Saturday, 16 February 2019

Is Britain, once no country for a very old American citizen called Albert Dolbec in 2017, a country he is comfortable to live in today ?

Albert, a 90 year old American citizen, was 87 years old when his problems with Britain began. Married to his British wife Dawn, who is 6 years his junior, when he was 65 and she was 59, he was told that he had to return to his native USA. She said at the time that she was too old to relocate and : “If he goes back to the states he would be left with absolutely nothing, with no family, no money and just a bag of clothes and a walking stick.” 

The couple were married in 1994 in Stratford-Upon-Avon before moving to San Juan Island in in 1996, where Albert worked for 20 years, but when his health started to decline, he has arthritis, type two diabetes and mental health issues, Dawn decided to return to her native Britain with Albert in January 2016. so she could care for Albert and be near her family in Hertfordshire. He was granted a six-month short-term visa and when it expired they applied for a 'spousal visa', which would eventually allow him to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

Dawn recalled : “We applied but it took them so long to get back to us that every day I was panicking about the future of my husband.” In December 2017, the Home Office turned down Albert’s application, so he applied again, submitting more evidence, which related to both his a Dawn's frailty, but was rejected the following November.

Outlining the decision in a letter, the Home Office said : 'You have provided NHS documents in support of your claim which outlines the conditions and treatments you are receiving' which 'do not specifically specify that you and your partner are unable to travel or that you and your partner are currently receiving urgent treatment. Your conditions are not life-threatening and no evidence has been provided to show that undertaking a journey whilst relocating is likely to have a huge detrimental impact on your condition.' 

Albert's reaction to the prospect of undertaking the 7,000 round trip journey on his own to the States and relocate was to say : “I rely on Dawn to help me with my day to day care. I wouldn’t be able to cope alone.” She said : “I am Albert’s official carer and he requires constant support with his personal care and medical conditions. Albert is not capable of caring for himself and I currently do everything for him, cooking, cleaning, gardening, shopping, making his medical appointments for him as well as making sure that he takes his medication." 

Oliver Dowden, Dawn's Member of Parliament, who lobbied for almost a year for the Home Office to reconsider its decision said : “I have repeatedly made Albert’s case to UK Visas and Immigration and personally engaged with the Home Office a number of times."

Now, following a review of its decision and possibly as a result of the fall out from the Windrush Scandal, the Home Office has revoked its decision and has written to Albert to say :
'It has been determined that your indefinite leave to remain in the UK was never revoked. When you entered the UK in 1997, it appears that the ILR stamp in your passport may have been overlooked and you were issued leave to enter as a visitor. However … there was no requirement for you to apply for leave to remain. Please accept our sincerest apologies for any difficulty, stress or inconvenience this may have caused you, your spouse and your family.'

The Home Office has also said it will refund the family the £1,804 they have spent in visa application fees the family are also considering suing for their legal fees, which came to more than £5,000.

Marina Breeze, Dawn Dolbec’s daughter said : "When we opened the letter we were dumbstruck. We were torn between relief and outrage at the effort, time and money we’ve wasted, not to mention the terrible trauma our family has been through over the past two and a half years. But we’re only celebrating today because we’re educated, persistent and financially able to have fought for all these years. Despite all that, it was only when we raised public attention, through our MP and the media, that the Home Office began to care enough to really look properly at our case. What about all the families without our advantages? They have to accept wrong Home Office decisions and see their families destroyed as a result.”

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old Professor of History and Master of Radical Dissent called Willie Lamont

Willie, who has died at the age of 84 was first and foremost a consummate historian who, through his books as well as numerous essays and reviews, developed his insights into seventeenth century Puritan ideologues and illustrated the sophisticated Biblicism and subtlety of thought underpinning their ideas. He was also an inspirational teacher who, during his 33 year stint at the University of Sussex, touched and influenced the lives of hundreds of students, myself included.

I got to know Willy in 1968 when I was one of his ten history students on the postgraduate teacher training course led by Derek Oldfield at Sussex. I was 21 years old and he was 35. I remember the occasion when he visited me to watch me teach at my teaching practice at a secondary school along the coast at Bexhill-on-Sea.

He had been unimpressed by the quality of my teaching and told me so. On the second occasion when tasked with the job of making Britain's entry into the Seven Year's War against the French in 1756 interesting to a class if 14 year olds, I gave the lesson in the persona of Prime Minister, Pitt the Elder.

