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December 11, 2014


Dan Hardie

Another naïve question: how much do you think this crackdown is a case of the people who run Hong Kong thinking 'right, they've gone far enough' and how much do you think it's Boss Xi saying 'if you idiots can't clear this up, then I've got plenty of lean and hungry cadres who'd be more than glad to show you how it's done, and a nice job running a power station on the Mongolian border for you'?

Richard J

Interesting. Most office photocopiers now have scan to email/OCR built in, so an obvious backdoor to install from a securocrats perspective.

Back to the days of samizdat and carbon copies then!


re Dan, it's surprising how laid back Beijing has been about the whole thing. It worth remembering at this point that Chinese provinces are run broadly on a mission control basis: 'here's your targets, it's up to you how you meet them. Also, you own your local difficulties, it's up to you how you resolve them.' There's been greater centralisation under Xi, but that in practice means more responsibilities and greater scrutiny. The model itself hasn't changed - yet.

Also, part of the SAR deal is that Hong Kong recruits from among its own to govern, provided Beijing gets to sign off on the candidates, which deal was embodied in the elected Chief Executive stitch up. This just about met the letter of the Basic Law criteria under article 45. I think the overall takeout here is that Beijing is broadly satisfied with the development of HK since 97, has expressed confidence in CYL and is willing to let the locals handle things according to their understanding of conditions on the ground. There's certainly been no visible anxiety from Beijing, unless you count the knocking copy run in state-owned media.


Indeed - I'm not even sure that Beijing would be able to send an erring HK chief executive off to Craggy Island the Chifeng District Electricity Supply Office if it wanted to.

Dan Hardie

Re the Rogues, now that the most recent Kippers thread has closed, can anyone think of major police rogues who died between 1994 and 2014? There were a large number of coppers arrested for being bent in the late '70s, but they all appear to be still alive or to have snuffed it in the '70s and '80s.


Couldn't find any, but the idea of a "parallel lives" joint obit for Biggie Smalls and Bertie Smalls tickles me somewhat.

Chris Williams

I can't think of any senior villains either - the closest I've got to this is doing a very much non-rogue obit for Robert Mark on 'Last Word' a few years ago. But we did lose ex-DS Harold Challenor a few years ago. Challenor was a bit too overt to have ever made it right to the top, but Donald Rooum did a lot of people a favour when he derailed his rise in a Stirnerite stylee.

Dan Hardie

Yes, I knew about Tanky Challenor. Peter Cook, when he was running the Establishment in Soho, met Challenor and formed the impression he was a good cop who was turned nuts by the pressure of the job (and perhaps by the stress of his wartime experiences with the SAS). To use the old police distinction, he seems to have been very much 'bent for the job' rather than 'bent for himself'- ie he fitted up people he thought were guilty rather than people he thought would give him a pay-off.

There are two schools of thought in the 'bent copper' literature about Challenor, who spent much of the '50s claiming that Soho was the centre of a violent gang war: one is that he was pretty much bonkers all the time and had imagined most of the murders he talked about, and the other is that actually he was largely right, but that the hierarchy of the Met kept things quiet and the gangsters obliged disposing of the bodies most of the time. I did actually serve with a soldier called Challenor, who I suppose might have been related to Tanky- though knowing him, I don't think he'd appreciate my asking.

I remember when he brought out his memoirs with some specialist military publishers - 'Tanky Challenor: SAS and the Met'- the Guardian had the witty idea of getting the book reviewed by the man who, 1n 1963, Tanky had tried to frame for violent disorder at a protest against the Greek government, and who had instead proved in court that Challenor was lying. Memoir and review were both published in 1990, so I doubt they'll be online. The review was rather sporting, as I remember- the guy basically said that Challenor was clearly nuts by the time he had tried to frame him. But he did mention that an inquiry into whether DS Challenor might have framed any other suspects came back with the answer that such a possibility was absolutely unthinkable...

I think that if there was any wider significance in the Challenor case, it was there: the failure to register the fact that some CID people saw nothing wrong with fitting up people that they believed to be crooks, and the connivance of prosecutors and judges in this state of affairs. But nothing was done at the time of the Challenor case, so of course, that practice led to the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and other cases. Only after doubts about Police honesty had become very widespread did the Thatcher government introduce the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

There's a story there, certainly, because PACE pre-dated the successful appeals in both the Birmingham and Guildford cases: clearly someone, and quite possibly a lot of people, at the top of the Home Office- and very possibly in the Lord Chancellor's Department and the senior judiciary- were worried about the honesty of the police and were able to convince an otherwise very pro-police Tory Government to take some radical action.

