Archive for September, 2013

Lewisham is building council houses

Written by Mike on . Posted in Labour, Lewisham Council

Lewisham Council is in the process of building new council houses. Yes, you read that right houses. After a considerable amount of hard work attracting grants by the Labour party, and the sale of some older buildings formerly used as offices and centres by the council, we’re in the process of building up to 300 homes in the near future.

The initial projects for social housing and low-cost housing in Lewisham Central will be as follows:

Mercator Road, SE13

This is the site for the first new homes in the programme and planning permission for the scheme was granted in September. The scheme consists of four three-bed and two two-bed homes, all of which will be let at social rent levels and managed on the Council’s behalf by Lewisham Homes. The Council hopes to have appointed the contractor and handed over the site before Christmas with a view to starting on site in early January 2014 and completing 10 months later in November.

There will also be new affordable home ownership on Mercator Road too. The plan is to build some private housing for sale to peole who currently live in Lewisham at a 20% market discount on the market rate with 26 X 1 bed and 1 X 2 bed homes. Dependent on the results of the consultation and approval to dispose of the site, and then the planning process, work could start on site in the first half of next year.

Community self build scheme on Church Grove

Over 100 residents have expressed an interest in taking part in the proposed self build scheme on Church Grove. Our London, a social enterprise, is bringing these residents into groups to help them to understand the options for self build and support them to develop their ideas for the site. The idea is that the residents selected will currently be in social housing, or on the council waiting list, so the new housing reduces demand for social housing and the waiting list further.

There will be a discussion day on Saturday 5th October, from 10 until 12 at St. Mary’s Centre which will present some successful self build schemes from around the world. You can register here.

The Chiddingstone Extra Care scheme

Earlier in 2013 Lewisham Council successfully bid for £2.3m allowing a new 51 unit scheme to provide extra care housing for vulnerable people. Planning and a consultation is still needed but hopefully an excellent proposal will come forward that will allow us to top up our social housing.

The Penal and Criminal Codes of various European Union countries – in English

Written by Mike on . Posted in Blog, International, Uncategorized

Very occasionally it’s useful to be able to reference accurate English translations of the penal codes of European countries, so you can see what the law says for yourself. From across the internet these are the translations I’ve managed to find, so far. I’ve attempted to verify each translation using the few sections of the law I know, which means they should be partly accurate at least.


The French government has helpfully translated whole sections of its legal code in English including the Civil Code (2006), the Commercial Code (2004), the Consumer Code (2005), the Intellectual Property Code (2006), the Penal Code (2006) and the Monetary and Financial Code (2010).


In 2009, Prof. Michael Bohlander provided an English translation of the German Criminal Code. A 1998 version is also available online here for comparison.


Selected elements of the Criminal Code of Greece have been translated into English. Many of the elements of the Criminal Code relating to defamation are available separately here.


The 1997 Penal Code of Poland has been translated into English here.


In 2011, The Ministry of Justice published an English translation of the Spanish Criminal Code. You can also buy an Android application with the Spanish version of the criminal code.

BNP’s website the most visited during the 2010 UK general election

Written by Mike on . Posted in Blog

Surprisingly considering the British National Party’s implosion, but the BNP’s website was the most visited website of any British political party during the run-up to the 2010 UK general election according to figures published in the Journal of Europe-Asia Studies (p. 1467, Vol 64, Number 8, October 2012).

The BNP website in the three months to 16 March 2010, had more visitors than the websites of the Conservative party, the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats combined. Yet, ironically it also had the lowest audience share of British visitors with only 65.3% of visitors to the site emanating from the UK with 12.6% of visitors from the US. This compares with 85.9% of visits to the Labour party website coming from the UK.

While the BNP still managed the largest audience share of all the three main political parties, in the run-up to the election its audience share actually fell 10% during this period, while it rose 13%, 25% and 29% for the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives respectively.

Why LOLs may soon swing elections

Written by Mike on . Posted in Blog

For some time political parties have been working to harness social media to help them win elections. The Obama campaign famously outspent the Romney campaign online by a factor of 10 to 1 ($47 million vs $4.7 million). Even its use of traditional media was tailored using the huge amount of digital information the campaign hoovered up from online sources.

As the New York Times (“Data You Can Believe In“) found:

“the campaign literally knew every single wavering voter in the country that it needed to persuade to vote for Obama, by name, address, race, sex and income. What’s more, he hinted, the campaign had figured out how to get its television advertisements in front of them with a previously inconceivable level of knowledge and accuracy.”

Yet, with the notable exception of the Obama campaign, contemporary political parties have been uniformly bad at building their online presence. Online startup 38Degrees has more campaigning “members” than any British political party including their Facebook likes.