This involved me making a speech justifying the country's entry into the war wearing an approximation of an 18th century coat and hat and my class becoming London electors in Fishmongers' Hall at London Bridge. Willie loved the lesson and when he related his experience at the next weekly meeting of the History group, back on the campus I remember my fellow students almost audibly groaned with his words of  : "I want to tell you all that, when I went to see John teach last week, he gave a marvellous lesson in which he 'was' William Pitt." 

The second occasion took place at the afternoon drinks and food he provided for us students in the back garden of the house he shared with his wife and three daughters in Lewes. He related, with some relish the occasion when he was reading one of his girls, Catriona,  Ailsa or Tara, from the Ladybird book 'Oliver Cromwell' and related with enormous pride and enjoyment the point when she had said "When are they going to cut off the King's head Daddy ?" and he'd replied : "Don't worry Darling. They will. They will."

What I didn't know those 50 years ago, was that he was born in 1934 in Harrow, Middlesex, the eldest child of a Hughina, known as 'Hughie' and Hebridean-born, Hector Lamont, who, before 'Billy' was born, had moved to London to take up the job of a bank clerk, but had been a purser on the MacBrayne Ferries serving Scotland’s West Coast who had got engaged to Hughina on the Oran Ferry.

Willie was five years old when the Second World War broke out and attended Priestmead Primary School, interrupted by wartime evacuation to Oban in 1941 and then, having passed his 11+ went on to Harrow Weald Grammar School with its 'Valiant for Truth' motto.

In 1952, at the age of 18, he started life as a History undergraduate at Queen Mary College, University of London. Subsequently, having obtained his Masters degree he supported his study for his doctorate with research at the Institute of Historical Research, by teaching at the boys public school, St Paul’s School and then for three years at the grammar school for boys, Hackney Downs.

His thesis topic was the unattractive and combative, seventeenth century Puritan lawyer and polemicist, William Prynne which he published in 1963 and recalled, twenty years later :  'A criticism of my study, and of other revisionist works, is that we are better-informed, as a result, about why the Civil War did not happen at any period before 1642, than about why it did happen in 1642.' He also recorded 'Prynne and his colleagues can now be shown convincingly, not as Bakunin-type fanatics planning some ‘revolution of the saints’ when the Long Parliament convened in November 1640, but as angry and confused conservatives, seeking to restore an idyllic Elizabethan past.'

In his acknowledgements he said : 'My debt is overwhelming to Professor S. T. Bindoff, who first encouraged me to research, and to Mr. R. C. Latham, who first suggested the subject and who supervised my researches. My mother typed the first draft, and my wife and my father aided me in the correction of proofs and in the compilation of an Index. I should like to thank History Today for their help in providing photographs. During the last three years at Hackney Downs Grammar School, William Prynne was dragged into many lessons--though never by the ears. This book is offered as an act of contrition.'

By the time 'Marginal Prynne' was published in 1963 Willie had married Linda, taken up a lectureship in history at the Aberdeen College of Education, contracted tuberculosis and was recovered sufficiently to play in the snow with Ailsa in the big winter of that year.

Though proud of his Scottish antecedents, in 1966 he was tempted south of the border by the offer of a lectureship at the new University of Sussex.

He later recalled : "Well the first exhilarating thing for me really was, I'd been in Aberdeen and I'd got out of the blue, before I came to Sussex a communication from a Sybil Oldfield, who was a lecturer in English. And she'd picked up on the grapevine that there was a seventeenth century historian coming. So she said she had the idea of starting a course on 'English Literature and the Civil War' and then we corresponded and we'd never met and this to me was astonishing. Astonishing that somebody should just approach me. I mean, she knew I was going to come in the summer and was already planning and we discussed things, but we still hadn't met. And the thing I couldn't get my head around was that I'd been a student at the University of London where they change the syllabus about once every two hundred years or something and here it was : "Let's start a course.""

Sussex was one of the most successful of the 'Robbins Universities' established as university system expanded in the 1960's and was he tailor-made for its cross-curricular approach and commitment to teaching and research.