I think if a 'British Rogues' book turns out to have any linking themes, one of the most significant might be 'how do the British governing classes cope with the possibility of corruption?' The Challenor case presents one way: deny that anything is wrong outside of 'a few rotten apples' (or one rotten apple in this instance). And the introduction of new interview rules under PACE suggests another: quietly, without any fanfare, introduce rules that will make corruption harder, without actually admitting in public that there is any such corruption, oh no.

Dan Hardie

On Mark, there is also a stream within the 'Bent Coppers' literature that - while admitting that the senior coppers Mark put away were all bent, and very much 'bent for themselves'- still blames him for having put people in charge of CID who had a uniformed police background but little or no investigative experience, and who had very little idea how to cope with major organised crims.

Of course, Mark had to find honest cops from somewhere to clean up the Met's CID, but it's at least possible that he could have found some senior but honest detectives. 'Nipper' Read, for example, seems to have had a reputation for honesty throughout his career with the Met's CID, and yet no one could call him inept: he was the man who put the Krays away. None the less, he seems to have been sidelined by Mark, which makes me think that the critics may have a point.

I think I'm right also in saying that many if not most of the coppers promoted by Mark were Freemasons, which clearly was undesirable for a number of reasons, not least the possibility of corruption. True, Freemasons looking out for each other in the Met was almost certainly not a custom that began with Mark, but he does seem to have given the Masons a big helping hand.


The irony of it is that all the rogues in the Catford nick/News International story are still with us - unlike Daniel Morgan.

On the original post, photocopiers are pretty weird from an information security perspective. A lot of them keep documents you've copied so you can go back and print more (they even have internal hard disks). A lot of them also have a Web interface, so if you know its IP address you can just hop in from a browser. Because it's just a photocopier, people tend not to worry about software updates or making sure you can't access it from outside the firewall. And people also don't bother disposing of them securely. (Search for your favourite copier here! - I literally picked the first one that came up and it had a no-password admin page...)

I'm not sure if I believe in the PSB literally getting copies of everything that goes through a copier, but hey it's the Snowden era. In this case I rather suspect that if they did exploit the copier itself, somebody in the copy shop ratted and gave them a tipoff. Claiming that they routinely exploit all the copiers both protects the informant, and scares the shit out of other putative dissidents.

Dan Hardie

Hmmm: Alf, Lord Robens, died in 1999, and this paper makes a very strong case indeed for considering him to be a pretty major Rogue:

'...A total of 144 people died.

The Rt. Hon. Lord Robens of Woldingham, a former trade unionist and Labour politician whom the Macmillan government had appointed chairman of the National Coal Board, arrived 36 hours later, having first gone to Guildford to be installed as chancellor of Surrey University. He announced that the cause of the disaster was an unknown spring underneath the tip. This was immediately challenged by villagers who had known it all their lives....

'A section of the report condemns the behaviour of Lord Robens in a fine piece of official prose:

'For the National Coal Board, through its counsel, thus to invite the Tribunal to ignore the evidence given by its Chairman was, at one and the same time, both remarkable and, in the circumstances, understandable. Nevertheless, the invitation is one which we think it right to accept...'

I think there's a very serious underlying point to be made here: that though the Thatcherite criticism of postwar Labour, and more generally of 'consensus' politics, may have been wrong in a great many ways, and was certainly self-serving for the Thatcherites themselves, none the less there was a hell of a lot that was wrong both about the old Labour party and about consensus (Robens was appointed to be head of the NCB by the Tory Macmillan).

Dan Hardie

Am I right in thinking that it would help the Hong Kong activists, and similar groups, if someone wrote something like 'A Basic Guide to Information Security' and published it on the web?

Or am I being naive, and that information is already out there, and it's more likely, as Alex says, that it was just a straightforward case of someone in the copy shop ratting? If the latter, it strikes me as just as likely that this activist was followed to the shop, which then was visited shortly after by Hong Kong cops demanding to look at the copier.


There are quite a lot of good resources in that line - try Tactical Tech's here or the EFF's here. TT also has versions of that for more specific targets ("LGBT in Sub-Saharan Africa" - you wouldn't think hackers would be your first concern but everyone's on the net these days) while EFF's is more approachable.

