Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cath Elliott on BBC Radio Norfolk

Cath Elliot, freelance writer, blogger, feminist and trade union activist was recently interviewed by BBC Radio Norfolk regarding a licence application by Platinum Lace to extend their opening hours until 6.00am.

Cath is strongly anti-club and made the usual comments that prohibitionists are expected to make. The interviewer asked an interesting question about whether the views of the dancers should be taken into account, given that many almost certainly consider themselves feminists. Cath's response was as follows.....

'Feminism isn’t about empowering the individual to do exactly what she wants, its about bringing women up as a class, its about liberation for all women, not just a few'.

Astonished that Cath feels that feminism isn't about empowering individuals, but I suspect what she means is that anyone who is a dancer has no right to question the media and political tirade directed against them, because it is against the collective good. Object certainly would disagree with Cath, because they believe that individuals campaigning to close clubs is highly empowering. But hang though.....closing clubs is for the collective good and if we factor in that dancers don't really matter as people....Oh I get it now, there is 'empowerment' and 'empowerment' and for it to be valid it must be approved empowerment and having dancers feeling empowered just will not do at all, its the wrong kind of empowerment. 

If you see what I am saying....

For some time now I have been very uncomfortable about some of the collective nouns used to describe dancers or anyone else that Object et al disapprove of. 'Pornified' is one such phrase and I hate to hear anyone described in such a manner, largely because 'name calling' is usually the first stage of a wholesale campaign of denigration.

When Cath Elliott makes comments like the one she made on Norfolk Radio, I realise that we are past the first stage and that third wave feminists really do believe that dancers are second class citizens, with no rights, no feelings and can be treated in any that the campaigners see fit.

Feminist Criticism of Object

The above frame grab was taken from the UK Feminista site (I think, it was a while ago). I do not agree with everything that has been said, but nonetheless, the writer makes an some interesting points. In particularly we see that Object are seen even within the feminist community as being essentially middle class people that are trying to tell other how to live their lives. What is interesting is that when this opinion was voiced, the reaction was rather negative. We know that Object do not like to engage or even recognise anyone whose opinions are at variance to their own. Perhaps what is more worrying is the second highlighted comment about stripper that have felt 'attacked by feminists'. An article about Object on Moronwatch makes a similar point, but when such accusations come from within the feminist community, it raises eyebrows.

I think that Object deserve much closer scrutiny, so lets find out for once and for if they really are a group of middle class, university educated, designer radicals or not.

Also, I might as well make another point. You will note that there was a gap in my postings. There was a reason for this. In my research I stumbled upon something about Object, something that is in my view so serious that I am taking legal advice about whether or not it is publishable.

Watch this space.

Questions That Need Answers 1

Welcome to the first instalment of 'Questions That Need Answers'. Here we will ask questions to people involved in the various campaigns to close every club in Britain. If any question is answered by the relevant person, the answer will be published and if the answer is satisfactory, the question will be withdrawn. Unanswered questions will snowball from posting to posting if they remain unanswered.

Question 1. To Mr Michael Collins of CAPE Tower Hamlets.
At what point did you reveal to the public that you own a property in Tower Hamlets located next door to a strip club (The Nags Head)?
Question 2. To Mr Michael Collins of CAPE Tower Hamlets.
Do your fellow CAPE members know about the above mentioned property interest, in particular Cllr Rania Kahn?
Question 3. To Mr Michael Collins of CAPE Tower Hamlets.
You have been quoted as saying that there has been 'a stabbing, murder, abuse, assaults, drug taking and prostitution in and around these clubs'. As you state that the offences occurred 'in and around the clubs', could you please tell us specifically what clubs were involved and quote the relevant cases. If you cannot do this, can you please tell us why not?.

