Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Your Relationship And "The State"

So, the Law Commission is investigating the status of marriage. Jonny Nexus:
Why? As far as I'm concerned, any relationship that I'm in is purely the business of me and the other person concerned. If we want the government to get involved in our relationship, then we will go to an office of that government (i.e. a "registry office") and formally register our relationship with the state, with all the rights, responsibilities and limitations that this implies (i.e. "marriage").

Now there might be a case for allowing an alternative type of registration for those who have a problem with the word/concept of marriage. But I really think there is a very important principle here:

The right to get married must also include the right to not get married.
Is he right? Is this just another nannying intervention to help those who refuse to help themselves (or are too stupid, and believe in that "common law marriage" myth)?

On the one hand, I utterly do not care about Melanie Phillips's "undermine marriage" objection, but on the other, I really don't like the idea that it's automatic. The whole thing brought to mined an excellent post on a similar subject by Natalie from awhileback, Why modern marriage is unrealistic, and what should replace it:
I’d suggest that instead, “marriages” should be five-year rolling contracts, to be renewed or adapted at the expiration of each period, by mutual negotiation between the parties. They might allow for periods of living apart (say if one person wants to travel for a year and the other doesn’t; they might allow for someone setting up their own space in the house to be restricted to them for a certain times … whatever works for the couple.)

The terms of what happens at the end of the period should be agreed at the start.
Personally, I much prefer this idea. Let's get the state out of regulating our personal lives, and let us determine how, and who, we want to give the legal status of "next of kin", with all that entails.

Any thoughts?

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Contact Alastair Campbell, artwork and BNP Cllr Simon Smith

Three more links
  1. Alastair Campbell on eBay in order to raise money for Backing Blair
  2. A great bit of related artwork from Garry
  3. A selection of quotes from Cllr Simon Smith of Sandwell.
That last is a biggie, and very well compiled as well. For those that haven't subscribed to Unity's feeds yet, do so; Livejournallers will find his syndication here. I really have to break my 'block' and try to write something for Liberty Central, so far he's done all the work.

Linkdump - England and Nukes

Apart from the posts I linked to yesterday, there's also a fairly good discussion going on here at the CEP newsblog, and Iain has a suggestion as to the possible boundaries for sub-England adminisitrative units here. Iain? The TV regions? No. Especially given that HTV covers most of Wales and also bits of Devon and Somerset. OK, better than the godawful treasury boundaries, but still. Constructaregion is a nice little tool for comparative analysis - personally, I'd like to live in Lyonnesse.

Also, an interesting collection of quotes culled from the New Statesman on Nuclear Power; some dodgy lefty had a habit of making a big fuss about what a bad idea it all is:
"What is unbelievably depressing about the government's response, is that they see, in the evidence about greenhouse gases, not an opportunity to promote environmental concern, but a chance to make the case for nuclear power... Having made a big issue of the greenhouse effect, it became clear that energy efficiency was the best way to deal with it, but... the government's position has been characterised by a malign reluctance to have anything to do with the notion of energy conservation."
The lefty in question? Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. As Jack puts it:
It's amazing how selling out on all the principles you once held dear and having a bunch of mates in the nuclear power business can do for your views on the world, even when everything you said about it came true. Ah Mr Blair, you care not for us, our land, the people or the earth but filling the pockets of your friends, you really are the shadow of man devoid of any moral fiber or shred of integrity.
Personally, I've gone from the "no, no way, not ever" position to the "do we have a choice, we need to cut emmissions somehow" position, but I'm not, currently, in favour. From what I understand, the concrete and transportation costs are going toemit just as much as yer typical gas or coal fired station. But, it's not my area to discuss it any further.

Monday, May 29, 2006

English Devolution: how far?

Bishop Hill has followed up on my post from Friday about the need for reform of how England is governed:
I reckon in fact that the advent of an English Parliament would be good not only for the English but also for the Celtic fringe, in that the loss of their subsidies will force them to embrace business in the way that their brethren in Ireland have done.

How then to square this with the ideas that I have put forward here and at Liberty Central (and that MatGB seems to share) for devolution of power down to the lowest practicable levels? What is the point of an English Parliament if all the power resides at community level? It's hard to think of many areas of policy which would sit naturally at an England level were this kind of constitution to be enforced
He follows up with a discussion of Bondwoman's excellent post at the Sharpener and concludes:
The answer then appears to me to be that there may in fact be no need for an English Parliament, because the constitutional imbalance can be righted and more local government delivered, without it.
This is, essentially, my position; we need to localise power. That it is, as Stuart observed in the comments, "for the English to decide how their country is governed, not the Scots, not the Welsh and not the Northern Irish" is unarguable. Where I disagree with him is his desire to see an English Parliament first. I want a Convention that will discuss how we are governed, followed by a preferendum to the people asking them how they wish to be governed. That has to be an essential cause that all reformers can agree on, regardless of what actual outcome we want, right?

I'm not closing comments on this post, but I'd like to keep them all together either here where I asked the questions or on Bishop's post here if possible? Danke.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Total Obedience Bill 2006

This is brilliant:
As part of the Total Obedience Bill 2006, the new Home Secretary, 'Dr' John Reid, will be given a shiny leather jacket and sweeping powers to ride around on a Harley Davidson motorbike brandishing a shotgun to deal with any would-be miscreants. Complaints from civil servants will also be dealt with swiftly.

It's not all roses in the Number 10 garden though. Earlier this week, Cherie Blair and Alistair Campbell caused howls of indifference when they auctioned the head of veteran peace campaigner Brian Haw at a Labour party fundraiser. The head, which was still warm, had been autographed by Mrs Blair, Mr Campbell and Bono from U2, and was said to have fetched in the region of �400. Not even enough for a decent haircut but every little helps.
Go read, it's worth it...
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Friday, May 26, 2006

This Royal Throne of Kings has a problem

Was just prompted by a friend to pick up my copy of the Complete Works, hadn't looked at it for a few years. I was looking for Macbeth, but there was a page marked. Most certainly not a bookmark, just an envelope addressed to my address before last, keeping a page for reference. Which page?
Richard II:
John of Gaunt:
Methinks I am a prophet new inspired
And thus expiring do foretell of him:
His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short;
He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;
With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder:
Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,
Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.
This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death!
So, England has a problem that needs solving. It's come up (again) in the comments on the previous post, so I thought I'd open a question for debate.

