Posts Tagged 'Parliament'

There is a very important reason why Parliament isn’t busy

In the Telegraph today, Tom Harris MP is whining about the lack of legislation going through Parliament.  He says that it means there were no votes in the Commons last Monday, none the previous Monday either, there won’t be any next Monday, and there hasn’t been a whipped vote on a Thursday for months.

He places the blame for this at the door of the government.  However, in the comment thread it is apparent that more and more people have grasped the essential point Harris is too unwitting to realise or unwilling to acknowledge – that Parliament has less to do because the EU is our surpreme government and rubber stamping diktat from Brussels doesn’t take very long.

This has been obvious for years.  The ever lengthening recess breaks are not just MPs wanting to take longer holidays, they are a consequence of less parliamentary business being required because the EU determines almost all the laws the people of this land must live by.  This central fact isn’t convenient for Harris, who instead makes his piece an attack on five-year fixed parliaments and government running out of ideas and having nothing to do.  Rooted in the past, when Parliament and UK courts were supreme, Harris declares:

The difference now is that the traditional remedy – to dissolve parliament and allow the various parties to be reinvigorated by a campaign and the judgment of the electorate – is unavailable.

Sadly for Harris, while an election campaign is an exciting wet dream for politicians and the media that faithfully trots alongside them hoping for some scraps to keep them sustained, the reality it is a sham.  For whichever party wins the next election, the electorate can expect more of the same.

With all the decisions of consequence being made in Brussels, or handed down from there after decisions in global committees and commissions, the UK parties have very little in their gift to manage or change.  There is little between the parties because no ideology is required to deal with the limited number of genuine matters of substance that are still governed by the UK.  So even after going through the motions of moving around and changing the colour of the deck chairs, the ship’s direction of travel will remain unchanged, unless the officers in Brussels sitting on the bridge, decide otherwise.

Harris may be upset that he is being denied involvement in big political fights like those of yesteryear, but as part of the political class he shares the blame for that and supporting the surrender of control of the UK to the EU.

Cameron is in crisis

Speculating in the late afternoon on the possibility of the government being defeated in last night’s Commons vote, which was designed to establish ‘the principle’ of using military action against Syria, John Pienaar argued such a defeat would represent a terminal loss of authority for David Cameron.

Well, it happened.  Cameron’s motion to prepare the way for military action was defeated 285 votes to 272. As the Daily Mail excitedly points out, the last time a Prime Minister was defeated over an issue of war and peace was in 1782 and the vote plunges him into a ‘deep political crisis’.  The Telegraph tries to play down the gravity of what the events in the Commons mean for Cameron’s authority, while saying the vote was unprecedented they only went so far as to say the Parliamentary vote ‘may also undermine Mr Cameron’s international reputation’.

What is disturbing is that the Government benches managed to secure as many as 272 votes for the principle of military intervention at all, particularly when all that was presented in evidence was an emotion-fuelled ‘judgement call’ based on a flakey summary from the Joint Intelligence Committee, which lacked any hard proof and relied as much on a lack of evidence that the rebels were to blame as it did on evidence that the regime was responsible.  It was in no way a sound basis for launching military action.  The dearth of hard information from the intelligence community and lack of certainty about who was culpable and what the consequences would be of intervention meant it was utter folly to bring the matter before the Commons and press for an agreement in principle to loose off a variety of missiles.

What would be unprecendented would be Cameron being able to rebuild his authority.  It, along with his credibility, has been shattered in stunning fashion.  The floodgates are now open, and for all his bluster this vote has solidified internal Conservative Party opposition ranged against him on a variety of issues.

Cameron, who achieved his sole aim of becoming Prime Minister, despite failing to navigate his party to an election win against one of the most unpopular and disliked governments of the modern era, has also now failed to navigate his own little military adventure for his vain legacy.  He has shown he cannot seal the deal.  He is now just a figurehead that has detached from the ship, to bob around on the political ocean, swept along by various tides and swamped by the big waves of the day, not in control of events and not at the front of anything.

This really marks the start of the end for his political career.  The Conservatives may defy the odds to bounce back, but Cameron is now too damaged and the ruthless power brokers in the background will now be looking at who could succeed him.  The Tory party dynamics have just changed dramatically.

MPs vote on Commons motion about EU referendum

483 voted against representative democracy.  111 voted for it.

Business as usual in the elected dictatorship.  Our public servants masters have spoken.  Nothing to see here.  Move along now.

Roger Helmer’s resignation

Regular readers will be aware that in recent weeks this blog has been extremely critical of Roger Helmer MEP and a number of Conservative MPs for their inconsistencies and positions on the subject of UK membership of the EU.

The news this morning that a weary looking Roger Helmer is resigning his position as one of the MEPs for the East Midlands comes as a complete surprise.

While the disagreements and political arguments between Roger Helmer and me have been quite pointed and uncompromising, including my call for him to resign from The Freedom Association, I have a great deal of respect for the decision he has taken this week.  It is likely the thoughts and feelings he must have been experiencing in the run up to his decision are not dissimilar to those I experienced before I resigned as a Conservative Councillor in mid-term and then left the party.