(Laughs? I just found a printer at UC Berkeley exposing a form that lets you drop any. given. link. on the whole of the internets. into it and print it out up to 9,999 times. sadly it didn't seem to be in John Yoo's office.)

Richard J

Oh, PACE reminds me that a friend's dad was a junior on the Doggett Road murders; his recent summary of the case when I stayed there a few months back was not exactly the most tactful.

Dan Hardie

Cheers, Richard- I'd never even heard of the Doggett Road murders before, which shows how little I know, and it's a very interesting (and macabre) case. Reading the Wikipedia account, it sounds like senior people at the Home Office, including Roy Jenkins, had pretty serious worries about CID testimony in murder cases by at least 1974.

Chris Williams

I think that Jenkins' opinion of the trustworthiness of the senior ranks of the Met was precisely the reason why Mark used 'clean sweep' tactics to replace the upper reaches of his CID.

My badly-informed opinion, which is not backed up by the years of research I'd need to do in order to prove it, is that there were two problems: a corrupt culture in the middle ranks of elements of the Met, and an old-boys network within the Hendon graduates, who were unable to accept either (a) that a significant number of their force might be on the take or (b) that anyone outside their network should get into a place where they might spot any putative corruption.

Dan Hardie

I'd always thought that it was Callaghan, rather than Jenkins, who put Mark into a senior post at the Met, in the expectation that he would spend a few years gathering info on what needed to change in London, and then be promoted about 1970 to Chief Constable. Instead, the Tories won the 1970 election and Mark's promotion was delayed- I wonder whether it wouldn't have been indefinitely delayed if Home Secretary Maudling hadn't found himself implicated in a very serious corruption scandal.

(AFAIK there's no suggestion of a causal relationship, where Maudling blocked Mark's promotion and as a result found himself being investigated in the Poulson scandal. For one thing, there were enough left-wing journos diggging into Poulson, whose relationship with Maudling was right out in the open, for there to be little or no need for police leaks on the matter; for another, Mark himself at that point had no influence at all on the Met's CID.)

One more interesting thing about Mark is that almost all his career pre-Chief Constable was spent with Special Branch, outside London. A history of SB in the Cold War would be very interesting indeed- all references welcome.

And there are at least some rumours emerging from Met detectives who worked on child abuse inquiries in the '70s, '80s and '90s that the Met's SB was involved in covering up some very dirty matters. It's too early to say if any of this is fact, but I think we could be on the brink of a scandal that really does change how we think of our institutions and our recent history.

You've got some rather serious people out there suggesting that it may well be the case that a Tory MP murdered at least one pre-pubescent boy during an orgy and that it was covered up by Special Branch. Among those taking the rumours seriously, Zac Goldsmith is certainly not to everyone's taste, and I don't know much about the guy. But Tom Watson has been right before, on Murdoch and phone hacking, when people were trying to write him off as paranoid.

Chris Williams

Mark had the backing of both Jenkins and Callaghan Jenkins appointed him to the Met as AC D in Feb 1967. Callaghan also had planned to appoint Mark as Commissioner when Joe Simpson retired, but when Simpson died suddenly in 1968, rather than bring Mark's appointment forward, he instead listened to Mark's own doubts, and appointed John Waldron, last of the Hendon generation, which had the effect of delaying it for 4 years.

Mark was Deputy and began his anti-corruption drive, but there were limits to how far he could go, because Waldron backed AC 'C' Peter Brodie, a naive (Hendon) twit who, though not personally corrupt, refused to believe that he employed any crooks. Mark had to wait until Waldron retired in 1972, when he succeeded: I don't think that Maudling had much choice in the matter, because by then Mark was synonymous with the anti-corruption drive.

We know a lot more about MI5 than we know about SB. And as for SB outside London, this suffers from the fact that, unlike Met police records until 1999, provincial police records do not fall under the public records acts. Nor do they fall under the records provisions of local government acts. Instead, they fall into the boiler room, or latterly, the shredder. In the past I have spent some time and effort drawing public attention to this fact, but to be honest I've pretty much given up now. The recent Hillsborough Panel report noted this point and called for change, though, so there might be a possibility of some movement, upon which I will not bet.

As for the massive bubbling-under scandals, yes. It might be time to dust off John Garrard's work on scandal as a thing. Also, remind ourselves about the White Marches in Belgium.