To the fill the gap left by the professional, but ineffectual, online presence of the major political parties, third parties including trade unions and individuals have stepped in. Working often with minute budgets and turning out material that can cause embarrassment to the established parties, these third party actors are beginning to make an impact. is created “BY A HUMAN BEING WHO DOESN’T BELONG TO ANY POLITICAL PARTY BUT DOES GIVE A SHIT”. Sweary, blunt, highly simplified and pro-Labor the site went viral near instantly with over 1 million unique visitors in just 24 hours (with possibly up to 4% of total registered Australian voters viewing the site). Jesse Richardson, the site’s creator, had to issue a media statement re-iterating it was a personal project and nothing to do with his employers or the Australian Labor Party.

Meanwhile, in Germany, trade union IG Metall’s video implores voters not to believe the re-election of Angela Merkel’s conservative coalition is a done deal – through the medium of LOLs. A bolt-together of amusing Youtube clips spliced with a light political message, it’s amusing and effective. It works because on the face of it, the film is a spontaneous response to the direction of the election. The video opens with an unflattering image of Peer Steinbrueck of the Social Democrats (SPD) looking miserable, presumably after losing the election. No permission was sought from the SPD.

These LOL campaigns are often more effective than the efforts of the mainstream political parties. Only one SPD Youtube clip has just over 100,000 views on their channel, while the IG Metall clip has been viewed over 750,000 times – more than all the SPD’s official videos combined.

While Britain’s three main political parties limber up to the next election, it’s likely that the online political moment to go viral will be created by none of the above.

Kim Kardashian: Enemy of Human Rights

Written by Mike on . Posted in Blog, Free expression

Last Saturday night in Almaty, the capital of post-Soviet dictatorship Kazakhstan, Kim Kardashian joined her partner Kanye West at the wedding of Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbaev’s grandson. According to Radio Liberty, Kardashian joined wedding guests to pose for photos. It is unclear how much the couple were paid to perform for the dictator’s grandson, but unconfirmed reports say West was paid as much as $3 million for the gig.

This isn’t the only time Kardashian has enjoyed a cosy trip to a dictatorship that violates human rights. In December 2012, Kardashian ignored appeals from human rights organisations not to visit the country during the government’s clampdown on the opposition. Instead she helped to promote business inside the country in particular “Millions of Milkshakes”. Before arriving in Bahrain, Kardashian tweeted to her 17 million followers: “Inshallah next week I head to Kuwait & Bahrain with my friend @sheerazhasan Time to set the record straight!”

On arrival she added: “I just got to Bahrain! OMG can I move here please? Prettiest place on earth!” A tweet deleted promptly after tear gas was fired on nearby protesters. Sheeraz Hasan, the person mentioned in her tweet with his business partner Paresh Shah founded the “Millions of Milkshakes” chain. The two were given a mandate by the government to “source unique investment opportunities” for Bahrain after a visit to Bahrain only weeks after the controversial Grand Prix in April 2012 (while human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was on hunger strike). The pair enjoyed the delivery of a pair of Rolex watches from the royal family – direct to their private plane. It comes as no surprise that the trip they organised for Kardashian had her actively tweet praise for the regime while ignoring invitations to meet persecuted human rights activists such as the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

Maybe we shouldn’t care that the international celebrity class has no qualms treating with dictators. The amounts of money on offer for single day visits trump actually releasing an album, or the effort of a TV series. It is more depressing to note the adulation these celebrities are held in when they are such morally bankrupt creatures.

A list of style guides

Written by Mike on . Posted in Blog

Writing well requires rules. Luckily, we have style guides to follow. Here are a few of the best:

The Economist Style Guide is an absolute must read. I still don’t think I’ve mastered the art of writing in the active, rather than the passive. The guide is based loosely on a George Orwell essay, “Politics and the English language” (1946). A masterpiece on how to write. It is worth reading first hand.

Beyond style guides, there are the debates. For instance, I love commas. Most people don’t, and argue that you should never use a comma where it can be supplanted with a full stop. You certainly shouldn’t use a comma before an “and”. These people are wrong. Mary Norris of the New Yorker explains why they are wrong, “In defense of ‘Nutty’ commas”. New York leads the way, not just with commas, but semicolons too.

Finally we come to the much-maligned hyphen. As Ben Yagoda points out in the New York Times, the hyphen is not – as commonly believed – a modern phenomenon, in fact:

The Nobel Laureate of this form of punctuation in poetry was Emily Dickinson. Not only was she inordinately fond of the dash, she wrought impressive variations on it. As one commentator has noted, “Dashes [in her work] are either long or short; sometimes vertical, as if to indicate musical phrasing, and often elongated periods, as if to indicate a slightly different kind of pause.… Dickinson uses dashes musically, but also to create a sense of the indefinite, a different kind of pause, an interruption of thought, to set off a list, as a semi-colon, as parentheses, or to link two thoughts together…”

The longest list of style guides can, of course, be found on Wikipedia.