David Cocks: police commissioner candidate who hired a killer

Another story in today’s paper about the increasingly Wacky Races that is the police and crime commissioner election:

In his campaign to be Suffolk’s new police and crime commissioner, David Cocks speaks of his time running a “successful” out-of-hours GP service and promises “no hiding place for criminals.”

What Mr Cocks does not mention is that his company, Take Care Now, employed the notorious killer doctor, Daniel Ubani, and was savaged by a coroner for its involvement in “gross negligence and manslaughter” after he killed a patient with a massive drug overdose.

Take Care Now responded to the tragedy by telling Dr Ubani to go home to his native Germany – where he has successfully found a hiding place, evading all British police attempts to extradite him for homicide.

Read the rest here.

In this election, “independent” may prove a label attractive to many voters, 61 per cent of whom think that party politicians should not control the police. But the thing is, not all independents are like Martin Bell. The cases of David Cocks – and Mervyn Barrett, who I wrote about last week – show that the banner of “independence” can conceal links far worse than to a political party. Mr Cocks’ campaign material describes the GP out-of-hours service he ran as “successful.” Mr Barrett, who has now resigned, admitted to me on Friday that he’d known for months that his campaign manager, Matthew “de Unger” Brown, was a convicted fraudster. The idea of a known criminal being allowed to run the campaign of a would-be police and crime commissioner makes the head spin slightly.

At least with a party, you have some idea of what you’re getting. On the other hand, that might not be too good either. As we also report today, several Labour PCC candidates appear to have been funded or supported by unions representing the very police staff they’ll have to be dealing with if they win the job.

Murziline Parchment: Lutfur Rahman's 'very unconvincing' chief crony

Last year I introduced you to Murziline Parchment (right of the picture above), one of Ken Livingstone’s notorious City Hall “cronies” during his mayoralty. After losing her £126,000 job when Ken lost the 2008 election, Parchment popped up again in 2011 as “head of office” for Lutfur Rahman, the elected mayor of Tower Hamlets expelled from the Labour Party for his close links with Islamic extremism.

Parchment’s qualifications for this key role – which she got without a formal interview – were always questioned by many. Now there seems to be substance to those concerns. The great Ted Jeory has been leaked an earlier application she made, in 2009, for the chief executive’s job at Tower Hamlets council. And the assessment, by the council’s own headhunters, of her capabilities is devastating.

Parchment’s performance in interview and assessment is described by the headhunters as “very unconvincing,” “disappointing,” “lacking in substance” and “consistently unable to demonstrate the technical skills, gravitas or subject matter knowledge to undertake this role.” (Perhaps they said that last bit because she told them that Tower Hamlets was an “exemplary borough with a fantastic reputation.”)

Parchment’s own CV and supporting statement, also included in the leak, is perhaps almost as damaging. We learn that she “led the restructure of the London Development Agency so that the work was realigned to the Mayor’s priorities.” The restructured LDA, of course, became a career-killing scandal for Ken which was so “aligned to his priorities” that it was commonly described as his chequebook.

Tower Hamlets currently lacks a permanent chief executive – the post has been vacant for a year after the last incumbent walked out, presumably because he no longer wanted to be associated with Lutfur’s car-crash mayoralty. So Parchment appears to have assumed some of the responsibilities of the job for which she was so comprehensively rejected – including signing off rather large invoices submitted by another questionable Rahman crony.

And tucked away in her application is a little clue to part of her attractiveness to Mayor Rahman: Parchment says that she “assisted” the East London Mosque, the extremist-controlled body which backs Lutfur, to build its highly controversial business wing (this project, as I’ve previously described, got a massive grant from Ken’s LDA, despite furious opposition from the agency’s own officials.)

Under Lutfur and Parchment, Tower Hamlets has been doing some of the same sort of thing: attempting to turn the borough into a kind of mini-Livingstone City Hall, with Ken-style targeting of public money to favoured client groups. Will it be enough to buy Lutfur re-election? Watch this space!

Mervyn Barrett: police commissioner candidate resigns after Telegraph expose

(Updated Weds 5pm – with new statement from Mervyn)

Mervyn Barrett, the remarkably well-funded independent candidate to be police and crime commissioner in Lincolnshire, reacted with the standard huffing and puffing to our expose on Sunday about his links with a neo-con US thinktank. Not that he’s actually denied it, or anything else specific that we wrote, of course. And tonight, inevitably, two days after his campaign team resigned, Mervyn has followed them out of the door.

