On Solidarity…

Having already commented on Alex Hilton’s current predicament vis-a-vis a vexatious libel action, its been most remiss of me not to bring things fully up to date by noting that two other bloggers, Dave Osler and John Grey, are in the same boat (figuratively and maybe also literally in the near future as I understand that an application has been made to join all three cases together and have them dealt with in a single set of proceedings).

While I think its fair to say that Alex’s appeal met with something of mixed reaction, in part because he’s soliciting donations to help with his legal costs but mostly on account of occasional knack of pissing people off that is, perhaps, umtached by any other established political blogger other than Guido, there can be no such reservations in regards to Dave, and as for John, I must admit to not being familiar enough with his blog to say whether he falls more into the Alex or Dave category in the eyes of those who do know his work but that’s of no consequence as the principle alone is good enough to offer an unqualified expression of support.

As things stand, news of the case is beginning to spread and the now traditional ‘Spartacus Action’ with which bloggers have met previous attempts to vexatiously intimidate the likes of Craig Murray, Harry’s Place, Dave Walker and others is beginning to build in earnest. Of all the ad hoc communal values that have emerged from the British scene in its relatively short life this is the one of which I think we can all, justifiably, be the most proud – the fact that when the chips are down and a blogger is vexatiously threatened with litigation in an effort to deny their right to legitimate free expression, bloggers from across the full political spectrum can happily put aside their day-to-day political differences and stand together as a community against such threats.

Of evertything published to date, Dave Osler’s statement (linked above) gives the clearest exposition of the situation for all that he is, quite obviously, constrained in what he can say publicly for fear of adding further complications to what is already a complex matter.

That said, as I’m under no such restrictions or constraints there is a little more that I can add to the overall picture thats emerging from my own research into the background to this matter.

For example, the mere fact that the litigant in this matter is acting as an individual and representing herself in these proceedings is, in this day and age where the no-win, no-fee arrangement has substantially altered the legal landscape in which such cases take place and suggests that there may be more to the claim by the litigant in this matter, Johanna Kaschke, that she is representing herself only because she cannot afford legal representation, which would not necessarily be an issue were there any substantial merit in her claim and, therefore, a reasonable prospect of success.

Further research appears to indicate that Kaschke may be something of a serial complainant, not necessarily always in the litigious sense, but a bit of judicious Googling has turned up a number of commentaries and comments written by Kaschke which are suggestive of her having not only a bit of chip on her shoulder but an entire bag, with a fish, deep-fried Mars bar and a curry sauce thrown in for good measure.

She also seems to take rather a dim view of Muslims, hence this comment which appears in a letter published in the CPGB’s ‘Weekly Worker’ last year, not long after she departed the Labour Party for RESPECT.

I think veils look horrible and many muslim women wear them because muslim men think they can rape women who do not wear the veil.

And more recently, she made this comment on her own blog:

In my own area, Tower Hamlets, its the police who are crying out for youth clubs, whilst our caring council doesn’t do much at all about it. Our council is pre-dominantly staffed by Muslim councillors.

Which suggest that, despite having joined the Conservative Party in September 2007, she has yet to get with her party leader’s ‘detoxification’ programme.

I should point out that Kaschke’s blog, on which that comment appears, sports a ‘copyright’ message which states that neither I, nor anyone else, is apparently permitted to even quote any of its contents without her ‘expressed’ permission, which is, of course, bullshit but, for the avoidance of any doubt, any and all quotations appearing this post are made on the basis of fair use in reporting a factual matter of legitimate public interest, not to mention, of course, that the Ministry is physically situated on a server in California, which is, consequently, the relevant jurisdiction in which any claim of copyright infringement should be brought.

In various locations, questions have been raised in regards to the reasoning behind Kaschke’s somewhat curious – and self-admitted – political ‘journey’ in which she migrated from the Labour Party to the Conservatives in the space of six months by way of short stopovers in RESPECT and a Communist Party, which appears to have been the Leninist CPGB (PCC). This has, naturally enough, caused a certain amount of perplexity amongst some bloggers/commenters who are, shall we say, rather more constant in their political opinions but, if the truth be told, such journeys are not all that uncommon in local politics, even if most take a somwhat more direct route between parties than that taken by Kaschke.