Squaring the circle. How do you bring power as close as possible to the people, recognise the existence of England as a unit, and ensure that a Parliament of 80% of the population does not destabilise or undermine the British parliament?

How is the need to take power away from the centre helped by creating a new administrative unit that is as big as England? How does this improve the way I am governed?

I ask this in the attempt to have a reasoned debate - can "nationalism" be removed from this discussion? Does "England", in and of itself, matter? England is nearly as big as Britain. If Britain is to continue to exist as an administrative unit, what will the England govt do? I've said before that a medium term objective of all disparate reformers has to be a constitutional convention, and in that, nothing can be ruled out or ruled in. I'm convinced that a Parliament for England is an irrelevence for as long as Britain exists, too distant and remote.

However, can we devolve power from the center into units big enough to be effective but local enough to be responsive? And can such a system also include an "English dimension" in some way?

George Galloway approves of murder

Garry Smith:
George Galloway, you are a fucking hypocrite. I'm sure I speak for the majority of people who opposed the invasion of Iraq when I say "shut your stupid indefatigable mouth, you odious egotistical fuckwit".

He doesn't represent my views. At all.
Dont' talk about Iraq and related stories much on here. Simple reason, no need to double up on what Garry's doing. For Galloway to say assasination is justified? No George, just no. I'm not exactly keen on tired Tony either, but still, no. Let's just say that again:
George Galloway, you are a fucking hypocrite.
It's as good a Google Bomb of anything else I've seen recently.

Update

Peter Black:
Galloway is experienced enough and intelligent enough to have avoided an obvious trap. That he didn't says a lot about his lack of judgement. There is no room for personal animosity in politics and there is no justification for violence in any form. Galloway is a disgrace to his profession.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

John Reid: Dereliction of duty?

Stuart Parr at Wonko's World may be onto something here:
The Home Secretary isn't planning to tell Scottish police forces to merge despite telling us that anything less than 4,000 officers in a police force puts us at risk of terrorism. Obviously this is unacceptable - either there is a risk of terrorism and the Home Secretary is guilty of dereliction of duty or the risk of terrorism is a lie and the merger of police forces is politically motivated.
He's right. Under the terms of the Scotland Act, policing is a devolved matter. But under that same act, Scottish Parliament can be overridden by Westminster. John Reid claims that the police force mergers that his predecessor was planning are partially to "fight terrorism". If it's such a threat to necessitate the merger of the England and Wales police forces, then why isn't it needed in Scotland? If it is needed in Scotland, why isn't it going to happen?

Admin: Talk to me! - BloggerHacks

Right, I think I've sorted the template, thanks Pete for the analysis, the wrapper was itself the cause of the problem, and it looks better without it.

More importantly though, to the right (on the front page only) is a recent comments box. This is cool and something I was rather keen on when looking at Wordpress options. But, perhaps more usefully, from the same site, I also found a way to have a 'comment' box at the bottom of each post page. It's even got some formatting and link insertion options. Only works if you're running javascript enabled browser, but that's 98% of the readers. I've turned off the letter recognition thing to get it to work properly, but it's pretty cool even with that on; can, um, people test it out and see what they think?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Constituency Link: Time to Cut the Umbilical?

Must pay more attention. James, who I read regularly, also it seems writes at the New Politics Network blog, which I must have missed despite looking at the site a few times. Got there via Make my Vote Count (which I read at least once a week), and find this excellent article on the merits of multi-member constituencies:
Electoral systems that use closed party lists (such as the one we now use for the European Parliament) are often criticised because they don’t enable individuals to be held accountable. People are forced to choose between parties, not individuals. Yet the hard truth of the matter is, FPTP has the same problem ... the evidence we have from the other side of the Irish Channel suggests that some proportional systems encourage politicians to engage with the community precisely because they allow people a variety of different elected representatives from which to choose. The Single Transferable Vote system used there means that politicians not only compete against candidates from other parties but with candidates within their own: being able to demonstrate that you, personally, are doing a good job is therefore at an absolute premium.
I've said similar things myself here before, but James has summed up the argument incredibly well. One to bookmark for future reference methinks.

John Reid: The Home Office is crap

Yesterday:
"I'm almost always defending the indefensible here. I do not think I have been given a fact or a figure in the past fortnight that has not been revised quickly in a very short space of time."

Today:
Home Secretary John Reid is said to be furious after he had to apologise to MPs for giving them the wrong figures on foreign prisoners
Well, yes John. It's crap. The whole thing is crap. You've inherited a job that may or may not have been
"fit for purpose when I left it in 1997"
-former Home Secretary Michael Howard
but it's most certainly falling to bits now. The more I learn, the more I'm convinced. When I linked to this before, it was with caveats. Now, I agree completely. The Home Office is an all-consuming monster*, it needs to be broken up.

*Yes, I am proposing that as a Google Bomb. Because it really needs it.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Brian Haw - raided in the early hours

So, hidden down in recesses of the BBC front page, is the news that Brian Haw was raided this morning and has had most of his placards alongside much of his personal possessions removed and "dumped in a container".