Lets Talk About CAPE - Tower Hamlets

Press release on behalf of C.A.P.E (Campaign Against People Exploitation, Tower Hamlets)
For too long the residents and people who work in Tower Hamlets have found it difficult to object to the nuisance of lap-dancing venues in our community. The recent Policing and Crime Act means that we can finally speak out. Lap-dancing clubs are now licensed as Sexual Entertainment Venues (SEVs) which means that local residents and workers have a greater say, and Tower Hamlets can apply greater restrictions and controls to these clubs, and even apply zero tolerance.
The 11 Lap-Dancing clubs in Tower Hamlets foster a sexist culture in which it is deemed acceptable to treat women as sex objects, not people, and areas surrounding these venues can become ‘no-go’ areas for women, children and students. Lap-dancing clubs may also fuel anti-social behaviour and unacceptable levels of noise.
Many operate during the daytime, and into the night, near to homes and residences, nurseries,schools, universities, playgrounds, parks, art galleries and places of worship. Most are therefore located in totally inappropriate areas.
We urge the people of Tower Hamlets to support the Council’s proposal for a ‘nil policy’ (zero tolerance) on Sexual Entertainment.
Together we can make our community in Tower Hamlets a lap-dancing free zone.
Lap-dancing clubs have no place in the ‘greener cleaner’ Tower Hamlets, and now is the time to say No to Lap-dancing.
The above is the full text of a press release made in September 2011 by CAPE Tower Hamlets. As mentioned in a previous posting, CAPE stands for Campaign Against People Exploitation and the 'Tower Hamlets' part of the name tells us that it operates in the borough and also implies that it has other branches...
Lets find out more about CAPE. 
I know, lets go to their website........ How odd, they don't have one. 
What about a blog? ......No blog. 
I would have thought that a group that campaigns on such a critical issue would be exploiting every opportunity to present their case to the public. The fact is that CAPE keeps quite a low profile, it makes the odd press release, holds meetings here and there and its chair Michael Collins makes some interesting statements....Such as the one below in a blog posting by Rania Khan.
“Our problem has been to run a comprehensive grassroots campaign on few resources. The sex industry is both rich and powerful,” says Michael Collins, chair of CAPE, “and they will stop at nothing to make sure they can carry on their evil trade. We have been campaigning against them for some years after some appalling activities in residential areas around Commercial Street, Hackney Road, Docklands and Wapping involving a stabbing, a murder, abuse, assaults, prostitution and drug offences in and around these clubs.”

Wow....powerful stuff from Michael. Lets look at his comments in more detail. I really think that if he explicitly stated which clubs were involved in 'a stabbing, a murder, abuse, assaults, prostitution and drug offences', that his case might carry more weight. Of course Mr Collins will not openly accuse anyone of anything, largely because he has no evidence, only heresay. That said, if anyone from CAPE were to provide me with details of the actual cases that involved the murder, the stabbing, the abuse, the assaults, the prostitution and drug offences, I would be only too happy to publish them.

Now Michael Collins is clearly very much against clubs, in fact he has been running his campaign for some time. Certainly since 2008, when minutes of council meetings show that he was asking all manner of questions about clubs in Tower Hamlets. In fact as we can see above, Mr Collins thinks that clubs are part of an 'evil trade'.

Mr Collins also comments that it is difficult to run 'a comprehensive grassroots campaign on few resources'. Maybe they cannot afford a website or a blog. Sorry, blogs are for free. And websites can be run for next to nothing. Ok I admit they unless they are designed properly they can look like they were coded by a twelve year old, but its the message that's important. 

Now I want to ask you a question. Please consider what I have to say before deciding upon your response.

If you thought that clubs were centres of evil, involved in stabbing, murder, abuse, prostitution and drug dealing, would you visit one?

The answer is of course 'No'.

Ok, lets go again...If you thought that clubs were centres of evil, involved in stabbing, murder, abuse, prostitution and drug dealing, would you buy a building close to one?

No of course you wouldn't. It would the insane to tie up valuable capital in a building that was anywhere near one of these places, you would not wish to own anything that could be influenced by the 'evil'. For example, no one that was so opposed to clubs would buy premises close to The Nags Head. Would they?