Such a decision will not have been taken lightly – and from his resignation statement Helmer has exhibited principle in confirming that his disillusion with the attitudes of the Conservative Party on a range of issues, but particularly the EU, is at the heart of his decision.

Although I believe Helmer’s trust in some of his Conservative colleagues (such as Chris Heaton-Harris MP) has been and remains misplaced, and I have criticised him in candid fashion for it, I feel Helmer has taken an honourable course of action and I respect him for it.

The decision taken by Roger Helmer should sound as a wake up call to the many Conservative members who continue to kid themselves that the party might, at some point, become Eurosceptic.  It won’t.  And after years of believing the party’s direction could be changed, Helmer has finally accepted this and stepped down.

The fact is the Conservative Party is firmly in hock to the EU.  The powerbrokers who quietly run the party from behind the scenes will ensure it remains so and no amount of campaigning from within the party will effect any change in its pro-EU position.  If a person does not believe the EU should govern this country then they have no place in the Conservative Party.

I wish Roger Helmer the best for the future.

And so the Tory deception continues…

Writing in the Telegraph, political editor Patrick Hennessy tells readers that up to 70 Conservative MPs are to join a new group dedicated to “reversing the process” of closer European Union integration in a move he says is likely to place fresh strain on the coalition.

Three Conservative MPs are setting up this new group, one of whom is Daventry MP, Chris Heaton-Harris. They were the authors of a letter circulated among Conservative MPs that explained:

“The political objective of the group would be to reverse the process of ever-closer union.”

Of course the bullshit-o-meter should already be blaring. Surely, someone who is opposed to ever-closer union would be shouting from the rooftops about something as far reaching as, say, the EU’s Draft Regulation establishing a programme to support the further development of an integrated maritime policy. There is evidence to the contrary.

This blog wrote about the draft regulation in July, to highlight how Parliament’s European Scrutiny Select Committee – chaired by ‘Eurosceptic’ Bill Cash – nodded through the regulation in 2010 without so much as a murmur.  It should come as no surprise to readers therefore that Heaton-Harris sits on that Select Committee. Despite his supposed opposition to further integration it seems Cameron the cat has got his tongue.

After the blog post AM submitted a Freedom of Information request to Parliament by email for the full minutes of the committee’s deliberations about the draft regulation, to see what Cash and Heaton-Harris had to say about it.  The response received last month showed that the only information in the public domain is what we had already linked to in the blog post.

We keep being told the UK is very a democratic country, boasting a Parliament that is committed to openness and transparency in such weighty matters; so it obviously follows that in response to such a request it tells the citizens it is supposed to serve:

Any other information which may or may not be held by the House of Commons on any discussion in the European Scrutiny Committee on this item is exempt information under section 34 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Under this section, information is exempt if it its exemption is required to avoid infringing the privileges of the House of Commons, which include the right to decide whether, when and how to publish information about proceedings in Parliament, such as meetings of select committees held in private.

You can see the full response below:

The long and short of this is that even when the so called Eurosceptic Tories have an opportunity to take a stand against further integration and ever closer union, they don’t. Their promises are meaningless, and they do not honour their duty to the people they are elected to serve.  For all the acres of newsprint devoted to diversion pieces like the one Hennessy has published, all we have to show for Tory Euroscepticism is an acceleration in the transfer of power to Brussels and a long list of broken promises.

The EU Coastguard story and the failure of Parliament and the media

That wonder of the British media, known as the Mail on Sunday, runs a story today telling its readers ‘Brussels launches plan to scupper UK Coastguard‘ – a story run on EU Referendum on 6 July 2007!  The ‘news’ piece explains that:

Britain’s coastguards would be replaced by a new pan- European fleet under ‘harmonisation’ plans which would see their life-saving work being taken over by an EU coastguard corps emblazoned with the Brussels logo.

The news comes just days after Transport Secretary Philip Hammond performed a partial U-turn on cutting the number of currently operating Coastguard centres from 19 to eight, with just three remaining open 24 hours a day.

before going on to tell us how these proposals were uncovered by MEP for South West of England, Trevor Colman (UKIP).  As always, readers are given the impression this is some new breaking proposal that is about to be presented to the UK from our supreme government in the EU.

As always the reality is that this is something that has been knocking around for years.  As the Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL concerning the establishment of a Programme to support the Integrated Maritime Policy, issued in September 2010, explains:

On 10 October 2007, the Commission adopted the Communication on an Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union –COM(2007) 575 (”Blue Paper”). This Communication advocated the need for the development and implementation of an integrated, coherent and overarching approach to the governance of the oceans, seas and coasts.

In fact this proposal – which is designed to ‘integrate maritime governance on all levels’ and has been submitted as a draft report in March this year – has already been quietly examined by the quislings in Westminster sitting on the European Scrutiny Committee.  As usual the media was asleep at the wheel as the Committee, led by supposed arch Eurosceptic Tory, Bill Cash, performed the legislative equivalent of the three wise monkeys and let the proposal quietly continue on its way.  Perhaps this is how politicians plan to get people re-engaged in politics?

