To the The Guild of Guardians website, which tells us that this obscure invitation-only organisation for the wealthy “is a registered charity that aims to improve the quality of the Civic life of the City of Bristol. In partnership with the City, the Guild continues to support and enhance the Mansion House and Office of Lord Mayor.”
So far so exclusive, dull and conservative but then it tells us, “It is unique in that through its membership it affords the opportunity for the private sector to discuss with senior politicians the policies of the City Council.”
How nice. Selected wealthy members of the private sector get to discuss the policies of the city council with its politicians in exchange for donations to do up the Mansion House and crawl up the Lord Mayor’s backside.
An intriguing request appeared on What Do They Know, a public Freedom of Information request website, on 19 February 2022. Subsequently, in early March, ‘extraneous material’ was removed from the request. Here it is with the ‘extraneous material’ unremoved. What can it all mean?
The Reverend’s grandest of grand plans to build an underground for Bristol continues to chug along in its own deranged manner as his proclaimed start date for the build, 2024, looms nearer.
The latest word from Metro Mayor Dan “The Weca Man” Norris, who holds many of the purse strings for this imaginary project, is that “tunnels may well be needed”. In the context of this project’s magical thinking and total non-delivery, this statement of the obvious should be considered considerable progress.
After all, who needs anything like an expert feasibility study for this biggest of big projects when we’ve got Dan The Weca Man bringing his searing insight and expertise to the table?
With the Labour A-Team of the Reverend and the Weca Man so well informed and on top of detail what can possibly go right with this project?
Watch this space and, in the meantime, keep taking the bus
No, not the opening treatment for a new horror movie being shot soon in Bristol but a local resident’s comments about proposed tower blocks for Mead Street in the shadow of Totterdown. The developers of the scheme are a pension fund fronted by corporate real estate business DTZ Investors and the architects are “award winning” Sheppard Robson.
Someone urgently needs to drive a stake into the hearts of these bloodsuckers.
To Tuesday’s Bristol City Council budget meeting where the Reverend Rees was especially on edge after councillors voted to cut the budget to his well-staffed office – run by a PA on £95k a year – and use the funds to open some public toilets.
Here’s what Rees had to say to Green Councillor Jenny “Spend-a-Penny” Bartle who tabled this popular amendment to the Reverend’s budget:
Just the couple of issues with this latest unhinged outburst from the Reverend:
Firstly, the Reverend seems to have unilaterally changed the job description of Bristol City Councillors. Their roles are described by the Local Government Association (LGA), who the Reverend earns £17k a year from chairing their City Regions Board, here.
Where does it say our councillors should traipse the streets doing the work of the Reverend’s council officers for them? What does he think the council have staff for? Just to serve him and his business cronies tea and mini pastries and answer his emails?
We’re also reliably informed that there’s been no information or briefing on the community toilet scheme to councillors in the last year, So any new councillor wouldn’t have been given the materials, resources or information to recruit new businesses to the Reverend’s Community Toilet Scheme. They don’t even have a lists of who’s signed up at the moment!
Are council officers so busy running the Mayor’s Office there’s no time for the Reverend and his officers to provide information to councillors about the projects the council would like to promote?
The Reverend owes councillors an apology. Bet they don’t get one.
Public statement to today’s Down Committee Meeting by Cllr Christine Townsend, Green Party, Southville Ward:
The Nolan Principles cannot be served with the current governance set-up of this committee despite the elected members being bound by them as the Society of Merchant Venturers are not. Nor does the Society of Merchant Venturers make any financial contribution. The Committee’s secrecy, incompetence and extravagance have, cost the Bristolian tax-payer hundreds of thousands of pounds and must now be dealt with.
The recent Judicial Review illuminated how public funds were used to defend the indefensible. The settlement demonstrated that the Committee’s licensing decisions were, as they had been warned, contrary to the purpose of the Victorian piece of legislation that this committee is bound by. Society of Merchant Venturer members led on these decisions.