What is it with power and pedophilia?
The two do seem closely linked, the Belgian Dutroux affair being at most a tip of the iceberg, with similar situations in other European countries. Maybe the European voters are now picking female heads of state simply because they may be less egregious in their sexual appetites?

Chris Williams

Hm... Not sure about that. Note that about 2000 people minimum must have had the status of 'MP or similar' in the 1970s. Assume that only 1% of them were sex offenders, and that's still 20 people. Pedophiles don't need to have been over-represented among the powerful for this to have gone on.

But add in a general and continuing culture of cover-up: not just for pedophilla but for lots of other crimes of the powerful, including consensual relationships which were ilegal then but aren't now, and also financial corruption and other criminal offences which were neither. Now that Jeremy Thorpe is dead, it's safe for me to marvel in public at the extent to which certain members of the legal establishment appear to have been up for acquitting him for _hiring an actual hit man_. Because he was 'one of us'.

Dan Hardie

Cheers, Chris- I'd not heard of John Garrard before. Must try to read 'Scandals in past and contemporary politics'.

There was at least one other major Met police scandal in 1969- when a couple of 'Times' journalists filmed CID detectives talking about framing someone for murder, IIRC- which remained ineffectively investigated largely because of Callaghan's own slowness to react.

Re Thorpe: what has astonished me about his death is just how much of a whitewash the obituaries and news articles (at any rate, those that I've read) have been. The headline on the 'Times' news article was, no kidding, 'Liberal moderniser Thorpe dies'.


Except for the Mail, bless its heart - "Did Jeremy Thorpe have a gay lover thrown to his death from a yacht?"


The story includes Nicky Haslam, if tangentially, which is presumably why they bothered to run it.

"Thorpe was delighted to mediate between the members of a noble family; showing his usual persuasive charm, he got the parents to give Henry £1,500 on condition that he went out to Western Australia..."

Dan Hardie

That was a genuinely interesting piece of research: particularly the bit about Thorpe nearly being Anthony Armstrong-Jones's best man at his wedding to Princess Margaret. I'd never heard that before.

Dan Hardie

And this article is also rather interesting.


the extent to which certain members of the legal establishment appear to have been up for acquitting him for _hiring an actual hit man_. Because he was 'one of us'.

I basically agree, but I don't think it was entirely a matter of the Establishment closing ranks. Can I take a long run-up at this?

Exhibit A: my best friend at school and the class rebel. The latter was Fijian, & my friend at one stage, started calling him "the N*g". He explained to me that he wasn't racist, he just wanted to wind this guy up & he knew that using that word would really annoy him. And it's true that I never heard him use racist language about anyone else. I was still glad when he stopped doing it.

Exhibit B: Angus Deayton as good as calling Harvey Proctor a shirtlifter on national TV. Politically speaking Proctor's a revolting specimen, and I'm pretty sure that's why AD said what he did - he wouldn't have said anything like this about Chris Smith, say. But, again, you've got to wonder what's going on when people use that language; it seems designed to appeal to people who aren't making clever instrumental use of bigoted terminology, but just are bigoted.

I remember when Private Eye went for Thorpe - there was a cover picture with Cyril Smith(!) asking Thorpe "Who was that laddy I saw you with last night?" And that was the kind of thing that I thought was going on. They were using Thorpe's homosexuality as a stick to beat him with, for some political goal of their own - and appealing to all the people who just hated & despised gays in order to do so. As for Rinka, when the details started to come out the story genuinely seemed too outlandish to be true - and bear in mind that this was the period when BOSS were thought to be taking an interest in the British Left, the Liberals in particular.

Before the trial, in other words, there will have seemed to be good reasons as well as bad ones for closing ranks around Thorpe. After the trial is another matter - and the question of what Cantley was smoking that day may never be resolved.

Incidentally, one thing that both the Rinka story and the Smith allegations tell us is that "too outlandish to be true" isn't a good metric. Truth may not always be stranger than fiction, but it does get pretty damn weird.

Dan Hardie

Chris Williams: 'And as for SB outside London, this suffers from the fact that, unlike Met police records until 1999, provincial police records do not fall under the public records acts. Nor do they fall under the records provisions of local government acts. Instead, they fall into the boiler room, or latterly, the shredder.'

I'll tell you who would be interested to hear that, if he doesn't know it already, and who might very well do something about it: Tom Watson.

Dan Hardie

No doubt my sample is skewed by the fact that all the Fijians I've known have been soldiers, but I'm pretty surprised that Phil's race-baiting friend didn't find himself being stomped into strawberry jam in a fairly short space of time.