Going back to Trevor Colman, he wrote about his discovery of this proposal on his blog ThE Unit on 30th June after he attended a meeting of the ‘Seas & Coastal Areas European Parliament Intergroup’ in a Committee room at the European Parliament a week earlier.  Colman’s blog post includes the following observation (made before last week’s announcement of the government’s plans for scaling down the UK Coastguard):

Did the Minister for Shipping, Mike Penning, know of the EU plans and do they have any bearing on the proposed closures? Is it just co-incidental that the two developments are taking place at the same time? In light of the EU intentions would it not be much wiser now to leave any closures of Coastguard Stations to a later date, if at all? If there are to be changes, either nationally or internationally, would it not be better if experienced staff were still available to advise and assist in whatever is planned?

Perhaps Colman could have taken a look to find out for himself.  It took AM all of five minutes to follow the trail of documentation from the European Commission to discover what information had been laid before the European Scrutiny Committee, containing from section 4.6 onwards ‘The Government’s View’ which includes the comments of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport – one Mike Penning.

So what we have once again is a supposedly breaking news story of a proposed legislative change – that dates back over four years – that has already been quietly examined by a Parliamentary Select Committee, commented upon in detail by a Conservative Minister and missed completely by the British media, but has only just become apparent to a British MEP and as such gets reported as a forthcoming power grab.

By any measure this is a matter of far greater importance than the interception of phone voicemail messages by tabloid journalists, but one that gets a tiny fraction of the Parliamentary and media coverage it should have received.

Where is sainted The Guardian and its drip feed of front page headlines about this story?  Oh yes, I keep forgetting, there is no vested interest for that hypocritical rag in reporting this story, so the public is left in ignorance while the focus remains on what is important to the media in its little bubble. Bias by omission, bias by news selection.

This is how the British public is served by the establishment.

Piers Corbyn shreds Met Office evidence to Transport Committee

Following on from the post about the written evidence submitted to the Transport Select Committee about the preparedness (or otherwise) for the early winter weather in December, Piers Corbyn has a post on his WeatherAction site that is required reading.

In addition to providing some useful documents for readers to download, Piers lambasts the Met Office’s written evidence, declaring:

THE MET OFFICE’s submission is, I would say: a Mubarak-style, bunkerish, self-serving, denial of reality

It’s hard to disagree. Read it all here.

Met Office undermined by evidence to Transport Committee

The House of Commons Transport Select Committee inquiry into the impact on transport of recent adverse weather conditions has published the ‘uncorrected’ written evidence that has been submitted. It includes a submission from the Met Office.

As one would expect from the unreconstructed propaganda the Met Office likes to spread about itself, the submission they have made can be summarised as claiming to have got all their forecasts right, that the public and Met Office customers agree and everything is just peachy, with only some minor lessons learned with respect to further developing the National Severe Weather Warning Service. Some highlights from the Met Office’s written evidence include:

This prolonged period of finely balanced weather conditions provided a real challenge for the Met Office’s forecasting capability. Overall, we performed well not only in forecasting the key hazards but in providing consistent, timely and useful advice to Government, customers, the emergency response community and the public.

What this actually refers to is the Met Office’s self congratulatory boast that it managed to forecast the bad weather 1-2 days before it hit as shown in their evidence’s Annex A below:

But what of the seasonal forecast and advice to government? Like the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) the Met Office is engaged in some outrageous revisionism. The two departments clearly have spent time getting their ducks in a row.

As Freedom of Information requests have shown, the Met Office advice somewhat different to what they now claim.  Where is the mention of there being ‘no clear signals for the winter’? Where is the admission that while the chance of an average or colder winter was 70%, they believed the chance of an average or warmer winter was 60%?  What about their agreement with the Cabinet Office that there was only ‘a slightly increased risk for a cold and wintry start to the winter season’? Clearly they have forgotten their own advice below:

Small wonder the Met Office submitted its evidence in writing.  Whom would have had the gall to give oral evidence and risk cross examination by any member of the Transport Committee in possession of this information?  But perhaps the questions will be asked anyway in light of other written evidence that has been supplied to the committee.

Firstly we have the evidence from the Automobile Association (AA).  Uniquely among organisations submitting written evidence, they refer to this having been the third successive bad winter and the fact early seasonal forecasts appeared to be in conflict.  They also mention the great Roger Harrabin fiction of the Met Office privately forecasting ‘an exceptionally cold start to winter’ that ‘had not been made public because of potential embarrassment caused by the unreliability of long range forecasting’. A claim destroyed by the document above.

More pertinent, and certainly more damaging for the Met Office, was the written evidence from the Royal Automobile Association (RAC). Their reference to the inability of the Met Office for forecast major weather incidents two or more weeks ahead makes clear how the public and a great number of organisations were let badly by the Met Office, regardless of the spin emanating from propaganda central in Exeter.