So we are agreed then. No one that is vehemently opposed to clubs (like The Nags Head), would buy the freehold on premises next door to one (like the premises to the right of The Nags Head in the above photo).

Well if that's the case and you are in agreement with me, please stand by for a shock. Michael Collins, chair of CAPE Tower Hamlets, owns the freehold (since 15th February 2001) of 21 Whitechapel Road, next door to The Nags Head. In fact it is the very building in the photograph above. This is a fact that Mr Collins has yet to mention in his campaign releases.

But wait, it gets better....

Mr Collins has been described as a local resident. I am sure that the fact that he owns the freehold allows him to be described as such. That said, we are given to understand that he is resident in Kingston-upon-Thames. Maybe he views 21 Whitechapel Road as a kind of holiday home.

Publicly available records show that soon after acquiring the property, he embarked on an ambitious programme of building works on 21 Whitechapel Road. On 13th February 2001, he applied for planning permission to revise the ground, first, second and third floors and also create a fourth floor attic space. We understand that people rent flats in the property.

Now  I have to admit that I know next to nothing about the rental market in Whitechapel Road and furthermore do not understand what the effect of being situated next door to a strip club may have on rental values. But I would imagine that if the strip club next door was closed down , that it might have a positive affect on the monthly rent that could be charged by the owner of a neighbouring property.

That said, maybe I am being unfair. The fact that Mr Collins owns 21 Whitechapel Road, has absolutely nothing to do with his opposition to clubs. Mr Collins is a deeply moral man and I imagine that he was maybe sitting in his front room in Kingston upon Thames and learned about the clubs in Tower Hamlets,  maybe he leapt out of his chair and screamed 'NO....THIS CANNOT GO ON'! That must have been the time when he decided to form CAPE Tower Hamlets.

But if the above is the case, why is there no CAPE Hackney. Hackney has clubs as well and if Mr Collins is fighting against an 'evil' trade, then surely the situation is just as 'evil' in Hackney? But CAPE Hackney does not exist. Neither does CAPE Camden or CAPE Islington. What's difference?

Could it be that Mr Collins has no property investments in Hackney, Camden and Islington? I do not know the answer to that question. But I do know that Mr Collins has a property interest in Tower Hamlets, I do know that it is next door to a strip club and I do know that Mr Collins chairs an organisation that is campaigning to get every club in the borough closed down.

Out of interest, Rania Khan is a member of CAPE Tower Hamlets.

I am choosing this posting to introduce a section, called 'Questions That Need Answers'. This posting will appear at least monthly and will act as a compilation of issues that require responses for specific people. If we get an  answer, that answer will be published and if the answer is satisfactory, the question will be withdrawn.

I look forward to the answers...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Let's Close Every Club In Tower Hamlets! Part 1

We are all aware of Tower Hamlets Council and their view that every club in the borough should be closed. I have been researching the background to this issue and have found so much of interest that I could write a book about it. As I do not have the time for a book, this is the first of a number of articles about what is going on in this fascinating borough.

Let me tell you now that if the political landscape of Tower hamlets was a portrait, it would have been painted by Salvador Dali. If it was a film, it would be 'Apocalypse Now' and Lutfur Rahman would be Colonel Kurtz. The borough is an embarrassing mess and I imagine that many if not all of the people that actually work for the council are in a state of despair.

If you want to get a better understanding of Mayor Lutfur Rahman and exactly what is going on in the borough, visit Andrew Gilligans excellent blog at the Daily Telegraph. Go here to get a good summary of Lutfur, try here to get an indication of his management style, check out this article to see how bad things are getting and look here to learn more about some of his pals.

Rania Khan has form in terms of her opposition to the club scene. She was interviewed in The Guardian in 2008 by Katie Toms (Object) and stated....