The Society of Merchant Venturers have sought to involve themselves in the democratic process and influence decisions in this and other arenas which has been well publicised in recent years. The time has come for a complete overhaul of how and why public money can be used by private individuals to further their own views, interests and ideological positions. The elected representatives of the people, including the Lord Mayor, must step-up and address these now pressing issues that run contrary to the democratic society in which we are told we live.
Officers administrating this committee do so as servants of the people paid from the public purse. Yet the contortions exercised in relation to the Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations questions from Downs for People do not reflect this. Your agenda today does not include the minutes from the Governance Task and Finish Group that previous paperwork indicates apparently met on December 13th. Nor could I find a record of a meeting stated as scheduled for September 8th – Why is that? Where are these minutes? This is unacceptable.
Councillors on this committee cannot claim the role of the elected mayor lacks transparency, openness, avoidable loss of public funds and democratic decision making, whilst simultaneously dragging their feet with inaction and inertia in relation to this committee – that would be hypocrisy of the highest order.
The Society of Merchant Venturers need to hand over the Downs and remove themselves from our governance structures, getting out of Bristol’s democracy – removed if necessary.
Only those of us with a mandate to represent the people can be in position to make decisions over how our public spaces are managed and how much public money is spent on them. It is the people who have been paying for the upkeep and development of public space, not the Society of Merchant Venturers.
Yesterday was spent with prosecution and defence summing up. Here are a few highlights.
Sir William Scrotesack QC for the prosecution:
‘The council process to deal with the statue moved glacially.’
‘You may be frustrated that you haven’t heard from Marvin Rees or the Society of Merchant Venturers. Concentrate on the evidence you have heard. That is what you try this case on.’
‘It is not a public inquiry, not about politics. It’s not about emotion but cold hard facts and, fundamentally, the rule of law.’
‘Conviction would be wholly proportionate.’
Scrotesack QC also went to great pains to explain that neither he nor the court were in any way racist. Indeed not, he’s merely a public schoolboy who knows on which side his bread is buttered and earns a fantastic living working for the racist institutions of the state.
Tom Wainwright, defending Milo Ponsford:
‘[The Colston Four] showed the world the people of Bristol are willing to stand up for what they believe in’
‘Their actions created history. History is destroyed by not telling the truth. What, if anything, really has the city lost?’
‘What value did the statue have before June 7, 2020? What historical or educational value did it have?’
‘Describing Colston as a virtuous man is a lie.’
Liam Walker, defending Sage Willoughby:
‘Sage Willoughby and each of these defendants were on the right side of history and, I submit, the right side of the law.
Veneration of him [Colston] was an act of abuse and celebrated the achievements of a racist mass murderer.”
‘His actions cannot be categorised as a violent act’
‘[The statue] was itself an offence. Over more than 30 years nothing was done.’
‘The erection of the statue was an attempt to erase history. History cannot be erased but history can be confronted.’
Blinne Ni Ghralaigh defending Rhian Graham:
‘Rhian acted in response to what she saw as a crime of the statue being on display and the abject failure of the council’s duty to remove the statue.’
‘Democracy had broken down around that statue. Cleo Lake said it “was embarrassing that these defendants are in the box.”’
‘This is not bristol: we will not dress up a devil in angels robes.’
‘[The statue was an] obscene glorification’
Raj Chada, defending Jake Skuse:
‘The Council should be on trial. They could have acted. They had a very long time to sort this out.’‘
How dare the council turn up as a witness for the prosecution in this trial.’
‘Jake Skuse showed ‘unvarnished honesty’ in admitting to the jury it was his idea to roll the statue to the harbourside.’
‘Jake Skuse in his own inimitable style said ‘fuck off’ to the statue.’
Today the judge will attempt a summing up of the issues for jury before they retire to consider a verdict.
With hapless clown Crown Prosecutor Sir William Scrotesack QC back home and being comforted by nanny yesterday evening after completing a turgid prosecution case characterised by a conveyor belt into the witness box of awful white male careerists earning a good salary from propping up establishment racism, court returned today.