It is this submission, more than any other, that gets to the heart of the matter. It is that that undermines the Met Office’s spin and attempts to rewrite history.  Bloggers can be ignored, but evidence from one of the nation’s biggest motoring organisations is a great deal harder to dismiss.  It is this evidence that should that offers valuable insight to the Transport Committee and that should shape the nature of the committee’s further investigation into adequate preparation for major weather incidents such as that in December 2010.

The only written evidence that brings home the human impact of the failure to forecast weather more than a couple of days in advance, was that provided by Dr Philip Bratby – an occasional commenter on this blog.  It is best read in its entirety.

DECC deliberately misleading MPs over Met Office forecast

Following on from this post about recent Parliamentary answers on the subject of the Met Office winter forecast for 2010-11, the very next day saw the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) at it again:

Nuance is one thing.  But constructing answers that distort the forecast advice from the Met Office is something else altogether. To say the information being shared in the answer by Gregory Barker on behalf of DECC is selective is an understatement.  The Parliamentary written answer supplied to Peter Lilley on 10th February deliberately excludes information the Met Office included in the forecast and thus distorts the context.

Let us just remind ourselves of the advice from the Cabinet Office to the rest of Whitehall, approved by the Met Office.  Note the elements of the forecast that have been omitted by DECC:

This is a disgraceful manipulation of the information, for which the only possible purpose is to protect the Met Office from scrutiny for the fundamental failings in its seasonal forecasting.  The Met Office did not forecast an extremely cold early winter.  While saying there was a 70% chance of an average or colder winter, it caveated this by saying there was a 60% chance of an average or warmer winter.

The summary clearly states there was ‘a slightly increased risk for a cold and wintry start to the winter season’ – something DECC refuses to concede in its answers to MPs.  When a department is allowed to get away with deception of this type it is undermining the parliamentary process and perpetrating a fraud against the public.  It is outrageous.

‘In Europe, not run by Europe’ part XXVII

Dateline: House of Commons, London – 11 November 2010
Subject: Government written answer to a question from MP, Dominic Raab
Topic: EU Justice and Home Affairs

Mr Raab: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what powers the European Commission has to monitor UK compliance with those EU Justice and Home Affairs instruments to which the UK has opted in, under the provisions of the Lisbon treaty; and what jurisdiction the European Court of Justice has over such monitoring.

James Brokenshire: There are specific provisions in the treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’) to enable the European Commission to monitor UK compliance with EU Justice and Home Affairs instruments to which the UK has opted in under the provisions of the Lisbon treaty. There may also be provisions in specific instruments that provide provisions for the Commission to monitor compliance with that particular instrument.

Article 258 TFEU empowers the European Commission to deliver a reasoned opinion to a member state when it considers that the state has failed to fulfil an obligation under the treaties. This includes any obligation arising under those EU Justice and Home Affairs instruments to which the UK has opted in since the entry into the force of the treaty of Lisbon. If the member state fails to comply, the Commission may bring the matter before the Court of Justice of the European Union. In accordance with article 260 TFEU, if the Court of Justice of the European Union finds that the member state has failed to fulfil the obligation the member state shall be required to take the necessary measures to comply with the judgment.

Just another day in the utopian European Union Provinces of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and ‘The Regions’.

MPs fail in craven attempt to avoid justice over expenses

The three former Labour MPs facing criminal charges over their expenses have lost their final appeal at the Supreme Court to avoid trial.

Jim Devine, David Chaytor and Elliot Morley argued they shouldn’t be put on trial in a criminal court because their expenses are covered by parliamentary privilege. Their desperate attempt to be treated differently to other alleged criminals because they are part of the political class has underlined the ‘them and us’ sense of entitlement that pervades Parliament.

The three troughing attempted justice evaders have denied theft by false accounting in relation to their parliamentary expense claims. Thankfully in this instance the law has avoided being an ass and the Supreme Court – only surpassed in power by every cross jurisdictional court in Europe – ruled the MPs were not protected by their ludicrous claim of parliamentary privilege.

Trials will now follow at Southwark Crown Court beginning later this month. They should be open and shut cases and the three men should be hoping fellow politician Kenneth Clarke can wreck the prison system before they are invited to become guests of Her Majesty.

This case, as mentioned previously on this blog, highlights the need for a written constitution for this country. It also confirms the need for a political revolution to turf out the political class and confer real power to the British people.

5th November – A Timely Reminder

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,

I know of no reason

Why the Gunpowder Treason

Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent

To blow up the King and Parli’ment.

Three-score barrels of powder below

To prove old England’s overthrow;

By God’s providence he was catch’d

With a dark lantern and burning match.

Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring.

Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

And what should we do with him? Burn him!

Sir Robert Catesby’s plot was hatched in response to the intolerance of the ruling elite. The frustration of those being oppressed boiled over and, there being no democratic recourse open to them, it followed that extreme actions were decided upon.

It is said those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. When one considers the modern political class, it appears those who ignore the past are condemned to the same. There is only so much contempt people will take before they react. But the political class, ensconced in its self regarding bubble and remote from the real world are probably too ignorant to realise it.