Alongside the committed political activists and ‘natural’ party supporters one encounters at local level one with often find a small cohort of individuals for whom its purely the lure of public office, and the little bit of authority and financial allowances that go with it, that forms their primary motive, and how exactly they get to the ‘promised land’ is a secondary consideration, if its even a consideration at all. In other words, there are some people who become active in local politics because they like the idea of becoming a councillor but don’t care overmuch about the route they have to follow to get to that goal and these are often the one’s who’re prone to switching sides when they either fail to negotiate the candidate selection process, which appears of have happened in Kashcke’s case, or, if already in public office, arrive at the conclusion that the local political weather has changed from when they were last elected and that they’re no longer likely to be on winning side when next required to face the electorate.

Now that may appear to some, to be labouring a rather obvious point, but my understanding of this case is that, despite Kaschke having made the following statements when afforded a right to reply by Dave Osler:

I am a member of the GMB Union, the Respect Party, the Communist Party, I support Defend Council Housing, I support any legal people’s movement, which is in the interest of the people but I totally object to the attempts to criminalise people’s movements and left wing political parties, which is really what is behind the smear campaigns of the gutter press.

And

We are suffering a right-wing renaissance and any talk of guerrilla, Baader-Mainhof, Al-Qaeda only serves to fill the people with fear and to urge the governments to put in more repressive measures to prevent, freedom of movement and freedom of speech.

At least part of her claim is predicated on the notion that the mere suggestion that she may have been politically sympathetic to any left-wing political party is libellous, an assertion that, if my information is correct, elevates this case into the realms of the surreal – I’ve seen some attempts to rewrite history in my time but that one takes the entire fucking biscuit factory.

Still, if one good thing has come out of all this, from a personal perspective, its the discovery that HM Courts Service maintains an online public list of vexatious litigants who’ve been forbidden by a High Court Judge to issue civil proceedings in any court in England and Wales without permission, a list which one would hope might – as a matter of personal opinion – will include the name ‘Johanna Kaschke’ when this is all done and dusted.

  • Good article MOT. I posted the original story on Labourhome. Can people please support Alex over this. Dave and I are defending ourselves but Alex has sensibly taken legal advice which costs money. If he loses this case then it will knock all political blogs big time. No blogger at all will be safe. It doesn

  • Preachy Preach

    Interestingly – following up (out of cold-induced idleness) some of the names on the vexacious litigants list with Lexis-Nexis (to see what they’ve been vexacious about) threw up completely unexpectedly the recent case of A vs B (EWHC 1512 – facts fans). In the judge’s own words

    “The cryptic title to this claim conceals the reality. The claimant is a former member of the Security Service who has written and wishes to publish a book which contains inter alia a description of his work for the service. The defendant is the Director of Establishments of the service. The claimant is bound by a duty of confidentiality that he cannot publish material relating to the Security Service or his experiences in it without the consent of the defendant.”
    Reading through, it seems to have held that the government can’t stop judicial review in cases where they would rather the RIPA-established Investigatory Powers Tribunal would apply.

  • John is cool, Unity.

    There seem to be some unique features in this case. Not least:

    * It involves a professional journalist (Dave Osler) as well as not-journalists Alex Hilton, and John Gray. That will give an opportunity to make comparisons.
    * The material for which legal action is being taken includes Third-Party posting. The Labour Home posting was a cross-post from a third party blog – not written by Alex Hilton. That is how the site is structured – anyone can create a blog. I have posted there myself.
    * Alex Hilton pulled the article immediately, and offered a full right of reply on Labour Home, which his lawyer is telling him is a strong defence.
    * Johanna Kaschke is taking action as a litigant-in-person, which certainly puts a different type of cost-pressure on the opponent to that implied by the usual

  • Has anyone else noted that she is clearly barking mad? Just being a litigant in person is usually a pretty good sign, but an ex-RESPECT Tory vexie? Wow.