There is one female Fijian I know, an RAMC NCO, who plays rugby for men's regimental teams, has knocked out a number of male soldiers in drunken punch-ups, and once accepted the offer of a 3 Para Sergeant- male again, obviously- to 'go round the back and sort this out'. (They were standing up and trading blows when a number of other NCOs arrived and brought proceedings to an end.) She's a very nice girl, but you may not be surprised to hear that I have been extremely careful to never give her a moment's trouble.


They were using Thorpe's homosexuality as a stick to beat him with, for some political goal of their own

The implication here is that Richard Ingrams' Private Eye clique weren't massive homophobes themselves, which iirc a lot of them were.

Richard J

The implication here is that Richard Ingrams' Private Eye clique weren't massive homophobes themselves, which iirc a lot of them were.

I don't think you need the 'iirc' there. Private Eye's homophobia, along with the MMR stuff, is one of its blackspots.

And, of course, that none of its humour pages are actually in the slightest bit funny.

Dan Hardie

Agreed that the Eye just hasn't been funny in years: I think not since Peter Cook died in 1994. I don't think they've been homophobes or anti-Semites since Ingrams handed over the editorship to Hislop, about 25 years ago. But yes, although I've only read a few issues of the Eye from the '70s and '80s, when Ingrams was in charge, some it was truly horrendous.

I seem to remember that the anti-Semitism was a lot more veiled than the gay-bashing, but Ingrams had a huge great bee in his bonnet about both groups. (Which didn't prevent him from holding down a writing gig with the Observer throughout the '80s and '90s and being admired by a great many left-liberals.) If I was writing a history of Britain in the '70s and '80s, and even the '90s, one thing I'd want to emphasise was just how blatant you could be about hating queers: which I suspect is a big part of the background of some of the recent child abuse scandals.

You've got people who know that, although homosexuality is formally legal, if it comes out that they are (horrors!) having sex with consenting adults of the same sex, then that their reputation will be trashed (and probably their career too, if they are working for the state or in any way in the public eye). This, in turn, opens the door to all kinds of further nastiness.

Since a certain proportion of public servants are going to be homosexuals, people like Special Branch are going to get used to the practices of holding information that can end careers, and of deciding not to use it except in rare cases. Once they've started doing those things for men who have sex with other men, it's going to be easier to do them for men who rape children.

And at least some people in the gay sub-culture, knowing that a lot of straights despise them and would happily hound them out of their jobs, are going to be more receptive than they would otherwise be to the the notion that having sex with young boys or girls is just another justifiable minority taste. And if you've got a subculture based around secretiveness and cover stories, it's going to be so much easier to cover up things like rape and sexual abuse.

The line of certain conservatives- like the Vatican under Popes Benedict and John Paul II- that it was sexual liberation, including the equal treatment of gays, that caused a rise in child sex abuse, is surely exactly wrong. Making consent- rather than 'ergh! I don't like that!'- the principle governing sexual relations, means that children are rather more likely to be protected from predatory adults.


WRT my Fijian FOAF, this is the 1970s we're talking about (the Robert Relf case was 1976, I'm slightly amazed to find - the same year as punk started). Being racist was seen in similar terms to being a snob - expressing those views was rude and having them was regrettable, but it was totally understandable; you'd get called a hypocrite or a liar if you claimed never to have any racist feelings at all. (One of the weird things about the current political conjuncture, digressing slightly, is that we're not going back there - it seems to be generally assumed that we all hate foreigners, but nobody's actually saying it. Unless it's just one of those Things You Can't Say - although they tend to be things people never stop saying.)

Point taken about the Eye's homophobia - perhaps I should have said, "The best-case scenario was that they were using Thorpe's homosexuality as a stick to beat him with, for some political goal of their own - and appealing to all the people who just hated & despised gays in order to do so." OTOH, if Ingrams did go for both Thorpe and Smith out of general homophobia he was very lucky in his choice of targets.

Also, this:

if you've got a subculture based around secretiveness and cover stories, it's going to be so much easier to cover up things like rape and sexual abuse

And remember that the age of consent was 21 in the 1970s (and 1980s; it was lowered to 18 in 1994). You're a gay man some of whose relationships have been with men of 19 or 20, hence illegal. You hear that an acquaintance has been taking 14- and 15-year-old boys back to his flat. Are you going to go to the police?

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