Talent is the new immunity in politics

Never mind that you have taken taxpayers’ money that you’re not entitled to.

Never mind that you have lied for years about your circumstances to Parliamentary authorities.

Never mind that your self serving actions have required you to resign from the government benches in disgrace.

David Laws, as you are considered to be more talented than most others in the shallow pool of talent in the Westminster bubble inhabited by those of us in the political class, not a difficult feat in all honesty, take comfort from the pledge of this country’s leadership that the wrongs you have committed against the public will be set aside shortly and there is every expectation that you will be able to resume your government career before too long.

You’re concerned about public anger?  Pah, forget about that, David.  The public do not matter.  We are the political class and we will do what suits us best, a bit like you did actually.  We make the rules.  Notice how we pointedly diverted attention from what you did and talked you up with lavish messages of support?  We look after our own.  Our political needs are more important than the views of a few uppity voters who still think this is a democracy.  It’s rather quaint actually.  But it’s the order of things, you see?  Once you’re in the club, the committee will take care of you and the members will see you right.  Outsiders are of no relevance here.

If you’ve got talent then you are immune from being banished to the backbenches for the rest of your Parliamentary career.  We’ll just say bringing you back is in the national interest and the minions will fall into line.  Dave will see to it.

Chin up old chap.  See you back at Cabinet soon!

Democracy breaking out all over Parliament

MPs have sensationally voted out the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.  A vote was called when a number of MPs challenged Bercow’s re-election as Speaker.  Rather than pressing on with other business, the new Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell, set in motion a division enabling members to decide democratically to remove Bercow and set in train the election of a new Speaker.  Sir Malcolm Rifkind hailed the vote as a triumph of the new politics, signalling and new openness and transparency in the Mother of Parliaments.

Yeah, right.

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Con-Lib: The good, the bad, and the undefined

(Part two of this post will appear later in a separate entry…)

The party political manoeuvering is complete and the Liberal Democrat bird is now nesting in the Conservative oak tree.  ‘Operation Save Dave’ has been a heavily qualified success for the clique that surrounds David Cameron and we will learn today who will be the Ministers in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.  Every government, however much one might despise it overall, delivers some things that are positive.  Labour did achieve some positive things, and this coalition will be no exception.  So it’s a good time to assess what we might expect from the Con-Lib coalition.

The media will inevitably focus on the personalities and start to dig out whatever comments they can find in their archive where members of the newly forged Cabinet railed against their new colleagues and against positions they have now signed up to.  But what matters most is the shape and content of the agreement that has been cobbled together by the parties and what the government’s business will mean for ordinary voters.  As the details emerge I plan to share, in no particular order, my personal centre-right take on the new government’s agenda.  Hopefully you will share your thoughts in the comments.

Forget the Northern Ireland Chuckle Brothers that were, namely Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.  The UK now has its own special double act, the Terrible Twins, Dave and Nick, or Cameron and Clegg if you will.  They have published their agreement so we now have a clearer idea of what they plan to do in the UK, well, in those areas where they think we are not controlled by the EU.

Deficit Reduction –

With Labour gone we are not going to have to wait another year or two before government acts to reduce the deficit.  But we have to wait until July for the emergency budget for the details beneath the headlines. While the direction of travel seems sound, it’s disappointing that the Lib Dems have forced a less ambitious pace for cutting back unnecessary public spending.  But what the Dave giveth, the Nick taketh away, because while the document talks of stopping ‘Labour’s proposed jobs tax’ the fact is we are going to pay a higher rate of National Insurance to fund the raising of the income tax personal allowance.

Spending Review –

This is urgently needed.  But we will have to wait until the autumn to see the state of the books Labour has left behind.  This is when the pain will be felt and Labour’s legacy exposed.

Tax Measures –

The income tax personal allowance will be raised in increments to £10,000.  How this was not a Conservative policy still eludes me.  Allowing people to keep more of what they earn is the right thing to do.  But inheritance tax, which punishes people who are left assets and who, through no fault of their own have seen the value of their assets (such as houses in what have become expensive areas) rise, has been stuck on the back burner for the foreseeable future.

The airlines, under enough pressure already, will experience some more as air passenger duty is converted into per plane duty.  Not all flights on scheduled routes will fly full, so the airlines will experience more of a burden, which will be passed on to passengers through increased air fares.  Just one more example of how the greenwash of the UK will cost us ever more money.

The commitment to tackling tax avoidance could become an issue for wealth creators who will be needed to grow their businesses and create employment.  Tax evasion is a crime, minimising tax liabilities through avoidance is legal.  The language used is emotive and reminds us that the government covets what people have and believes it is entitled to the rewards for our endeavours.

Banking Reform –

Here we go.  Someone has to be portrayed as the enemy, and it’s the banks again that are under attack.  Applying the planned banking levy will reduce the amount of money banks have available to lend and available to invest to help boost our pensions and investments.  It is shortsighted and panders to people who don’t realise what it will cost them in the long run.  The only justification for a banking levy is to recoup money provided by the taxpayers to recapitalise the banks.