Cllr Ayling is, rightly, outraged, not just at the action itself, but also that the coverage it has been given puts it so far down the headlines that you could blink and miss it (I did until a friend pointed it out to me). I'm not sure I agree, completely, with his take, but it does cause me some concern. Peter Black does, however, pose a much more important question:
If they did not want to give the impression of a Police state why did they not execute this act in broad daylight when we could all see what they were doing?
He's right, this was an ongoing dispute, Mr Haw was not a direct threat to anyone. He lost his case to remain untouched, and now has a very restricted protest allowed to continue. As much as we dislike these restrictions, the police are tasked with upholding the law. So how do they choose to do it? During the day, in daylight, peaceably and with an attempt to keep it amicable? No.
A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said officers removed the placards at 0235 BST
I'll just say that again

0235 BST

Nice one to the boys in blue there, really making it hard for those of us who want to think that you're doing your job despite concerns over the powers this government has been giving you. 2.35am? For a peaceful, non-violent protest?

Disgraceful.

Updates:

Tim has more on the fiasco, including picture of the confiscation of his bell last week. Spyblog reports it was 25 police officers sent (at 2.35am mind, think of the overtime payments) to do the dirty deed. Tomorrow am, given that Brian has had his bell removed, it seems timed to make sure he can't annoy Tony, there will be a protest as Blair turns up for PM questions, aiming to make as much noise as possible. A little far for me to drive, but if you're in the area?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Iran, Canada, anti-semitism and damn lies

I don't think there's any doubt that the Government in Iran has a few anti-semitic tendencies. Unfortunately, because we know this, sometimes people who should know better fall for complete bull and swallow it whole. It's not just Chris though, it's also, um, the Prime Minister of Canada.

Iain Weaver has a good selection of links debunking the story. Iran isn't a nice place, the election process is flawed, the Govt plays to the gallery to acheive popular support, and dissenters are subject to serious legal controls. Unlike in Britain, those controls include being killed.

But when the press spreads lies and half truths, it cheapens the debate.
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Test

I've mentioned I hate coding, Microsoft and when I mess things up, in that order, right? Bloody template is shot to hell, but I can't find the fault now seems to have changed completely is now fixed. It's not supposed to all be centered, and the adsence frames appear to be eating up other content instead. Giving up for a bit, at least it's readable.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Predicting Scottish elections

Scottish electoral mechanics are always interesting to watch. South of the border, most seats are either safe or two-way marginals. Three-way marginals are rare, and tend to disappear over the course of a few elections, the third party squeeze / ratchet effect caused by Duverger's Law means that it becomes "irrational" as the economists put it to vote for the third place or below candidate. Yet in Scotland? They not only still have three way marginals, they also have some 4 way marginals. One party can gain a seat despite losing votes, as the first place candidate loses votes to the third place, but not enough for third to take the seat. Very difficult to predict results, but very interesting to study. However, as Holyrood (the glorified county council referred to as a Parliament) is up for election next year, Duncan is taking a stab at summarising the current state of play, and has an interesting selection of links, well worth a look over. I especially like this:
Personally, I buy the idea that in Scotland there is a clear anti-Labour vote and that whichever party between the SNP and the Lib Dems is in the best position to halt Labour will pick up the votes.
and my reading of the recent bye-election results leads me to agree with him. Labour's "Scottish Raj" have dominated elections in most of the country at virtually every level for quite some time. Next years campaign will be good to watch. And if, of course, Blair is still in office next May, and they lose Scotland? Especially if the LibDems gain seats as predicted despite being in Govt up there?

As I've said here (nice one Paulie, but a little too early methinks - I agree, once again, with Millenium):
If Blair lasts the year without at least announcing when he's going, I'll be amazed.

Best bet is he announces he's going to stand down next May, there'll be a leadership election to take place sometime over the winter, etc.
If Blair goes before next May, then maybe Labour can start rebuilding their credibility. If they dump some of their obvious stupidities as well, then maybe the "anti-Labour" vote will ebb. But if Blair is still there? Nicol Stephen as First Minister in a LibDem/SNP/Green coalition? Gordon would love that about as much as he likes his own MP...

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

In Our Time - John Stuart Mill

BBC - Radio 4 In Our Time - Home Page

Is on now Was on at the time of posting The MP3 is downloadable from the above link, and is very worth it. I listed to it this morning. How can you not like the writer of On Liberty and On Socialism?

Thanks to Chris for the latter link, didn't know that, like the guy even more than I always did now. Liberal and socialist? A believer in markets and equal rights?

I'll do a Great Britons post on him when I've time, in the meantime, turn the radio on, or download the MP3.

incompetent authoritarian blair - Google Search

Best one of the last few days:
incompetent authoritarian blair - Google Search
Well, yes, he is, I completely agree.

Well, my post midnight tweaks on the template last night seem to have not worked at all well. It's readable, but it hasn't acheived the desired objective and has messed a few other things up. More tweaking to follow over the weekend. In the meantime, if you're using Internet Explorer, and are on a screen resolution below 900px wide, then the main column is, I know, very difficult to read. Apologies. The coding problem is mine, but it wouldn't be an issue if Bill Gates' staff did their jobs properly. Do yourself a favour if it's your PC:

Get Firefox

Seriously. Internet Explorer is (currently) the modern equivalent of an old-style Skoda on the "information superhighway" - the new version is supposed to be quite good, but the one you're currently using, well, isn't. More than 60% of this sites regular readers agree completely, a significant proportion of the rest have no choice at work. Even that's changing though.

Admin: New template & layout - Blogger problems?

Blogger playing up?

Since yesterday, I've had no edit icons on my compose window, no preview, and the keyboard shortcuts aren't working. I use the plain text editor, not the WYSIWYG composer. Anyone else having similar? No image upload option either. I thought at first it was a problem with my other id, but it isn't. Also, I'm seeing a new favicon, the 'B' has been replaced by some pink effect blobs. Anyone else?

New site layout

OK, I've been aware for some time that the three column coding I tried didn't work properly in Internet Explorer at lower screen resolutions. I hope I've now fixed it (as requested and promised). Gaaaahhh! I hate hate hate Microsoft. Not only is it just as bad, but the fonts are all wrong as well. When is IE 7 coming out? Plan 'b'. Tomorrow night.