‘The escalation of the porn industry and lap-dancing clubs really bothers me. I moved from Libya to London when I was about eight and seeing images of women being exploited and used as sexual commodities everywhere made me feel sick. I would walk down Tottenham Court Road as a teenager with my mates, ripping out all the prostitution fliers from the phone boxes".

With the above ideal burning in her mind, Rania set out to be a councillor and was elected in 2006. As we will see, it did not take her long to start pursuing her personal agenda...

At a Council Meeting held on 28th February 2007 (although I suspect one person started to think this way in early I right Michael?), a long time before any of us had even heard about Object and their plans, Cllr Rania Khan proposed Motion 10.1 as follows....

"...There is almost-total unity across Tower Hamlets people of all ages, ethnicities and faith groups in 
opposing the exploitation and degrading of women associated with sex and strip club...".

This was followed a few  minutes later by Motion 10.9, submitted by Cllr Denise Jones who stated.....

"....There are many people that see striptease as a degrading and morally reprehensible activity...."

To see the agenda a decisions of this meeting, please go here . Interestingly this was not the first time that Cllr Khan had tried to raise the issue, at a meeting held on 13th December 2006 the same motion was put to the council but was for some reason voted down, largely it seems by the Labour group. The same thing may have happened in November as well...

Politics in Tower Hamlets is complicated. The Labour Party lost a lot of council wards to Respect in an earlier election. They almost certainly rejected Cllr Kahns motion at the December 2006 meeting because they had not thought of it themselves. By February they were ready, hence two strip club related motions at the same meeting. Out of interest, Rania later defected from Respect to Labour. She is currently an Independent after Labour questioned her support for Lutfur Rahman.

I now have to complicate things a little further, by introducing someone else, Mr Michael Collins. At the December 2006 meeting, Mr Collins tabled a questions with regard 'strip clubs and sexploitation'. Mr Collins described as a 'local resident', was attending nearly every meeting that he could in order to ask questions about strip clubs, this is because Michael Collins does not like strip clubs (especially ones in Tower Hamlets) and thinks they should all be closed (but only if they are located in Tower Hamlets).

So we can see that efforts to wipe clubs off of the map have been going on for a very long time. The two main movers are Cllr Rania Khan and Mr Michael Collins, the latter at some point forming an organisation called CAPE Tower Hamlets. CAPE stands for the Campaign Against People Exploitation. Mr Collins was quoted in a posting on Cllr Khans blog. where he got somewhat carried away...

“Our problem has been to run a comprehensive grassroots campaign on few resources. The sex industry is both rich and powerful,” says Michael Collins, chair of CAPE, “and they will stop at nothing to make sure they can carry on their evil trade. We have been campaigning against them for some years after some appalling activities in residential areas around Commercial Street, Hackney Road, Docklands and Wapping involving a stabbing, a murder, abuse, assaults, prostitution and drug offences in and around these clubs.”

Now both Cllr Rania Khan and Michael Collins are very interesting people. Rania even earned herself the honour of an article in Andrew Gilligans blog in the Daily Telegraph. It is well worth a read because you can learn about the comments she made on her page in a social media website called 'Hi5'. Since this unfortunate episode, Rania has made changes to the pages in question (I made frame grabs of the originals) and written a blog entry where she explains herself. Rania is also mentioned here in an excellent blog called 'Trial By Jeory', that focusses on politics in the East End.

So this almost wraps up Part 1 of our Tower Hamlets coverage. As you can see, things are very complicated and I do hope that you follow the links to see exactly how complicated they are. In Part 2 we will focus on CAPE Tower Hamlets, an organisation that Rania Khan has declared membership of (she is also a member of Object). 

As I said earlier, Michael Collins is a very interesting man and is fighting the 'evil trade' of lapdancing (but only in Tower Hamlets). If you want, find out more about CAPE, by visiting their website (if you can find it, that is).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Understanding 'Objectification'.