By going after bankers’ bonuses, the Dave and Nick show is increasing the prospect of our best and brightest bank executives and traders leaving for better terms in countries that we compete with.  It defies belief that the method of increasing compeitiveness is to level the banks downwards and by pressing them to separate retail and commercial banking.

However there is some sensible thinking on display in respect of regulatory simplification and having a single body, in the shape of the Bank of England, to maintain oversight.  Also the pledge not to join the Euro in the lifetime of the agreement is welcome, but in the circumstances a very obvious commitment.

Immigration –

The unworkable and completely unacceptable idea of an amnesty for illegal immigrants is off the table.  Perhaps the Lib Dems realised just how nonsensical the idea was.

The Conservative pledge to cap migrant numbers from outside the EU is welcome.  Clegg’s assertion that 80% of migrant workers come here from the EU was completely wrong.  MigrationWatch UK demonstrated from official statistics that more workers come here from non-EU countries, so a cap makes sense.

However this completely fails to address the problem of a glut of unskilled labour from EU countries coming to this country without restriction, increasing pressure on infrastructure and public services such as education, healthcare and housing.  The fact remains that all three main parties are commited to maintaining full membership of the EU regardless of the wishes of the public.  Until the main parties listen and represent the wishes of the electorate, this country will not be able to control its own borders and prevent surplus work capacity alighting on these shores.

Political Reform –

It is excellent to see Fixed Term Parliaments being implemented.  However both parties have decided not to take the opportunity to allow voters to choose their MPs every four years, which would have been more democratic.  There is clearly a strong element of self interest on display from the coalition partners.

The Con-Lib coalition has also sought to protect its own position with an insipid little proposed Bill to dissolve Parliament if 55% or more of MPs vote to do so.  This is another example of the all-spoils-to-the-victor Cameron and Clegg claimed to be getting away from.  It should be a simple majority to bring about a dissolution of Parliament – 50% plus one vote.  This move is fundamentally undemocratic and self serving.  This takes the power of incumbency and meshes it with Tammany Hall politics to make it harder to dismiss a government that does not control the confidence of the House.  Another example of the reality of the new politics!

Voting reform was always going to figure.  Thankfully the nightmare scenario of proportional representation is not on the table, rather the Alternative Vote method.  I don’t want it and I won’t vote for it if the planned referendum becomes reality.  But it is absolutely the right thing that the electorate will decide in a referendum.  Rather than just grant a referendum, the political class will demonstrate its grip on power by putting the idea to a vote in the Commons first.  Still the people are not trusted to decide for themselves what they want.  Where is the representative nature of our democracy evident in this process?

It goes without saying that there is no hint of a referendum concerning our relationship with the EU.  This underlines the continuing hypocrisy of the political class… ‘look, we are graciously considering allowing you to choose the voting system, but we will not let you choose if you wish to remain governed by the EU’.  This is one of the major failings of a system rigged to suit the interests of the politicians over those of the voters.  For all the posturing and efforts to appear virtuous, the political class continues to bind the hands of the electorate when it suits it.

Prepare for trouble ahead as plans are developed to make the House of Lords an elected chamber.  Which House will have more democratic legitimacy in the event of the two chambers adopting entrenched opposed positions on a matter?  The Lords can only make a nuisance of itself for a period of time before the Commons can force legislation through.  But when the upper House is mainly or fully elected, what right will the Commons have to continue that practice?

Good to see a power of recall for MPs.  However, who will determine what constitutes ‘serious wrongdoing’?  Again, it is those who would be subject to the rules who are making the rules.  The electorate is not being asked to determine the threshhold that can trigger a constituency petition and recall of the sitting MP.

At last we look like having proper voter registration to tackle electoral fraud.  But even that will not eradicate the possibility of electoral fraud by postal voting.  There needs to be legislation to restrict postal voting to exceptional circumstances to significantly reduce the possibility of fraud.  Postal votes should be reserved for those with limited mobility and those who will not be present on polling day.  Using postal voting for mere convenience will always undermine the integrity of the ballot.

English Parliament –

… and breathe.  Cowardice from both coalition partners.  I know there is no section in the Con-Lib agreement devoted to devolution for England and the creation of an English Parliament, but the matter is of such democratic importance it deserved one.  All we got was a single sentence:

‘We have agreed to establish a commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question’.

That’s it.  In full.  They couldn’t even bring themselves to use the words ‘English’ and ‘devolution’ in the same sentence.  This is craven pandering to the devolved countries.  In the very next sentence Dave and Nick promise a referendum to Wales on further Welsh devolution based on the proposals of the Calman Commission.  The top priority should be addressing the disgraceful democratic deficit affecting one country in the Union, not giving another the chance to enhance their devolution of powers from Westminster.

What makes this all the more infuriating is that England has supported the Cameron Conservatives despite their leftward lurch, and in return England continues to be treated with contempt.  Addressing the English democratic deficit should be one of the most pressing matters for the Con-Lib coalition given their self regarding comments about their belief in democracy.  Their casual approach proves they lack the political will to afford England equality within the very Union it subsidises financially.