To sum up the Crown Prosecution case: they spent three days proving the defendants had pulled down the statue, which they have admitted anyway and then pointed and said, “ooh look, they broke a bit of pavement”.
The defence case continued today with a definite frisson of early morning excitement at news that there would be a bit of b-list celeb TV glamour in the shape of historian David Olusuga appearing as a witness.
However, first up was defendant Sage Willoughby continuing his testimony from yesterday. and what a rousing performance he gave. Providing an outline of the difference between what we consider justice in Bristol and the dead hand of British law as practised in our courts and by those spiritual (if not actual) descendants of slavers, the public schoolboy barristers of the Crown Prosecution Service.
“Colston was a racist and a slave trader who murdered thousands and enslaved even more. Imagine having a Hitler statue in front of a holocaust survivor, it feels similar if not worse,” Sage told the jury. Adding, “I think it was a hate crime having that statue left up there so I felt legitimate in what I was doing.”
The court heard Willoughby voluntarily handed himself into police and told them that he climbed the statue and put a rope around its neck “because it was the right thing to do”.
When asked about those unapologetically racist fuckers, the Merchant Venturers’ having contrary views to his, he told the jury they received money from slavery until 2015. He ended by describing the Colston Statue as a “hate crime” and agreed he had caused it damage “but, it had caused more damage when it was in place,” he said.
Next into the witness box for the defence was historian David Olosuga. One of only two black people on the Reverend Rees’s local History Commission until he recently quit without explanation.
David, the first black person to give evidence, provided an overview to the jury on Colston. the Merchant Venturers and the city’s role in the slave trade and detailed some of the horrors of the trade. The jury is reported to have asked for some more information about the Society of Merchant Venturers and why they have had influence over Bristol City Council. We look forward to that explanation too.
When asked if toppling the statue was an act of violence. Olusoga’s response was cut short by The Recorder of Bristol His Honour Judge Ded who called an afternoon break to later return and refuse to let Olusoga answer the question.
That just about concluded day four of the trial of the Four. It will continue tomorrow,
Crown Prosecutor, Sir William Scrotesack QC’s tepid case drew to an unremarkable close yesterday with another appearance from a copper.
This time we got to hear from Detective Constable Matthew Cron of Bristol CID, who led the police’s criminal damage investigation. His evidence was largely gathered from mobile phone text messages and was largely irrelevant.
Cron had seized Milo Posnford’s phone and had accessed his text messages, which showed he had contacted fellow defendant ‘W’ (Sage Willoughby) and they had discussed bringing down the statue, which tells us nothing that the pair haven’t already admitted elsewhere.
Cron’s evidence does, however, serve as a useful reminder to activists to NEVER arrange or discuss any action by text message. If Milo and Sage had done the old-fashioned thing and phoned each other, the only evidence Cron would have is the location of the two phones and the fact calls had been exchanged between the two. All just circumstantial evidence. The content of their conversation would never have been known as intercepting telecommunications requires a warrant. Accessing text messages does not.
Cron went on to say that Milo later attended a police station and agreed he had put a rope around the statue’s neck. He also told coppers having a monument to a slaver in our city centre was “disgraceful” and that Bristol City Council, who claim ownership of the statue, is run by “very racist people”.
Cron interviewed defendant Rhian Graham on July 6 last year and she confirmed that she was at the incident and helped pass ropes to others and helped pull the statue down. She told the coppers the statue was “abhorrent”.
Scrotesack QC rounded off his case with a video of a media appearance from Supt Andy “Media Tart” Bennett. Who, presumably, as the highly paid senior copper in charge on the day the statue came down was too much of a pussy to be accountable in a court of law?
Media Tart’s TV appearance showed him trying to explain why the coppers sat back, watched and did nothing on the day, despite later claiming a crime had been committed. A pretty weird approach to crime stopping and one Media Tart may have wanted to avoid publicly explaining to a jury?