I'd been planning to use this template for awhile, but I hadn't finished it, it's a mix of three different templates and a lot of my own tweaking. Given I don't really know what I'm doing, trial and error is fun. So, firstly, Internet Explorer users, is it better?

Second, colour scheme; yellow headers better that that green that was there before? Sidebar boxes look better? There's a few things I need to finish off; the text padding seems to vary and I've tried to find them all. Also, following Duncan's lead, the vont should now be completely Verdana. I've probably missed something.

Admin point

I've added a new 'user', called TaKtiX. That's actually me, it's the admin account for my new site, and I keep forgetting what I'm logged in as, so posts from me using that are still me. The things we do.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Human Rights - prohibition on torture

Sue Welsh is writing a series on the Convention. Today's article is Article 3 - The absolute prohibition of torture
No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
There's no derogation from that one. There's no get out clause. There should never be a need for one. Why is the idea that we can't deport people who are under threat of torture at home controversial? Why is our Government, and it's principle ally, ducking around the issue and trying to justify why certain things aren't torture? What is wrong with the world?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cameron's little list - Pointless?

The Telegraph:
David Cameron has no power to enforce his A-list of "elite" parliamentary candidates on local constituency associations, the party said last night.
Yup. Thought as much. The Tory party does have some form of local democray.
As many as six would-be MPs are ready to take legal action at being excluded from Mr Cameron's priority list of about 110 candidates.
Um, should I be laughing about this as much? Probably not.

Let's here it for pointless, headline grabbing publicity stunts! Got any policies yet Dave?

Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill - Third Reading

Amongst all the other things going on, had lost track of the Leg / Reg Bill. Fortunately, others have not been so lax. Listening to Today in Parliament I realised that the Bill is going through Reports today (Monday) and tomorrow. Fortunately, the Save Parliament blog has been paying attention, and has today managed a series of posts today liveblogging the debates in the Commons. They can't do tomorrow but will have an open thread for contributions.

It'll also be worth everyone giving the TheyWorkForYou transcript a good going over in their comments when their version of the debate goes live. As before, Save Parliament!

Monday, May 15, 2006

A constitutional note to Tony Blair

Nosemonkey:
The way the British system works is that the legislature makes the laws, and the judiciary then applies them. If, as head of the executive (and therefore the person responsible for ensuring that new laws that pass through the legislature are well-written and clear in intention) you fail in your duty of providing good laws, then blaming the judiciary for applying them in the way set out in the legislation you are responsible for having drawn-up is pathetic buck-passing.
Go read the rest.
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The Afghan hijackers - legal and human rights

I've seen a few comments around various blogs hoping for a proper "lawyers" breakdown of the Afghan hijackers case. I don't have the legal knowledge to do such a thing. Fortunately, Tony Hatfield does:
It is often forgotten that the Stansted Nine were acquitted of all criminal charges arising out of the “hijack” of an Ariana Boeing 727 from Kabul in February 2000.
Read the rest, seriously, it's a very good breakdown of the legal case. Brian Barder:
This is dangerous populist grandstanding, deliberately intended to confuse the issues and to give the misleading impression that the legal position can be changed by amending the HRA. In fact there are two separate issues here.
Both highlighted on Unity's excellent post, in which he also observes:
there have been systemic failings in the workings of the Parole Board and Probation service, failings that are the direct result of a wholesale’ lack of competence in the area of Human Rights law compounded by a desire, at seeming all costs, to avoid cases being brought to judicial review, where they can be dealt with appropriately by a competent authority.
Which brings me to this excremental peice of dung:
But instead their kids and their wives have all been told they can come and live here in houses that most Brits earning a decent wage couldn't afford, and all without ever having to dirty their hands with work.
Does anyone have any experience of reporting such columnists to the PCC? I'd research how to do it from scratch but if someone has done it before?

(Thanks to Andrew in comments here for bringing the odious Ms Malone to my heretofore innocent attention)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Admin: new Linklog and Britblog Roundup # 65

OK, Mr Tim has his weekly roundup of the best of British up. In addition, I've been playing (again), and have added a linklog to the left sidebar, powered by del.icio.us, here's the RSS feed and LJ syndication. It means I'll be cutting back on the very short "go here" posts a little, but can link to stuff that I don't necessarily want to blog about.

All in all, very easy to set up (although I need to tweak the styling) and another good reason to use Firefox to read the internet, the plug ins for del.icio.us are very good.
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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Human Rights, Legal Wrongs - incompetent administration

So, Charlie Falconer is thinking of changing the law is he? Why is this? Because it's being criticised. Yet why is it being criticised? For doing exactly what it was designed to do? No. It's being criticised because they failed to train those responsible for enforcement properly.
Lord Falconer said the government did not intend to pull out of the convention but it is considering a programme of education and training or new legislation to make sure it is not wrongly interpreted.
Charlie? The former, that of proper training to make sure people don't get carried away with erroneous concerns? That's good. New legislation? What is it with you lot and new legislation? Why not fully make use of the laws we've already got first? A new law should be the last resort, not the first. Your staff, and other State employees charged with protecting us, etc are failing in their duty out of erroneous concerns. One of the other cases in question:
Appeal judges quashed their convictions in May 2003 but insisted that their decision was "not a charter for future hijackers".

They said a mistake in directing the jury was the only reason the men's appeal had succeeded.

On Wednesday, the High Court ruled the men could remain in the UK until it was safe to return to Afghanistan. The government has said it will appeal ... Tony Blair has said the decision not to return the men to Afghanistan is "an abuse of common sense".
Tony? "Common Sense" to me says that Afghanistan is not currently safe. The ruling is that you can return them there when it is safe. Where, exactly, is the problem here? They fled an evil oppressive regime that you, eventually, went to war in order to depose. You're now saying that their lives weren't under threat? James at Quaequam Blog! has more to say:
Labour seem to think the fact they introduced the HRA means they must now be regarded as immune from it. The problem stems from the fact that the broad coalition that brought Labour to power in 1997 has now been sloughed off, and we are left with an authoritarian, illiberal core that doesn’t quite understand why it did half the things it did in the first three years of power.
The Act was implemented in order to promote a Human Rights culture by Tony Blair's Govt. Now that we've got one? He doesn't like it.