In Sunday’s paper, I described how Mr Barrett’s campaign manager, Matthew de Unger Brown, was involved with what he described as a “neo-conservative” US thinktank, the Fund for the New American Century, to which Mr Barrett’s campaign website is also registered. “We support Republican candidates. It is a centre-right organisation,” Mr de Unger Brown told me on Friday. “I don’t think that neocon would be an unfair description.” Mr de Unger Brown also told a rival PCC candidate, David Bowles, with whom he was trying to negotiate an electoral pact, that the campaign was receiving funding from groups “with an interest in police sector privatisation.” Matthew refused to deny saying this to Mr Bowles when I spoke to him on Friday.

I originally hoped to write more on Sunday about the very curious phenomenon that is Matthew de Unger Brown. Most of it, unfortunately, had to go for legal reasons. There are, for instance, various pages on the internet claiming that his real name is Matthew Brown, that he has been convicted of fraud, expelled from the Tory Party, and has pretended to be various incarnations of British and European aristocracy. Matthew neither confirmed nor denied these claims when I put them to him on Friday. Cuttings searches do show various “Matthew Browns” convicted of fraud – but it’s a common name, and it could quite easily have been someone else. It would have been hard, therefore, to label him explicitly as a fraudster in our  news story. Today, however, an anonymous blogger who claims to know him has put up a post claiming that that is indeed what he is.

Something else I put to Matthew on Friday was that neither the Fund for the New American Century, nor its political action committee arm, MatthewPAC, are registered with the US Federal Election Commission, nor do they have much presence online. He insisted to me that they were registered. They could be registered at state level, which the FEC wouldn’t know about.

It is also perfectly possible that MatthewPAC, and the Fund, are indeed not much more than a website and a domain name registration. However, against this is the undeniable fact of Mr Barrett’s rather heavy spending on newspaper ads, offices, staff, hundreds of thousands of leaflets, a good website and a chauffer-driven Merc. That money must have come from somewhere. Mr Barrett’s resignation is also, of course, a telling sign.

I have a feeling this might be a story that keeps on giving.

UPDATE Wednesday 5pm: Mervyn Barrett has just issued a statement claiming that his entire campaign was a confidence trick played on him by Matthew de Unger Brown. “Yesterday I finally realised the whole thing had been a sham,” he says. “Although I have been actively campaigning on the streets of Lincolnshire, with a website and promotional video in place, many other aspects of the plan that Matthew claimed to have delivered – such as tracking polls and leaflets for a door-to-door delivery – now appear to have been purely figments of his imagination. To my knowledge, there has been no funding for my campaign, other than from my own bank account, to which Matthew had access.  It will take some days for me to establish how much has been spent, on what, and whether there are outstanding debts to be settled.  For example, I understand that the video produced cost in excess of £30,000 and I do not know whether that bill has been settled.”

Call me a cynic, but something about this still doesn’t wholly ring true. Mervyn has been campaigning for almost three months – can he really have suspected nothing until the Telegraph came to call? If he was paying for everything himself, why did he refuse to disclose the sources of his funding when asked about it at the last hustings he attended, in Boston last Thursday? And if all the money was coming out of his own pocket, wouldn’t he have been more curious about the amounts he was spending? If the leaflets never existed, why did Mervyn allow his campaign to keep talking about them? Didn’t he ever ask to see any? Why did he set up a new “advisory” company, Trinity Advisory, at the same time as he launched his campaign?

More to come, I think, on this story.

Ken Livingstone returns to Iran state TV

According to one of its official Twitter channels, Ken Livingstone will tonight resume his presenting role at Press TV, the Iranian regime’s English-language TV station.

He presented a book review show on Press TV until 2011, when he was ordered to give it up by the Labour Party leadership, despite not wanting to. Now, however, he is stepping up a gear – hosting one of the channel’s flagship programmes, Comment, in the absence of its usual star presenter, George Galloway.

Press TV has been banned from the UK airwaves by the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, after its failure to pay a £100,000 fine for last year broadcasting an interview filmed under duress with an imprisoned journalist. But you can still watch it online.

As readers will know, I myself presented a fortnightly show on Press TV – in which the Iranian government was regularly criticised and challenged – but gave it up in 2009, when it became clear that the station was becoming a propaganda mouthpiece for the regime.

This doesn’t seem to have greatly troubled Ken. In his previous outings on Press TV he made repeated attacks on Western “alarmism” about Iran’s nuclear programme, the “demonisation” of the Iranian revolution, and constant attacks on “Zionists” and “Zionism.” Like Ken, of course, Press TV has firm views about “rich Jews.” He continued to defend the channel even in his recent election campaign.

Although Ken is no longer a candidate for public office, he remains a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee. Whatever can the party think about one of its official representatives (or rather his tax-avoiding service company) taking payments from a regime on which Britain currently imposes sanctions?