to ask his permission before making press statements, releasing policy papers, going out to dinner on a work night etc.

Good old enlightened David Cameron! Still, we can’t say that his party is entirely institutionally sexist, so let’s pass over to…

katy bourne sussex youth police commission

Yeah. Let’s panic.

Bank holiday TV guide

I’m sure the fifth question on everybody’s mind is: what am we going to do on that long, endless, boring Pesach bank holiday weekend? Well, with the best TV and radio listings around, Gabrielquotes can present the Pesach Radio Times.

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When there’s a wool, there’s a way

  • Of Lice and Men
  • Harry Potter and the Four Goblets of Fire
  • Slaving Private Ryan
  • One Passover the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Doctor Who 2005 finale: The Parting of the Waves
  • Call the Midwife a Traitor
  • Radio 4′s Afternoon Plague
  • Just a Ribbit
  • Seders of the Lost Ark
  • The Jews Quiz (You’ve done this one. -Ed.)

Nirtzah

Our blog post is now completed: we have read the text, satirised Police & Crime Commissioners and antagonised Michael Farthing. Let us be thankful that we have done so in freedom and safety, and let us pray for the Internet of the future, when all humanity will share information and ideas in harmony and peace.

Next year in Falmer! Next year for a campus redeemed!

Gabrielquotes would like to wish all readers a joyful Pesach, the very best of luck with dissertations/revision/job-seeking and a wonderful year to come.

best-wishes-gabriel

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