The defence opened their case with Milo Ponsford’s lawyer Tom Wainwright calling his client to give evidence. Milo openly described his involvement in the necessary removal of the offensive statue, which the council had refused to do anything about and told the jury “I believe I had a lawful excuse to damage that statue, preventing further harm to the people of Bristol.”
The final business of the day saw Liam Walker, of Human rights firm Doughty Street, open the defence for Sage Willoughby, He told the jury Colston organised the genocide of 19,000 human beings and that his “wealth was built on repeated atrocity”. He also said Willoughby didn’t dispute taking the “monument to racism” down.
Tomorrow Walker will be calling celebrity historian David Olusoga. This will be the first sighting of a black person in the court after three days of listening to a variety of sad old white careerists giving prosecution evidence in exchange for continuing generous salaries and a quiet life tolerating racism.
A late start to proceedings this morning as Crown Prosecutor, Sir William Scrotesack QC, had to motor back down into the provinces this morning from London after dining yesterday evening at his chambers after learning no establishment served swan in Bristol.
When things finally kicked off at 11.00am, Jon “Poodle” Finch was the first witness up from Scrotesack QC. Poodle is the council’s Director of Culture and Creative Industries and the useful idiot selected by the Reverend Rees to sign the council’s police complaint about criminal damage to the Colston Statue.
This is the complaint that the council and the Reverend deny ever making and they have, instead, described it as “a statement of facts”. But if there was no complaint what on earth was everyone doing at Bristol Crown Court today? Is it just some sort of establishment right wing reactionary racist cosplay thing? A shoot of some early scenes for a Little Britain remake? Daft Wig Expo 2021?
Whatever it is, it’s all bad news for poodle who, as a local authority culture manager, has been carefully constructing a public facade over many years of being a polite and concerned anti-racist liberal. Only to be stripped bare today, courtesy of the Reverend, to reveal he’s just another pathetic old racist white man selling his arse for a few crumbs off the table of the fabulously wealthy British establishment.
Poodle’s main contribution came when Scrotesack’s pavement fetish reappeared. A fetish, we understand, that may have been formed during a particularly tumultuous year in the fourth form dorms at Merchant Taylor’s School. Poodle dutifully confirmed to a gently probing Scrotescack that there had been £2,400 damage to a pavement when the statue came down.
We also learned from Poodle that yesterday’s claim by Scrotescack of £3,750 worth of damage to the Colston statue was bollocks. Instead £3,750 was the cost of of the plinth the council had built for the statue to display it in the M Shed. Indeed, it increasingly appears, that any damage to the statue came at zero cost and that this major prosecution with an international reach is over who’s responsible for the cost of some municipal pavement maintenance.
Poodle’s appearance also gave us first sight of Milo Ponsford’s brief, Tom Wainwright, best known for defending the ‘Stansted 15‘, and Rhianne Graham’s brief Blinne Ni Ghralaigh from well-known human rights firm, Matrix Chambers. We can only be eternally grateful to The Recorder of Bristol His Honour Judge Ded for moving so swiftly into the 19th century and actually allowing a woman in his court.
Also appearing as a witness today was Simon Hickman, principle inspector of historic buildings for Historic England. He also miserably failed to cost any damage to the Colston statue.
Meanwhile, the coppers put in a written statement from WPC Julie Hayward, a protest liason officer and just about the lowest level of responsibility the cops could possibly find without getting the cleaner to write a statement. As predicted, the coppers admitted they stood around and watched while what Scrotesack QC tried to sell to the jury yesterday as a ‘serious crime’ took place.
The court adjourned at 3.30pm as Crown Prosecutor Sir William Scrotesack QC and The Recorder of Bristol His Honour Judge Ded had been summoned to Venturers Hall in Clifton to attend a session of private prayer in the presence of the Colston toenails.
(Surely the court adjourned at 3.30pm for “legal discussions”. Roughly translated as Judge Ded trying to stop the defence asking witnesses any questions. Ed.)