Time to go Tony, your Government is too tired to get anywhere.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Human Rights Act not to blame for decision

Telegraph | News | Human Rights Act not to blame for decision

Sue Welsh:
The right question to ask "Dave" and other people who grumble about the Act is, do you approve of withdrawal from the Convention?

If the answer is no, we can stay in the Convention, we just don't want the Act, then I think that means they want the respectability of belonging to a nation which says it does not condone torture, without the sometimes uncomfortable consequences which flow from taking that stance. This is hypocritical in the extreme.
Agree completely.

John Reid: disingenuous, stupid or liar?

Atlantic Rift: Two plus two is five

Can we have a public enquiry please?
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Euston: You have a problem

I promised Paulie a response to his reply to my last post on the Euston Manifesto. The problem is that, as I've already said, something has bothered me about the thing the whole time, but I can't quite figure it out. Unity has come close to putting his finger on it:
That being said, it may well be the case that a schism does emerge from the aftermath of the Iraq war, not between the ‘decents’ and the ’stoppers’ but between an overtly ideological/utopian minority, which encompasses both, and a mainstream ‘rational’ left which, quite frankly, is getting sick and tired of being lectured about principles it well understands and labelled as lackies and ‘useful idiots’ by the ideologues for simply daring to think things through for themselves and arrive at their own conclusions on the many rights and wrongs of a complex situation like Iraq.
I agree with much of the Manifesto, disagree witht he analyisis and assumptions of part, and really dislike the holier than thou attitude of some of its proponents. It really bothers me to see comments such as:
Who doesn't support the Manifesto, and why?
- Um, Andrew? Because I haven't been persuaded yet, and yet you seem to assume I'm indecent and wrong if I don't. Also
(For instance, consider the familiar argument: "We should go to war in Iraq." "No we shouldn’t — and Donald Rumsfeld met Saddam Hussein twice! The US supported Saddam against Iran!" etc.)
Actually, the latter was usually used as a rebuttal of the "Hussein is teh evil" argument put out by the pro- lobby, if he was so evil, why was the principle supporter (now) of invasion backing him (then)? Hypocrisy or simply money grubbing? Or maybe a change of heart, in which case why not rebut it, apologise, etc?

Euston is a mix of apple pie, pointless generalisation and horrible simplicities. I think I like the other alignment Unity suggests. I'm not a Euston signatory, I'm a member of the rational left. Paulie:
The Manifesto was written because there are seriously people out there who would urge you to identify with theocrats and dictators against liberal democracies.

My only criticism of the Manifesto is it's blandness.
To the former point, yes, and I already oppose them, I don't need a set of pledges on masses of topics to prove that. The latter? That's its main problem.

It may, or may not, be a laudable project. Doesn't mean I'm going to like it.
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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Cameron's 'A' list - whither party democracy?

Dave? I think that you might have a bit of a problem here Dave. In fact, I think you may have completely fucked up. Not just because she seems to be, as the Labourites say, a "shameless opportunist" who may be racist. But also because, well, she's a bit dim.
With an increasing number of immigrants and asylum seekers,' she told one newspaper, 'then the pot is reduced for the rest of us.'
Um, does anyone want to explain to your new Conservative candidate something about how economics works? How growth can be prompted by immigration? How economics isn't a zero-sum game, and economic growth means the "pot" keeps getting bigger?

In addition, can someone with Tory leanings explain their candidate selection process? How, exactly, can Cameron create a list of favored people and promise them safe seats? How can he enforce that on local associations? Is the Tory party really that undemocratic and centralist? Political Hack:
A word of warning to Dishy Dave and his Notting Hill set. While he's slavishly following the Blair playbook - even to the point of posing today with a collection of new Tory councillors (Cameron's Coven, anyone?) - he needs to be aware of the problems that the imposition of the 'chosen ones' can have on local constituency parties. Labour have been doing it for a while, with distinctly mixed results. Blaenau Gwent is just the most high-profile example of this policy.
To me, candidate selection is a fairly straightforward process. All those interested in running for a constituency apply to the local executive, who prepare a list and put it to the membership to vote on. Hopefully there's a hustings and campaign of sorts. That, to me, makes complete sense. How do the Tories do it, and how is this 'A' list going to work?

Regardless, if oyu have any say whatsoever in your local Conservative Association, I'd avoid Ms Hutchings if I were you, she doesn't look to be particularly bright or able from the quotes I've seen. Not, fortunately, my call.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Quote of the week - Brian Barder on Blair

Every so often, I set aside some time to read Brian Barder's Ephems. He has a way of using 15 words when 3 will do at times, but he regularly comes out with some gems. This one I particularly like:
I believe Straw’s departure from the FCO to be deeply regrettable, especially as his successor is to be a woman of undoubted good practical common-sense and decency but with absolutely no experience of international affairs: for that lack of experience will make her warm plasticine in Blair’s hands. Given Blair’s careless and impetuous style of decision-making, his marginalising of experienced officials’ advice, the degree to which he is in thrall to the most reactionary and wilful US President of modern times, his impatient scorn for legality and his quite unwarranted confidence in the rightness of his own instincts and judgment, the prospect of No. 10 having even greater dominance than hitherto over the country’s Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary is genuinely frightening.
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A little blogging victory

For a certain Mr James Clive Matthews. It is nice to see people admit to mistakes, be open, honest and make amends in a constructive way.

Wait, I've got the reason. He's a German media type, not a British media type.