Still to come… Welfare; Edyookashun; Civil Liberties; Environment; the portfolio that dare not mention its name in the agreement despite Cameron putting Afghanistan as his priority one, Defence; and finally an old favourite – the EU.

Do please leave your comments.

Only constituency, not national vote numbers, matter

It is frustrating reading some of the assessments people are making about which parties have a mandate to form a government.  As depressing as it is, the Conservatives possessing the greatest number of seats in the House of Commons, have a greater – in no way absolute – mandate to try to form an administration.  Yes, it is possible that other parties could group together to vote down Conservative measures tabled before the House.  But that doesn’t change the mandate position.

Many people are setting aside the reality of the current standing of the political parties and allowing their preferences to rewrite the outcome of the election.  It seems one such blogger is the excellent Dr Richard North at EU Referendum.  Readers of that brilliant blog will be familiar with Dr North’s intense dislike of David Cameron and his desire for an ABC – Anyone But Cameron – outcome.  I understand and respect that.  But despite sharing that dislike of Cameron, my most intense dislike is for Gordon Brown, so the outcome I would prefer is ABB – Anyone But Brown.  Perhaps Dr North’s ABC wish goes some way to explaining this analysis on EUR:

On the other hand, while the Tories took 10.7 million votes, a Lib/Lab pact would command 15.4 million and 315 seats as opposed to the Tory 306. When it comes to a mandate, the Liblabs have greater claim than the Tories acting alone.

I don’t accept this assertion because national vote numbers are completely irrelevant.  They may matter to proponents of proportional representation who seek to secure a greater platform for their views, but they are meaningless in the electoral system.  Also, people did not vote for a Lib-Lab pact, they made a discrete between the two left of centre parties.  It is completely inappropriate to bundle their votes together because it doesn’t reflect the stated view of the voters.  The only vote outcomes that matter are the 650 individual contests in the Parliamentaty constituencies around the UK, and subsequently the number of seats won by members of political parties or independents.

In our system the mandate is conferred by seat numbers.  The number of votes cast nationally are a red herring.  Where voters in a constituency elect a particular representative by simple majority, it is wrong to dismiss their choice is irrelevant.  Every candidate has the same opportunity to win election.  If numbers of votes cast nationally are to be the measure of democratic mandates, then how can voters get rid of MPs they no longer wish to represent them?

If numbers of votes cast nationally mattered we would still be stuck with the likes of Jacqui Smith, Charles Clarke, Lembit Opik and Dr Evan Harris.  It would also have enabled candidates like the arrogant flouncer Joanne Cash to be running riot in the Palace of Westminster.  The fact is, the first past the post electoral sytem is not perfect, but like democracy itself it is better than the alternatives.  All that matters are the constituency results and long may they remain true.

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Election Day

In a matter of hours the polls will open for the 2010 General Election.  The image below is a  representation of the kind of hype we can expect until the early hours of Friday morning – and depending on the number of seats won by the parties, possibly beyond that.  Will it be a hung parliament?  What will be the uniform swing?  Will the marginal seats provide a bigger swing confounding the opinion polls?

But wiser heads will not succumb to the contrived excitement and media chatter.  The reason?  Politics in this country isn’t what it used to be.  Regardless of the outcome of the election, very little of substance will change.  The UK will still be ruled by the EU from Brussels, with around 75% of laws and regulations originating there.  European case law will still have primacy over our own, resulting in a continuation of the steady flow of incomprehensible and perverse judgements.

In the Westminster Parliament, the government – be it a majority one, a minority one or a fractious coalition – will tinker around with minutiae.  The clues were there in the Leaders’ Debates, as several commentators observed how Brown, Cameron and Clegg seemed keen to argue over very specific technical matters.  That is because it is all Westminster can do.  The substance of government of the British Isles is dealt with in Brussels.

The issues that matter most to voters were not up for discussion because the main parties have agreed among themselves that our wishes on a number of vital topics do not suit the agendas of the political parties.  The concept of representative politics has been replaced by the rise of the self serving political class.

But despite all this, the media will go through the motions because this is a made-for-media event.  This is their moment to have fun, play with their election toys, build up tension and engage in seemingly never ending speculation and intrigue.  The serious business of putting right the damage inflicted on this country is barely an afterthought.

And when the pantomime is all over the media will maintain its dumbed down focus on celebrity and personality.  We will hear barely anything about the nuts and bolts of Parliamentary business, what leglislation is being imposed on us and where it comes from.  The focus will be on spats and squabbles and grandstanding.

In many ways it will be like a materialist Christmas.  All that build up, all that focus, all that effort and then it’s over in the blink of an eye and you’re left wondering, was that it?  That is why a large number of people will decide not to bother voting.  They will not engage.  They are sick to the back teeth of politicians who put personal prospects before principle, who talk at us and refuse to listen to us or do our bidding.