It was in 1966 that Willie saw 'Sir Edward Dering : The Squire Who Changed Sides' published in 'History Today'. It was typical of Willie that he would choose to research the complex Dering, the Kentish Squire who introduced the 'Root and Branch Bill' in 1641, which sought to sweep away the existing church hierarchy with its roots and branches, only to later change his mind and fight for King Charles and the Established Church saying of his opponents “Whilst they are floating, I stand steady, wondering to what coast they are bound.”

Three years later in 1969 he published 'Godly Rule: Politics and Religion, 1603-60' which centred on the profound effect that the Elizabethan John Foxe, historian and martyrologist and author of 'Actes and Monuments' which emphasised the sufferings of English Protestants from the 14th century through the reign of Mary I, had on seventeenth century Puritans. Giving them an eschatological faith based on the Book of Revelation which included a messianic conception of England's role with Elizabeth I and her successors play the role of Constantine.

There was more than a touch of the seventeenth century radical about Willie : the enemy of bureaucracy in higher education and energetic proponent of keeping the academy’s doors open to all-comers, in what today would be called 'outreach'. At first, at Sussex, he held a joint post in History and Education, developing the University’s Bachelor of Education degree and setting up a close relationship with local schools. He was also fiercely committed to adult education. When the School of Education was founded, Willie  then moved full time into the History Subject Group.

In 1979 Willie  co-authored as an audio book 'Charles I and Puritanism' with G.E. Aylmer and three years later came 'Richard Baxter and the Millennium: Protestant Imperialism and the English Revolution.' His study of Baxter, the prolific theological writer, who after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, became one of the most influential leaders of the Nonconformists, spending time in prison, revealed Willie's mastery of Baxter's published works and unpublished treatises and correspondence. In Baxter, he found a protestant cleric constantly refining his position, sometimes radically in that time of political and social turmoil.

He returned to Baxter in 1994 when he edited, in 'Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought : 'Baxter: A Holy Commonwealth.' Willie focused the most controversial of all his works, written in 1659, which he publicly repudiated it in 1670, and in 1683 the Oxford University authorities ordered it to be part of a book-burning that included the works of Hobbes and Milton. Willie's edition of 'A Holy Commonwealth' made available to modern readers a work which offered a unique perspective on the relation between church and magistrate and the origins of the English Civil War.

In 1996, his 'Puritanism And Historical Controversy' had its origins in an undergraduate course which aimed to introduce students to the nature of historical debate by grounding the historical debates surrounding Puritanism in the experiences of three representative Puritans, Willie's old friends : Prynne, Baxter who were joined by Lodowicke Muggleton. In this way he was to challenge common stereotypes and orthodoxies and illuminate key issues surrounding the influence of Puritanism on early modern England.

Two years later and almost at the end of his career at Sussex, came his book of essays by his Sussex colleagues : 'Historical Controversies and Historians'. Concentrating on the 'practice' of history it  examined a number of notable controversies that have been, and still are, the subject of historical debate : race in South Africa, the legacy of the French Resistance, the origins of the Welfare State. These illustrated the issues involved in "doing" history. In the second half he focused on the historians themselves : Tawney, Carr, Buckhardt, Weber, Thompson and demonstrated how the historian puts his/her own spin on historical interpretation.

It was entirely appropriate that on the occasion of his retirement from Sussex in 1999 his colleagues presented him with :

Willie's last contribution to historical research came in 2006 when he was 72 and in the shape of  'Last Witnesses: The Muggletonian History, 1652–1979.' He took his readers to those three successive mornings in February 1652, when God spoke to a London tailor by the name of John Reeve and consequently he and his cousin Lodowicke Muggleton believed that they were the Last Two Witnesses prophesied in the Book of Revelation.

Over the next six years the pair attracted a small but dedicated band of followers that, following the death of Reeve, became known as the Muggletonians. Willie followed their story from the heady post-civil war days through to the death of their last member, Philip Noakes, in 1979.

Willie's was a story of how a small religious group, which eschewed active proselytising and believed in the mortality of the soul, managed to overcome persecution and obscurity, to survive for 320 years. He visited Jean, the widow of Philip Noakes, in her Kentish farmhouse to inspect the only known portrait of  Lodowicke Muggleton : He also took over the Muggletonian archive which had been discovered at the home of Philip Noakes by E.P.Thompson :

It was also entirely appropriate that on one of the last occasions spoke in public, before the curtains of dementia closed around him was at a meeting of the Lewes branch of U3A in 2015. His subject : radicalism to the last ! The programme read :

'Professor William Lamont : The Diggers in the English Revolution.'

“Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.”
― Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Britain is no country for old men suffering from depression, in need of 'talking therapy,' but offered antidepressants

Apparently, one old man in twenty in Britain is depressed and four in twenty show some symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, according to a paper, which has been published in the British Journal of General Practice, too often their GPs dismiss 'talking therapies' as a way of tackling their depression, partly because there are long waiting times to start treatment.

Evidence shows that even though talking therapies help older people with depression, they are twice as likely as younger people to be treated with antidepressants and those aged over 85 are five times less likely than 55 to 59-year-olds to receive psychological help. In some areas, as few as 3.5% of over-65s are recommended to see a therapist to undergo a course of cognitive behaviour therapy.

Rachael Frost, an academic at University College London and the lead author of the paper said : “There needs to be greater access to talking therapies. They are effective in older populations, but we know that GPs are less likely to refer those in their 80s to psychological therapies for depressive symptoms than those in their 50s and 60s."

The Report makes the point that older men and women may be reluctant to access National Health Service help either because they fear they will be stigmatised, or that nothing can be done about their condition anyway. In addition, GPs often use their appointments to discuss the old person’s physical health, rather than their mental wellbeing and some fail to act on cues suggesting that over-65s want to talk about how they are feeling.

Caroline Abrahams, the Charity Director of Age UK, said : “These figures once again show that older people are missing out on talking therapies and other effective treatments for mental health conditions, with medication too often being the prescribed approach. Depression and anxiety affects nearly three million people over 60, and older people mustn’t miss out on help and treatment because either they aren’t offered it or don’t know where to go for help. Talking therapies can benefit everyone, regardless of age.”

Friday, 8 February 2019

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" and "Thankyou" to an old actor called Albert Finney

Albert, whose has died at the age of 82, left us with a legacy of stage and screen performances which have provided us with entertainment over the last 60 years. When he was 27, back in 1963, he took the title role in the Tony Richardson film, 'Tom Jones,' based on the novel by Henry Fielding, written in 1749. The film contained the wonderfully lascivious banquet scene played between Albert and the late Diane Cilento and 54 years later it has lost none of its power to make us smile at his prodigious talent.

"Heroes, whatever high ideals we may have of them, are mortal and not divine. We are all, as God made us and many of us, much worse."   
From John Osborne's screenplay

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Is Britain, after all these years, finally a country for an old 'peaceful' protester called John Catt ?

John Catt, who is 94-years old, recently won his eight-year legal battle to have details of his protest activity removed from a police 'National Domestic Extremism Database'. Despite the fact that he had no criminal record, his requests to have his personal details and information about his attendance at  protests removed from police records were continually refused.

John, born in 1925, was 14-years-old when, as a farm labourer at the start of the Second World War, his boss delayed paying him and eight others and taking matters into his own young hands he led a protest on the Sussex farm and successfully demanded the money. He recalled : "The owner was a terrible man, a tyrant who used to rant and rave. It was raining hard and we were soaked. I demanded he paid the men, who were a lot older than myself. There was so much electricity running through me at the time the owner eventually paid the eight of us."

His taste for standing up to authority continued when he was enlisted into the RAF during the War. After landing what he described as a "plum job" working in the briefing room of RAF Tangmere, near Chichester, he protested to his superiors over the "dirty and filthy" conditions of the sick bay. As a result his outburst saw him confined to barracks for a month as punishment for insubordination. "That's what first got me into the bad books of the authorities".

Over the years he took part in demonstrations over nuclear weapons, the Vietnam War, perceived racism by the Metropolitan Police, Margaret Thatchers' Poll Tax, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the increase in the cost of student tuition fees.

Alongside his daughter Linda, John was 86 when he obtained access to his police files using Data Protection Laws and the pair found that their attendance at demonstrations had been logged by the police. The police disclosed 66 entries collected from March 2005 to October 2009, mostly related to 'Smash EDO', the arms manufactoring giant, but also concerning 13 other demonstrations and events which included attendance at a Trades Union Congress conference in Brighton in 2006, at a demonstration at a Labour Party conference in 2007 and a pro-Gaza meeting in 2009.
For example, at the time of the Iraq War they attended a protest at the EDO factory in Brighton was recorded as :

'21/03/2005  Identified were Linda CATT, John CATT'

Others followed :
'10/05/2006  The following persons were interviewed by Meridian TV, John CATT, who wore a personalised t-shirt and stated his usual stance for peace.'