Ruth Kelly, Opus Dei and equality

Hmm, I am wondering if hell has frozen over (Mat, you're an atheist, hell doesn't exist - ed). Why? Well, one of the tabloids in my newsagent today had a headline that really wound me up. Then, I read around a bit. Something is very wrong. I agree completely with Tim and disagree entirely with Steve. At least, on the whole "Catholics in high office" thing. I'll agree with him about her being simply rubbish. It's ok though, as Dave agrees (is it me or has his output soared since he moved location? Good thing, of course, but still).

Ruth Kelly may be absolutely useless, she may be a member of a lunatic fringe movement within Catholicism. You know what? I care not. All that matters is whether she can do the job (which includes equality and gay rights) effectively. On that, I suspect she can't, but to condemn her completely on the grounds of her religious beliefs?

This atheist believes in freedom of religion (and also freedom from religion, I'd get rid of state faith schools if I could), which means that you are free to delude yourself into believing that the moon is made of cheese, we're all descended from aliens or even, if you want real insanity, that some bloke nailed to some planks 2000 years ago was really an aspect of divinity who died to absolve you of your sins. Seriously, go ahead.

Don't let it affect your job, we're good. Hound Kelly out of office if'n y'all want, but not for her faith. Get rid of her because she's bought into the centralist agenda in which the ODPM tries to destroy local democracy. Some of the stuff in here is scary.

She may want to fix that. Odds, anyone?

Bush 2008?

No. No no no no no. No. NO.

(via) I know, I don't do US politics. But still. No.
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The A to Z of ID cards - silicon.com

Must've missed this one, after my post saying I'd pay attention to Silicon.com, Justin points us at this excellent round-up. Go read.
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Blair's coronation plans - party democracy matters

Gordon Brown:
"Tony Blair said last night that he was going to organise it in a stable and orderly way."
Does anyone else read that as if they're planning a coronation, no election, no party democracy?

I intensely dislike Blair's Govt, as I've just said in comments here:
[I'm] one of the archetypally "betrayed" former Blair supporters; I thought, when he came in, the whole "big tent" consensus etc, that he was going to be a great reforming PM, that we'd finally get a fixed constitution, honest politics, debate leading to consensus.

Instead we've got more and more spin. Like I've said already, watching Gordon closely; if he does succeed (and it's him or Reid? ouch), then if he really does start implementing the Power stuff and do some genuine changes, my current very anti stance may change.

Voted Labour in 2001. If Blair's Labour hadn't played to the gallery ever since 7/7 I probably wouldn't be as angry with the whole mess.
There was very little I disagreed with in the 1997 Labour manifesto; it didn't go far enough on some issues, but overall it looked good. I was less keen on the 2001 plans, and had many more objections to 2005 (ID Cards being one), but they were "better than the other lot" given the LibDems were in 3rd and couldn't win regardless.

The biggest betrayal, to me, is the failure in the constitutional radicalism. Tony promised so much, yet has delivered very little. Referendum on electoral reform? Devolutionary settlement? Reform to House of Lords? All are linked. It looks like they're now moving to elect the Lords. Bishop Hill:
Firstly, the Seventeenth amendment, allowing for the direct election of senators, was a mistake. Before this amendment the Senators were chosen by the state legislators. This effectively gave local government a voice in central government, and allowed the senate to block the centralising tendencies of the Washington machine. The campaign to Elect the Lords may therefore be misguided: fine, do away with the power of the Prime Minister to choose peers, but let the elections not be direct. We place far too much faith in directly elected politicians - a surprising failing on our part when we have such bitter experiences of them. Indirect elections, while superficially "less democratic" will be a better defence against centralisation and the authoritarianism that will follow it.
This mimics something I've already argued here and here, we don't need an elected Lords, we need an effective Lords. We need to sort the constitution out. Gordon seems to be making the right noises (note the Labour MP that attended the Power Conference is a known Brownite iirc).

But coronation? Leadership elections are good for both party democracy and party membership, it proves that being a part of something is worth something. Remember I (re)joined the Lib Dems (with many reservations over some of their policies) as a result of their leadership contest. I still don't do partizan, I remain and openly describe myself as a socialist, but Labour? Abandoned its core, and is now losing it's periphery.

If the membership doesn't reclaim their party from Blair, then it'll be more than a local council electoral meltdown.

Monday, May 08, 2006

UKIP hypocrisy - Knapman is a fool

Right, I've established that I'd rather reform Europe than abolish/leave it. I've also established that I've got more time for those who honestly disagree with me on this than the vacillating types who play the nationalist card but have no intention of leaving.

So, in theory, I respect UKIP, because they're honest in their policies and positions, right? Hmm, lets see, policy:
UKIP, which has warned that enlarging the EU to incorporate east European states would lead to a “flood of migrants” that would be “bad for Britain”.

Its 2005 manifesto said the rate of immigration had to be stemmed because “the numbers of those permitted to enter legally has been rising sharply as a result of both the eastern expansion of the EU and deliberate government policy. The Labour government’s untenable excuse is that we need large numbers of immigrant workers”.
Sounds like a fair position. I disagree with it, but it's an honest assesment. You disagree with enlargement and disagree with allowing East Europeans to work here freely. Carl Bildt:
Enlargement has been an enormous and immediate benefit also to the old member states
(facts and figures on that one - the Indy online archive is crap).

Enlargement has been good for the economy. Wait, I've found someone who agrees with this, his son has set up a business to profit from it, and he himself is employing Polish builders to renovate his property:
The company run by Mr Knapman's son claims that the imported labour costs up to 50 per cent less than British workers would. Mr Knapman, speaking to an undercover reporter from The Sunday Times, praised the men as "they work so much harder".
That's right, Roger Knapman, who objected to free movement of people and the enlargement, and wishes to remove these priviledges, is now taking advantage of it himself.

Wonderful. I respect honest anti-Europeans. Not sure if I can summon any more tolerance for Knapman, his hypocrisy and his cheap stunts.