One can only hope that in years to come this country manages to revert back to real democracy, something meaningful that gives people alternatives and a reason to engage in the political process.  But for all the cant about change delivered by Cameron and Clegg, that day is not here.  It’s a long way off.

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Postal vote election fraud guaranteed

It’s election time in the United Kingdom, so Tammany Hall politics makes another return to this side of the pond.  It’s not as if the writing has not been on the wall in recent years.  A number of local elections have seen council candidates prosecuted for election fraud concerning the abuse of postal voting.

In 2007 suffered this country suffered the humiliation of watching as the Council of Europe initiated an investigation into whether there is a need for official election monitoring in the UK to combat election fraud.  So it was only going to be a matter of time until stories started to emerge yet again of bogus registrations and people being coerced into handing over their postal ballot as activists seek to rig the outcome of the election in a number of marginal seats. Labour has known about this problem for years and done nothing about it despite warning from the Electoral Commission.

Reports and warnings about the capacity to commit electoral fraud via postal voting have been ignored by a political elite that has nothing but contempt for honesty and accountability. The only solution is to put an end to widespread postal voting for the purpose of convenience. It should be reserved for people with mobility problems and those who will be away during an election until a way can be found to make postal voting secure.  And any thoughts of pressing ahead with online voting or voting be text message should be consigned to the dustbin.

Polling stations are open from 7.00am to 10.00pm, which is perfectly adequate for people to exercise their democratic franchise. The system cannot be left as it is. Until postal voting can be made secure it is time to restrict it.

This cradle of democracy, which has for years sent election monitors around the world to ensure free and fair elections in other countries, is now considered to conduct its own elections in a fashion that makes corruption and election fraud scandalously easy.

It is a disgrace and humiliation that has been brought upon us because Labour ignored calls to take precautions to ensure the security of postal votes. Incompetence, sleaze and corruption follow this Labour government like seagulls follow a trawler. On so many levels and in so many ways Labour has made this country into an international laughing stock.

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The Leaders’ Debate underlined our political decay

‘It was a historic moment’, said shouty newsreader Alastair Stewart, at the end of a debate that felt stubbornly unhistoric. Last night, for the first time in British history, the main party leaders – Labour’s Gordon Brown, the Tories’ David Cameron and the Lib Dems’ Nick Clegg – went head-to-head in a TV studio, precisely, and ironically, at a time when the political parties have little of substance or interest to say. But the debate did, inevitably, provide a snapshot of the derelict state of contemporary politics. Here are five at least semi-notable things it highlighted.

That was Brendan O’Neill writing in Spiked.  O’Neill goes on to set out his five interesting things that firmly underline the vacuous nature of British politics today as exposed by The Leaders’ Debate: Clegg becomes king by default, Politics is drained of all substance, Performance trumps conviction, The media write the narrative and The public is patronised.

It really is an incisive must read for those who want to maintain an objective view of the state of representative democracy in Britain today.  Despite the criticism hurled in O’Neill’s direction on a frequent basis, many of his musings on the state of our politics at any rate, are on the money.

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Election 2010: Voters continue to snub political beauty contest

‘We’re still waiting for this election to come alive.  The campaign will not catch fire while party leaders insist on ducking the real issues and keeping the electorate at a safe distance’, says Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph today.

Thus we have more evidence for the assertions made before on this blog, that this election offers nothing new.  It is a phoney war, where voters are disengaged from the political class, because the campaign is nothing but an empty charade where the issues that matter to voters have been kept firmly off the table.  Gilligan is probably guilty of over analysing what’s happening.  He asks:

‘Could it be that, in an election decided in 150 marginals, people are twigging how little influence they have?’

To be honest, few people outside the media corps and the political obsessives club (member, guilty) give any thought to such electoral subtexts.  What it boils down to is not the influence of marginal constituencies, but whether or not voters feel there is any point voting in a censored, stage managed and issue-free election.  Gilligan demonstrates that the media is starting to get it, but remains baffled by the lack of voter interest when he muses:

Every time I turn on the TV, I seem to find Gordon Brown in some heavily policed council house, sharing a sofa with vetted Labour voters, or Mr Cameron being applauded by a well-scrubbed, carefully multi-ethnic claque of young Tories in T-shirts. To date, there have been no breakthrough moments, no episodes of real spontaneity, only one minor voter ambush – and despite the media verdict that the Tories “won” the first week, they have scored little, if any, dividend in the polls.

And the reason for that is the political class refuses to listen to any of our concerns, leaving us with nothing but a political beauty contest rather than a battle of ideas about the future of this country’s people and Britain’s place in the world.  This is what this blog and many others have long predicted.  This election is the most sanitised and ideology-free in our history, which is why we can expect collective yawning and mass TV channel changing tonight as Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg ‘debate’ in a format that is more regimented than the North Korean armed forces.

Truth be told, if as much effort went into keeping our hospitals as meticulously free from bugs as this election is free from issues that matter to voters, MRSA, C difficile and Necrotizing fasciitis infections would become things of the past, mere footnotes in the annals of medical history.  The political class has destroyed representative democracy because they are not interested in representation, only those things that matter to them.

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