'31/10/2005  John CATT was using his sketch pad to sketch a picture of the protest and the police presence.'

'24/02/2009  ACTIVISM : Week of anti-war creativity of John Catt, veteran of anti- war activist.'

'22/09/2008  Manchester University. Seen at the lobby point were two Anti-War protester from Brighton, John CATT and Linda CATT.'

Recorded at an exhibition of anti-war paintings :
'01/07/2009  CATT was sketching cartoons.'

John said : "When I saw this list I just couldn't believe it. Why all this attention ? It's just ludicrous. It's sick. Sick to the hilt.""Taking notes and listening and filming. I mean, this is the destruction of a free society and circulating society. The triviality, the waste of time. The massive resources put into this type of police operations is a shambles."
John interviewed by the Gaurdian in January :

Now the European Court of Human Rights has handed down the ruling in the case of  'John Catt v the United Kingdom' : That his details be removed from the records. Speaking to Press Association, he said he was “immensely pleased” with the outcome of the case and felt this was an important ruling for freedom of expression, adding : “This shows they were wrong to keep the details." He accused police of a “conceited culture” because they were tasked with upholding the law. "I have always had a determination to speak up for myself and speak out about injustices in life. I will still continue campaigning.”

At the time of the judgement Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which supported John's case, said : “If you express a view in a legal and peaceful way, you shouldn’t end up as a criminal on police records. If we want a healthy democracy then we need to ensure that everyone has the right to participate fully in political life. We made clear in our evidence to the Court that the National Domestic Extremism Database does not sufficiently protect individuals’ personal information and risks having a chilling effect on legitimate political protests. We welcome today’s judgement which upholds the importance of free speech and the right to privacy.”

John's daughter Linda spoke of her “relief” that the lengthy legal battle was over, adding : “It strengthened his resolve to get justice and he has never given up. He did want to find out. We’re pleased that he’s alive to hear it.”

In 2012 his case was at first defeated in the High Court, before being won at the Court of Appeal where the judges said the information about John was at first retained lawfully, but ruled it was held for a “disproportionate” length of time, violating Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. His next setback came when the Supreme Court found in favour of police lawyers who said continuing to keep the details was still lawful.

It was then that John then took his battle to Europe and argued he was not involved in criminality and the continuing retention of data about him on the National Domestic Extremism Database was unlawful and breached his right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The European Court of Human Rights agreed and in its judgement said : “The quality of the relevant legal framework was not adequate in a context such as the present one, and therefore the interference was not ‘in accordance with the law’ within the meaning of Article 8. This finding is sufficient to conclude that there has been a violation of Article 8.”

John's lawyer, Shamik Dutta, said : “This ruling sets an important precedent that it is unlawful for governments across Europe to label citizens engaged in peaceful protest domestic extremists and put them on a searchable database for a potentially indefinite period.” He said said the ruling showed the system had “failed” and the police should be “focusing their resources more sensibly”.

He also said it was difficult to understand the reasoning behind why the Government sought to justify its surveillance of a 94-year-old peaceful protester and the judgment was “clear” : the police should have deleted the entries a “long, long time ago”. The ruling served as a “timely reminder” of the importance of the convention in the wake of an “ever encroaching state” and proposals to review human rights laws.

John fought said he fought “for the sake of other innocent people whose lawful political activities are being monitored by the state” and “This is an example of the erosion of freedom and a violation of private life. It is abusive collecting data and it is data control.”

The Metropolitan Police, however, is yet to confirm whether John's data will be removed from the database as a result of the ruling and has not yet responded to requests for a comment. A counter-terrorism policing spokesperson from the National Police Chiefs’ Council said it will “carefully consider” the court’s decision and the “implications for wider law enforcement/policing” and  the Home Office said it is considering the judgement.

When interviewed at the age of 91, after having access to police records had said : "I hope it exposes the shameful activity of the secret police. You could say 'Orwell' is not 'All Well'.

As an accomplished artist he was recorded several times by police for sketching the protests, a hobby he has pursued since he was a young child.

"Protesting makes me feel twice as young. There's very few of my age group - the protesters are young people and it's their future not ours. I never feel that I'm too old for it - on the contrary I try to embody the rights of humanity and combine it with my art."