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Disaffection is their problem, not ours

New Statesman:
Ultimately, the best way to ensure greater participation in politics is for politicians to remember that it is they who have an obligation to the public rather than the other way round. They should remember in these scandal-ridden times that theirs is a mandatory requirement to serve us with honesty and integrity. Ours is a voluntary act to give them our vote. Any decision not to is a logical response to the options available. The problem lies with the politicians, not the voters.
Like I said, until very recently, I favoured the idea of compulsory voting. The more I've thought about it, the more convinced I am that the system needs fixing, and enforced voting will lead to even more dissilutioned and alienated voters. Power to the People!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Clarke not tough enough for Blair?

Portillo on Charles Clarke:
The wrecking of Clarke’s career makes an interesting case study. He won almost universal praise as education secretary, his first cabinet job. But after his promotion to the Home Office he never looked entirely happy. He was under intense pressure from Blair to take additional powers to detain terrorist suspects and to create new offences, such as the glorification of terrorism.

Much more than David Blunkett before him, Clarke took seriously the arguments of civil libertarians. Even if physically he resembled a round peg, Blair was clearly bashing him into a square hole. Early in Clarke’s tenure it was already rumoured that Blair was dissatisfied.
(via)
If Portillo's right, then we not only have the problem of John Reid being a bastard, it's not just the Home Office as an all-consuming monster, it's tired Tony who'll keep the pressure up for headline grabbing.

Let's hope those letter writers get through, if not to Tony himself, then to the rest of the cabinet.

Googlisms - Neil Harding

I promise to stop posting these so often. Actually, that's a promise I know I can't keep. Especially when I get results such as "neil harding killed my hamster"! Neil, is there something you're not telling us?

Power to the People - Cameron reforms (redux)

In an ideal world (ie one where I wasn't skint), I'd have been in London yesterday for the Power Commission conference. Fortunately, Davide has written an excellent report from which I warm (a little) to Dave (again):
Mr Cameron is strongly opposed to compulsory voting. “Voting, to me, is a right, and not voting should never be a crime. The state is our servant and not our master and to me compulsory voting ranks along compulsory identity cards as being a danger...” The rest of that was drowned out by applause.
Blogzilla has a better analysis of Dave's speech; overall, Dave seems to have got the point. Overall. He's still stuck on defending our archaic and failed electoral system though:
Proportional representation is not the answer to giving voters more meaningful choice, because it breaks the one-to-one link between MPs and their constituencies. Instead the Conservatives are experimenting with primaries, including for the selection of their candidate for the next London mayoral elections. Where proportional systems are used, they must not be closed list systems (which give the choice of candidates to parties).
Dave? We've gone through this before, the single member constituency link is a fallacy that creates safe seats, rotten boroughs and disillusioned voters. Multi-member STV strengthens the constituency link as it forces the MP to pay attention to the electorate as they know they are always under threat at the next election. Given that most councils have multi-member wards (using FPTP) and that split ballots seem common, switching to STV for local elections would significantly help. LEt's face it, under FPTP, the BNP are the official opposition in Barking and Dagenham now, yet they came third in vote share, the Tories in second place got one seat

Dave, seriously, is a system that allows the BNP to get 11 seats on less votes than your party managed a sensible electoral system? How do you think those who now face living in a ward where their representatives on the council are all BNP feel?

I've very much in favour of reforming our constitution. I do, genuinely, believe that many of the problems in Britain today come from a systemic failure. Sort the system out, then we get a more responsive & representative Govt that can deal with issues effectively, rather than by simplistic, headline grabbing initiatives.

Dave? Your lot need a minor miracle to simply break even at the next election, the system is stacked against you. Even though there is evidence in the results that:
Significant anti-Labour tactical voting has emerged for the first time, with electors choosing the party best placed to beat Labour in their area
You're still not likely to actually win. You say you want an end to "punch and judy" politics. OK, then try to understand.

First Past the Post creates Punch and Judy politics


Britblog Roundup # 64 + Ministry of Truth

Tim's got this weeks Best of British up at his place. Also, Unity (of Liberty Central setting upness) has moved his personal blog, and has an analysis of the new Home Secretary's halftruths at the Ministry of Truth. Mr Blair would've been better served in his deckchair re-arrangement if he'd done something to break up the all-consuming monster. Ah well.
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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Broad Church politics.

This. Just read it. Especially if you're a current, former or nominal Labour supporter. (My views on similar subject from a few months back here and here)

Results and Reshuffle round up

Snow in Summer has a good run down post of both the results and the reshuffle. I especially liked:
Interior Secretary OUT: Charles Clarke. IN: John Reid

Great. We lose one illiberal bruiser who was promoted above his ability, and get Clarke. Now we're rid of the greatest failure since the last one, and get yet another illiberal bruiser, this time from the Ministry of War. The campaign to get rid of the new failure in the Home Office begins here! Meanwhile, we have a resignation statement to prepare for...
but the rest of it is quite good as well.

Churchill and the Human Rights Act

Right, time to get back to the real business of blogging, right? Almost.

In all the Clarke/deportations fuss, many people have been making hay over the headline grabbing (and completely unnecessary) new legislation that Clarke & Blair proposed, to change the onus on deportation, etc. They were, I feel, correct to do so. I don't feel everyone should be deported, I feel that those who the Judge recommends should be should be considered for deportation, each case should be taken on its own merits.

Others pointed out that the measures would, themselves, contradict the Human Rights Act. Longstanding Tory policy is to repeal that Act (National Interest defence). On this, they are arong. Why? Geoff Hoon:
A Conservative Government, led by one of the greatest Englishmen who ever lived—Sir Winston Churchill—signed up to the European convention because, at the end of the second world war, the need to safeguard human rights and liberties was recognised absolutely. This country led the way—we drafted large parts of the European convention. To blame matters, for party political reasons—the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but that is the case—on the Human Rights Act, which simply incorporates our existing international obligations into domestic law, is misleading. It is party political point scoring, which is wrong and unfair.
He's right. The HRA simply turns international obligations into British law. That's a good thing. That National Interest is, surely, to ensure that the basic fundamental rights of British Subjects should be respected, just as Winston Churchill et al meant them to be? Or were they merely set up to make those foreigners behave themselves?

