Our lives in their hands

The death of an Angolan deportee raises questions about government use of private sector security fi

The death this week of Jimmy Mubenga, who died while being deported to Angola, has thrown the spotlight on to the private security company that was employed to carry out his deportation. G4S, a FTSE 100-listed company that has operations in over 100 countries and is contracted by the British government to run prisons and carry out deportations on behalf of the Home Office.

Over at OpenDemocracy, Clare Sambrook details a catalogue of concerns about the safety record of G4S and other similar companies:

This year, in March, a report by Baroness Nuala O'Loan into allegations of abuse by G4S and other contractors found, "inadequate management of the use of force by the private sector companies", and made 22 recommendations for change.

Sambrook also highlights the company's links to government:

Under Labour, G4S enjoyed a charmed relationship with government, manifested in the £50,000 a year paid to former Home Secretary John Reid after he had left the Home Office but while he was still a serving MP.

Civil servants, too, seem remarkably loyal to their commercial partners.

The Home Office response to Baroness O'Loan's findings of "inadequate management of the use of force" was to criticise the people who had brought the company's abuses to light. Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, accused doctors and lawyers of, "seeking to damage the reputation of our contractors".

The seeming untouchability of G4S is especially worrying given government plans to outsource more rather than less.

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn challenged by Labour MPs to sack Ken Livingstone from defence review

Former mayor of London criticised at PLP meeting over comments on 7 July bombings. 

After Jeremy Corbyn's decision to give Labour MPs a free vote over air strikes in Syria, tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting was less fractious than it could have been. But one grandee was still moved to declare that the "ferocity" of the attacks on the leader made it the most "uplifting" he had attended.

Margaret Beckett, the former foreign secretary, told the meeting: "We cannot unite the party if the leader's office is determined to divide us." Several MPs said afterwards that many of those who shared Corbyn's opposition to air strikes believed he had mishandled the process by appealing to MPs over the heads of the shadow cabinet and then to members. David Winnick declared that those who favoured military action faced a "shakedown" and deselection by Momentum activists. "It is completely unacceptable. They are a party within a party," he said of the Corbyn-aligned group. The "huge applause" for Hilary Benn, who favours intervention, far outweighed that for the leader, I'm told. 

There was also loud agreement when Jack Dromey condemned Ken Livingstone for blaming Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq for the 7 July 2005 bombings. Along with Angela Smith MP, Dromey demanded that Livingstone be sacked as the co-chair of Labour's defence review. Significantly, Benn said aftewards that he agreed with every word Dromey had said. Corbyn's office has previously said that it is up to the NEC, not the leader, whether the former London mayor holds the position. In reference to 7 July, an aide repeated Corbyn's statement that he preferred to "remember the brilliant words Ken used after 7/7". 

As on previous occasions, MPs complained that the leader failed to answer the questions that were put to him. A shadow minister told me that he "dodged" one on whether he believed the UK should end air strikes against Isis in Iraq. In reference to Syria, a Corbyn aide said afterwards that "There was significant support for the leader. There was a wide debate, with people speaking on both sides of the arguments." After David Cameron's decision to call a vote on air strikes for Wednesday, leaving only a day for debate, the number of Labour MPs backing intervention is likely to fall. One shadow minister told me that as few as 40-50 may back the government, though most expect the total to be closer to the original figure of 99. 

At the end of another remarkable day in Labour's history, a Corbyn aide concluded: "It was always going to be a bumpy ride when you have a leader who was elected by a large number outside parliament but whose support in the PLP is quite limited. There are a small number who find it hard to come to terms with that result."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.