Throughout the Hackney Campaign, myself and many others were active on message boards. I spent a lot of time focussing on the Hackney Gazette forum and decided to try and find out what the anti club movement were looking for. I always have had the sense that the campaign to close clubs was only the first step, so I wanted some sense of what could be coming next. Below is a frame grab of a posting I made where I outlined a list of action points for a 'new feminist' society...

I was not being entirely serious with some of my points. Amazingly, someone thought I was being very serious indeed...

In am not saying that above response is representative of Object or its views, but it gives us an idea about what life would be like if radical feminists somehow managed to exert more influence. It is worth noting that cosmetic surgery has now joined the strip scene as focus for radfem campaigning. Click here to see an article in The Guardian that offers unquestioning support of this critical issue, but also see this article that offers a more balanced and sensible viewpoint.

Friday, January 6, 2012

All About Object

I first became aware of Object in October 2008, when a random web search led me to the 'peoples petition' site. They had opened a petition as follows....

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to recategorise lap dancing clubs as Sex Encounter Establishments ".

Submitted by Sandrine Leveque of Object.

The petition closed on 17th October 2008 and gathered 1,831 signatures.

In this time, I also started to read press coverage that was unreservedly pro-Object and vehemently anti-stripper. Amanda Platell wrote an article titled 'My Sickening Encounter with Vermin in Lap Dancing Clubs....Their Existence Degrades us All', while Caitlin Moran ordered 'Girls, Get The F*** Off The Podium. You're Letting Us All Down'. Suzanne Moore asked 'If Smoking in a Pub is Wrong, Why Isn't Sex?'.

It seemed that 'stripper-bashing' was becoming de rigueur in the media and journalists started playing fast and loose with the truth in order to get their point across. The above mentioned Suzanne Moore article included the following sense free paragraph.

'How can we live in a world where you cannot light a cigarette in a pub but it is perfectly acceptable for a virtually naked woman (sorry to be crude, but this IS crude) to bring a clothed man to climax in public?' that again. I wonder if Suzanne understands the meaning behind the words that she wrote.

It was almost inevitable that the revised SEV Licensing regime was adopted, especially after Object were handed so much media support. Then something happened, something very important, because things did not always go Objects way...

2010 saw Object campaign to have every club in Hackney closed. They failed, but not before publishing claims and activist comments that were quite frankly outrageous. In fact a future posting will analyse their Hackney Campaign in some detail.

It was at this time that I started to pick up rumours about Object and its activists. Stories about dancers and sex workers encountering people that insulted and in some cases threatened them. It started to become clear that behind the 'third wave feminist' face of Objects website, there lurked some very unpleasant people that could not cope with being frustrated..

Now, Tower Hamlets is the target and we see Object allying themselves to religious conservatives and a highly suspect borough council. I must admit that things started to look grim and I became somewhat disheartened about the clubs prospects in the borough. Then a contact of mine alerted me to a website called 'Moronwatch' and an article called 'Feminists or Fascists'. I devoured the page and saw, for the first time a media report that not only questioned Object, but labelled them as they are....

'Quite simply, Object is a hate group. Its methods are those of lies and intimidation'.

It was this article that inspired the blog you are now reading.

The media fight back started with Moronwatch, it will continue here and in a number of other websites that we will link to. For too long Object have had things their own way, no longer will we stand by and see friends, relatives and our loved ones slandered and vilified. Now there are hundreds of people that are working very hard to expose these people for what they really are and we will succeed.

For the above mentioned article, please go to

For the follow up podcast, featuring interviews with strippers that are happy being strippers (amazingly they do exist), please go to

In future postings we will...

Update you on the latest from Moronwatch...

Examine the psychopathology of hate groups and see if a compelling seven stage 'hate model' applies to Object....

Review Objects campaign to close every club in Hackney and examine some of the comments and claims they posted on their website.....

Consider Tower Hamlets Council and Objects involvement with Cllr Rania Khan and CAPE Tower Hamlets.

Keep you updated on all and any information that is relevant...

Thank you for your time.