Reminding people that the Council of Europe has nothing to do with Brussels or the Commission seems to be perpetually needed, so might as well repeat myself (again).
Two posts broadly supportive of the govt in a row? Time to lie down...

David Miliband Blogs - an open letter

I wholeheartedly support the idea that politicians should blog more, communicate more, discuss things directly, etc. Ergo, when a Govt Minister sets up a blog, I think that's, on balance, a good idea. For the record, I'm working on my employers to give me space for a newsblog at work, it'll be a good way to communicate with the people I work with. Whether they'll buy it or not I don't know, but I don't think work blogs are a waste of time, nor of taxpayers money.

Note the corrolary though. When it's done right. David Miliband set up a blog while at the ODPM. He was criticised within the community for a number of reasons. Some were wrong (waste of Govt time, get back to work, etc - communication with those you work for is his work), but some were right.

Specifically, what happens when he changes job? Well, he now has an 'interim solution' which is to set up a redirect from his new domain name http://www.davidmiliband.defra.gov.uk/ at his new job that, um, points directly back at the old ODPM location. I've submitted the following comment, which I repeat here in full as an open letter to him:
David, the real problem here is that you're conflating two separate types of blogging.

As you're blogging in your job role, you need to do it as the Secretary of State, and then if you leave office/change job again, then the blog gets passed on to the next Secretary.

Ergo, domain name shouldn't be davidmiliband.defra etc it should be secretary-of-state.defra OR defra.gov.uk/secretary/blog or similar.

Alternately, if you want it to be YOUR blog, in your name, then host it elsewhere or, even better, get a central location to host all Govt blogs and keep them there rather than moving around, probably the No10 site may be best for that.

As it is, switching URLs and dodgy redirects will abound, Blogging Ministers is something I wholeheartedly support, just get it thought through as a proper strategy? Please?

Good luck in the new role. You never know, you may come up with a policy I like. Don't hold your breath though...
That last bit is actually possible y'know, they're not all bad this lot. Just not much good either.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Clarke gone, Straw demoted, Prescott sidelined, now we have an idiot

OK, it looks like we may need to find a new kicking boy. Even the
pratt of an odious turd has been "demoted".

So, new target. John Reid. Friend of an utter bastard. We also know that the man's an idiot who is prone to abuses of power. Burkesworks is wondering what we should call his google bomb, Attack Poodle and Patronising Bastard are unlikely to get too high. Any other idea?

So, scratching the surface. Does anyone know what the new controller of the all-consuming monster thinks about ID cards & NIR?

Prescott seems to have a job for life? Keep the job, the salary, the title, just don't actually be in charge of anything? WTF?

Anyone care to suggest what I should put in as a banner now? Irrelevent after less than 24 hours.

Labour boredom, reshuffle due, Clarke must go

Bored now. Reshuffle fever is taking, Labour's losing but no meltdown as yet, and unlike last year I've got to work tomorrow. BNP making gains, but not taking power anywhere.

In the meantime, Garry has a nice post on why Charles Clarke is absolutely useless. Specifically, 160 cases where the sentencing judge recommended deportation after sentence where no hearing was held. The judge of the case recommended the convict be removed, and Clarke's home office didn't bother to do its job.

Blair is rejecting calls to abolish the Home Office, break it up or similar, yet it's obvious the entire department is a completely ungovernable mess. When I was studying Govt at Exeter, we went through all the Departments. Most of them were easy. Health did Health, Foreign and Commonwealth, Education, etc. Home Office? Everything no one else wanted. Badly.

Sort the mess out you tired fool. Still, voting is over, so thanks to James for the new one.
Charles Clarke Must Go

Prescott is a what?

Blimey, didn't know about this google bomb. Still, reckon two-inches is worth a try as well.

Mean, nasty and spiteful? Well, yes. But's it's the guy who said
Enough sleaze, enough excuses ... enough failure. Enough is enough
I agreed with him then, I agree with him now. Time to go John. (via & here)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Indy: Bonfire of the Liberties

Not often I post from work, but today is an exception. 70p of your hard earned will get you a copy of The Independent, which has a special feature on this Govt, and especially Charles Clarke's attacks on the basic freedoms that make this country what it is.

Especially good is Shami Chakrabati Home Office offers too much politics, not enough policies, a break down of the knee jerk nature of the response and a summary of the important freedoms we've either lost are are likely to lose.

The Indy's online version is both crap and subject to subscription fees after a short period of time, so buying the actual paper is a good thing.
Right, lunchbreak over

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Obfuscation of the highest order

Here's a good plan; when you're in government and your back's against the wall, why not try fighting your way out with tough new policy that rides roughshod over civil liberties? I n fact, why not do it so blatantly that it shifts the focus away from the reason why your back was against the wall in the first place?

Let's face it, Charles Clarke is screwed. With any luck he'll resign after the local elections, and if he doesn't, I'll be amazed if he doesn't get reshuffled out of the cabinet soon after. Any attempt to rescue his position by the reactionary introduction of new law looks, well, kind of pathetic.

In fact about as pathetic as Blair's statement in the House of Commons today that the situation was all the Tories fault. At least Cameron had the sense to reply that "People listening to that answer will frankly think it pathetic." I mean did Blair seriously think that that kind of answer would placate anyone? Really, anyone?

This government is stumbling towards the local elections, lashing out like an angry child seemingly unaware of the gravity of the situation it finds itself. If you can vote tomorrow, do so. And if you can vote tomorrow and think this whole situation is completely unacceptable, vote for anybody else but Labour.